Israel's parliament has voted to end Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year-long tenure as prime minister, approving in his stead an administration that has pledged to heal a nation bitterly divided over the departure of the country's longest-serving leader.
"This is a sad morning, because of the theft of votes and the fact Israel is getting a government based on one thing - a lie", Ofir Akunis, an outgoing minister from Netanyahu's Likud party, told Army Radio.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting of the new government at Chagall State Hall in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on May 24, 2020. A Bennett spokesman said he would vow "vigorous opposition" to any US return to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal but would seek cooperation with the administration of US President Joe Biden.
Bennett, a 49-year-old Orthodox Jew, will serve as premier for two years before Lapid, 57, a former TV host, takes over. It was decided the leadership role would be shared between two separate party leaders.More news: India records highest single-day COVID-19 fatalities
Celebrations by his opponents to mark the end of the Netanyahu era began late on Saturday outside his official residence in Jerusalem, the site of weekly protests for the past year, where a black banner stretched across a wall read: "Bye Bye, Bibi, Bye bye".
As his grip on power slipped, Netanyahu's bombastic remarks drew parallels to former United States president Donald Trump, who described his election loss past year as the result of a rigged vote.
The improbable alliance emerged weeks after an 11-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Palestinian enclave of Gaza, and following inter-communal violence in Israeli cities with significant Arab populations.
Netanyahu, who long ago earned a reputation as Israel's ultimate political survivor, has meanwhile tried to peel off defectors that would deprive the nascent coalition of its wafer-thin legislative majority.
Netanyahu's bombastic remarks as he has seen his grip on power slip have drawn parallels at home and overseas to former USA president Donald Trump, who described his election loss a year ago as the result of a rigged vote.More news: Alberta terminates involvement with Keystone XL project
He argued that a government including Lapid and left-wing partners would cower before global pressure to revive the Iran deal, which Netanyahu characterizes as a path for the Islamic Republic to threaten Israel with nuclear weapons.
Even out of government and standing trial on corruption charges, he remains a formidable force who will likely try to drive wedges between the coalition parties.
Right-wing Israelis are also angered over last week's postponement of a controversial Jewish nationalist march through flashpoint areas of east Jerusalem.
It's thought the new coalition is likely to pursue a modest agenda - seeking to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the US.
"The form the Israeli government takes doesn't change the nature of our relationship", said spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum.More news: Major International Sting Operation Leads To 800 Arrests