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Bennett becomes Israel's prime minister, ending Natanyahu's 12-year reign

Naftali Bennett was confirmed as Israel's new prime minister on Sunday as he called for healing of the nation's political divide. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Naftali Bennett was confirmed as Israel's new prime minister on Sunday as he called for healing of the nation's political divide. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

June 13 (UPI) -- The Israeli parliament voted Sunday to confirm a new unity government, ending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year run of leadership over the country.

Yamina Party leader Naftali Bennett, 49, replaces Netanyahu, 71, as prime minister after reaching agreements with eight other parties to form a coalition government with the Knesset voting 60-59 in approval.

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Bennett, the leader of the right-wing Zionist Bayit Yehudi Party, was defense minister from 2019 to 2020. He spoke before the Knesset vote Sunday as he faced opposition from Netanyahu's Likud Party, who called him a "criminal" and a "liar."

Addressing what he described as a divide within the nation's government, Bennett said it was "time for responsible leaders from different parts of the nation to stop this madness."

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"I am proud of the ability to sit with people with very different opinions," he said. "At the decisive moment, we took responsibility."

President Joe Biden in Britain on his overseas trip as the United States' commander-in-chief spoke with Bennett by phone to offer his congratulations, according to a White House readout of the call.

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The president also issued a statement congratulating Bennet and Yesh Atid Party leader Yair Lapid on the formation of their new government.

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"Israel has no better friend than the United states," he said. "The bond that unites our people is evidence of our shared values and decades of close cooperation and as we continue to strengthen our partnerships the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel's security."

"My administration is fully committed to working with the new Israeli government o advance security, stability and peace for Israelis, Palestinians and people throughout the broader region," he added.

Lapid, who will succeed Bennett as prime minister in 2023, did not deliver the speech he had prepared for the parliament floor and instead admonished the hecklers for interrupting Bennett's speech.

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"I am skipping the speech I planned to deliver today because I'm here to say one thing -- to ask for forgiveness from my mother," he said. "My mother is 86 years old and we don't ask her to come to Jerusalem lightly. But we did it because I assumed that you would be able to get over yourselves and behave with statesmanship at this moment and she would see a smooth transition of government."

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Netanyahu said it was his "honor to work night and day for our beloved country" but criticized Bennett for his efforts to take on leadership and said he would fight to regain control from the opposition.

"If we are destined to be in the opposition, we will do it with our heads held high until we bring down this dangerous government," he said.

On Sunday night, Bennett convened his first Cabinet meeting.

Bennett was born in Haifa in 1972 and founded Cyota, a high-tech anti-fraud software company, living in New York in the early 2000s for four years.

His American parents, Myrna and Jim Bennett, now live in H

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