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New Israel coalition OK'd, ousting Netanyahu
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New Israel coalition OK'd, ousting Netanyahu

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Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Benjamin Netanyahu turned bitter rival, becomes prime minister as Israel's parliament has voted in favor of a new coalition government.

JERUSALEM — Israel's parliament has narrowly voted in favor of a new coalition government, ending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's historic 12-year rule.

Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu turned bitter rival, becomes prime minister, presiding over a diverse and fragile coalition comprised of eight parties with deep ideological differences. Netanyahu remains head of the Likud party and will hold the post of opposition leader.

Sunday's vote, passed by a 60-59 margin, ended a two-year cycle of political paralysis in which the country held four elections.

The eight parties, including a small Arab faction that is making history by sitting in the ruling coalition, were united in their opposition to Netanyahu and new elections but little else.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, remains the head of the largest party in parliament and is expected to vigorously oppose the new government. If just one faction bolts, it could lose its majority and would be at risk of collapse, giving him an opening to return to power.

The country's deep divisions were on vivid display as Bennett addressed parliament ahead of the vote. He was repeatedly interrupted and loudly heckled by supporters of Netanyahu, several of whom were escorted out of the chamber.

Bennett's speech mostly dwelled on domestic issues, but he expressed opposition to U.S. efforts to revive Iran's nuclear deal with world powers.

"Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons," Bennett said, vowing to maintain Netanyahu's confrontational policy. "Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action."

Bennett nevertheless thanked President Joe Biden and the U.S. for its decades of support for Israel.

Netanyahu, speaking after him, vowed to return to power. He predicted the incoming government would be weak on Iran and give in to U.S. demands to make concessions to the Palestinians.

"If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country in our way," he said.

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