“I have no intention of running in the next election, but I will remain a loyal soldier of this country, which I have served all my life as a soldier, officer, minister and prime minister,” said Mr. Bennett in a speech to the Knesset, parliament, confirming handing over leadership of his Yamina party to current interior minister Ayelet Shaked.
“In a short time, I will put an end to my post as Prime Minister of Israel and will hand over the pilgrim’s staff to my friend, Yaïr Lapid (the current head of diplomacy, editor’s note) whom I will continue to assist as needed in my role as alternate prime minister,” Bennett added shortly before parliamentary sources announced the postponement to Thursday of the vote on dissolving parliament that was expected on Wednesday evening.
In June 2021, Messrs. Bennett and Lapid had written a page in the history of Israel by bringing together a coalition of eight parties (right, left, center), including for the first time an Arab formation, in order to cut short 12 years of uninterrupted power in Benjamin Netanyahu.
But a year later, the coalition has lost its majority in the chamber to the point where Naftali Bennett threw in the towel last week when he announced his intention to dissolve the chamber to call new elections.
– Chaos or elections? –
MPs had agreed to pass a series of laws – Tuesday and Wednesday – before dissolving parliament late Wednesday evening to prevent a provision protecting the more than 475,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied West Bank from no longer being in force.
In order to further weaken the government of Mr. Bennett, which had lost its majority, the opposition led by Benjamin Netanyahu had refused in early June to vote in favor of this law which it nevertheless defends.
However, this law must be renewed on June 30, otherwise settlers in the West Bank – Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967 – risk losing their legal protection under Israeli law. However, if Parliament is dissolved before or on this date, the law is automatically renewed.
But Wednesday evening, the debates to validate other bills dragged on in Parliament, right-wing elected officials accusing, among other things, Arab deputies of wanting to slow down the legislative process so that the “law on settlers” is not renewed in time.
To the point where the vote on the dissolution of Parliament was postponed until Thursday, several parliamentary sources told AFP on condition of anonymity, confirming information from the Israeli press. This delay also postpones the entry on the scene of Yaïr Lapid as Prime Minister.
The coalition agreement between MM. Bennett and Lapid called for power-sharing, including a clause that Mr. Lapid would serve as caretaker until a new government is formed if Parliament dissolves, which also comes as polls are rising. still state of a fragmentation of the Israeli political landscape with 13 parties sharing 120 seats.
“What we need today is to return to the concept of Israeli unity and not let the forces of darkness divide us,” Lapid said last week, who will not have time to celebrate. his accession to the highest steps of Israeli power for a long time.
This former star journalist, who founded the centrist party “Yesh Atid” (“There is a future” in Hebrew) a decade ago, will have to quickly put his troops in battle order for the legislative elections, in addition to to be both Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
And it is he who will welcome US President Joe Biden to Israel for his first tour of the Middle East, in mid-July, since his arrival at the White House.
For his part, Mr. Bennett will keep the title of Prime Minister by alternating while keeping his eyes riveted on the file of a potential new agreement on the Iranian nuclear program which the Jewish state opposes. And will also take an interested look at the future of his Yamina party (radical right) threatened with implosion and collapse in the legislative elections scheduled for the fall.