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Israeli Prime Minister to Step Down, Dissolve Parliament


Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett | Image by Oren Ben Hakoon/Getty Images

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Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has decided to end his premiership after just a year in office.

Bennett said he would step down after submitting a bill to lawmakers to dissolve the most diverse parliament in Israeli history, including an Arab political party, over a dispute about the future of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank.

The move will likely trigger a general election for parliament and a new prime minister in October.

The announcement followed weeks of mounting political uncertainty in Israel but still came as a surprise. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid is to take over as interim prime minister.

Bennett said, “We did everything we could to preserve this government. Believe me. We turned over every stone.”

During Bennett’s speech in Tel Aviv, the lights in the room suddenly went out for a moment.

Lapid said, “How symbolic.”

Bennett’s government crumbled after several legislators — mostly from his own right-wing Jewish nationalist allies — ended their backing for the ideologically-mixed coalition.

Bennett lost his parliamentary majority and could not obtain enough votes to expand legal protections that renew every five years. The activity would result in Jewish settlers in the West Bank losing privileges, such as the right to get national health insurance, practice law, and be tried in the country’s civil courts.

If Bennett’s bill passes, Lapid will become the country’s 14th prime minister, which conforms with the original coalition agreement made last year. It will also mark the fifth time Israelis will be voting in under four years.

If he does become interim prime minister, Lapid will be preparing for a visit from U.S. President Joe Biden in July. Per CNN, a senior White House official said Biden’s journey to the region is still expected to happen despite the political conflict in Israel.

“We have a strategic relationship with Israel that goes beyond any one government. The president looks forward to the visit next month,” the U.S. official said.

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