Israel is headed for new elections a fifth time in three years after parliament voted 92-0 to dissolve itself and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett resigned. Bennett’s former coalition partner, Yair Lapid, is set to take over as acting prime minister until elections November 1.
Bennett, appearing emotional, handed power to Lapid, in a ceremony at the prime minister’s office.
“I’m passing you the sacred baton and the responsibility for the State of Israel. I hope you protect it and that God will protect you,” Bennett said.
Lapid said that he will do whatever he can to make sure the State of Israel remains Jewish and democratic.
Before the ceremony, Lapid visited Israel’s Holocaust Memorial to honor his late father, a Holocaust survivor. In a statement, Lapid said he promised his father that he will always keep Israel strong and capable of defending itself and protecting its children.
The outgoing government was an eight-party coalition that included parties from the right and the left. For the first time in Israel’s history, it included an Arab party – the four-seat Raam headed by Mansour Abbas. Several weeks ago, Bennett lost his narrow coalition majority when two hardline lawmakers defected, making it impossible to govern.
Israel now heads to its fifth election in three years. Lapid’s main challenger will be former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His right-wing Likud party is the largest party in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, but he was not able to put together a coalition. He is also on trial on several corruption charges.
Netanyahu showed that he intends to run a negative campaign in his reaction to the Knesset dispersal.
He said the Bennett government had failed and that it was a combination of fake right and radical left.
The political turmoil comes just weeks before U.S. President Joe Biden is set to visit Israel and Saudi Arabia for talks on improving regional security.
Israeli analysts say Lapid is not expected to make any major decisions about Iran or other issues. But Israel will be caught up in yet another election campaign, which could make progress on a regional defense alliance more elusive.