Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will not be a candidate in the next legislative elections, he announced on Wednesday June 29 on the eve of the dissolution of Parliament which will pave the way for a fifth ballot in less than four years in Israel.
“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 Naftali Bennett in a speech to the Knesset, the Parliament, confirming to hand over the leadership of his Yamina formation to the current Minister of the Interior, Ayelet Shaked.
“I will continue to attend”
“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 of acting prime minister“, added Naftali Bennett in what could be his last address to the nation as head of government.
In June 2021, Naftali Bennett and Yaïr 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 Benjamin Netanyahu’s years of continuous power. 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 Naftali 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 Arab deputies of wanting to slow down the legislative process so that the “settlers law» 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 Naftali Bennett and Yaïr Lapid provided for a sharing of power, including a clause according to which Yaïr Lapid ensured the interim until the formation of a new government in the event of the dissolution of Parliament, which intervenes in addition to at a time when polls still show 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 ussaid Yair Lapid last week, who will not have time to celebrate his accession to the highest steps of Israeli power for long.
This ex-star journalist, who founded the centrist party a decade agoYesh Atid» («there is a futurein Hebrew), will have to quickly put his troops in battle order for the legislative elections, in addition to being 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, Naftali 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.