Netanyahu leaves official Israeli prime minister's residence after 12 years

Former Israeli prime minister had been accused of clinging to office after legal bid to overturn election results

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Former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu left his government residence on Balfour Street, Jerusalem, on Sunday, a month after leaving office.

There had been speculation that he may have attempted to remain in the residence as he planned a legal challenge to the election results.

But the attempt eventually faltered and he agreed to leave by July 10, despite having hosted former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at the residence. She referred to him as prime minister during her stay.

"A little after midnight the Netanyahu family left the residence on Balfour [Street]," a spokesman for the family said in a press release.

On June 13, Mr Netanyahu was officially ousted after 12 years as prime minister, having spent previous weeks trying unsuccessfully to form a coalition to stay in power.

Despite attempts to dismiss election results as fraudulent, he was eventually unseated by an eclectic coalition of the nationalist Naftali Bennett, head of the New Right party, centrist former TV host Yair Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party and Mansour Abbas's United Arab List party.

Mr Bennett will be prime minister for two years before Mr Lapid will rotate into the position for two years.

But as the new government settled into office, Mr Netanyahu did not vacate the prime ministerial residence. Instead, he continued to host dignitaries. Mr Bennett's office set a July 10 deadline for the former premier to move out.

While there is currently no law on when an outgoing prime minister must leave the residence, the new government has tabled legislation to ensure that outgoing prime ministers leave within 14 days of leaving office.

Mr Netanyahu left after midnight on Sunday, slightly after the deadline he agreed to. "Crime Minister" is how an organisation that has mounted weekly protests against Mr Netanyahu outside the residence for more than a year described him on Sunday.

"The defendant and his family fled as the last of the thieves in the night," the group wrote on Facebook. Mr Bennett is set to move in to the prime minister's residence soon, but no date has been set.

The Balfour residence had become a symbol of the Netanyahus’ scandals, and was the scene of weekly protests against Mr Netanyahu for much of the past year. Demonstrators called on the then-prime minister to resign while on trial for corruption. Mr Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and refused to step down.

Updated: July 11, 2021, 10:48 AM