The Israeli parliament yesterday opened a special session during which lawmakers were set to vote on a “change” coalition seeking to end Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year reign.
Beloved as “King Bibi” by his right-wing supporters and condemned as the “crime minister” by his critics, the hawkish and combative Netanyahu has long been the dominant, and increasingly divisive, figure in Israeli politics.
If the fragile eight-party alliance wins a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, Netanyahu, 71, would be replaced as premier by his one-time ally Naftali Bennett, a former tech millionaire and right-wing Jewish nationalist who leads the Yamina party.
In the leadup to the legislative session, coalition lawmakers — united only over their shared disdain for Netanyahu — met for closed talks, a Yamina spokesperson said.
The diverse anti-Netanyahu bloc was cobbled together by opposition leader Yair Lapid, a former TV presenter, and includes right-wing and left-wing groups, as well as Arab-Israeli lawmakers.
The upcoming crunch vote would either end Netanyahu’s record time in office or, in case of a last-minute upset, return Israel to a stalemate likely to trigger the fifth general election since 2019.
“A morning of change,” promised a tweet by Lapid, who would serve as foreign minister under the coalition deal before taking over the premiership in 2023, provided the wobbly alliance survives that long.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu tweeted a photograph of himself with a message to supporters that said: “Love you, thanks!”
Netanyahu, who is battling corruption charges in an ongoing trial he dismisses as a conspiracy, has been the dominant Israeli politician of his generation, having also served a previous three-year term in the 1990s.
On Saturday night, about 2,000 protesters rallied outside his official residence, waving “Bye Bye Bibi” signs and celebrating what they hoped would be his departure from office.
“For us, this is a big night, and tomorrow will be even a bigger day. I am almost crying,” said one protester, Ofir Robinski. “We fought peacefully for this, and the day has come.”
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