Right-wing politician Naftali Bennett on Sunday secured the required Knesset votes to become Israel’s new prime minister, paving the way to ending the 12-year reign of Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Thank you Benjamin Netanyahu for your lengthy and achievement-filled service on behalf of the state of Israel," Bennett told the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) ahead of a vote of confidence for his coalition government.
Bennett, 49, is known for his hard-line stance against the Palestinians, as he has repeatedly expressed opposition to the idea of creating an independent Palestinian state.
Bennett entered politics in 2005 as a deputy to Netanyahu, and since then he held many positions, including top roles in the defense, economy, and education ministries.
He argues that Israel should annex parts of the occupied West Bank that it captured during the 1967 Middle East war – a move that would be illegal.
Rotating premiership agreement
After Israel and Palestinian resistance group Hamas forged an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire to end Israeli attacks on Gaza last month that killed 254 Palestinians, Bennett and Netanyahu's rival in the main opposition – Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid – agreed to form a coalition.
After changing the name of his Jewish Home Party to Yamina in 2018, the party was part of the Netanyahu-led coalition. It won seven seats in the general elections of March 23.
Under an agreement between the two politicians, Bennett will assume the premiership for the first two years, followed by Lapid.
Long-term prospects for the for the eight-party coalition – which includes right, left, and centrist parties, plus Arab parties representing Palestinians with Israeli citizenship – seem shaky at best.
In 2013, Bennett delivered controversial remarks saying that "Palestinian terrorists" should be killed instead of being released. He also claimed that the West Bank was not under occupation and that there is no such thing as a Palestinian state.
The Israeli politician became a millionaire thanks to a tech company he built from scratch and throughout his political career, has always appealed to far-right voters.
Bennett's parents were born in the US, and his aggressive rhetoric against Palestinians has made headlines during his political career.