Crowds celebrate Israel's new coalition government

Supporters say this brings a chance to unite people and bring peace and stability

Crowds celebrate Israel's new coalition government

Crowds celebrate Israel's new coalition government
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Crowds gathered in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Sunday night, celebrating Israel's new coalition government that has ousted Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in power.

The new government is an eight-party coalition that spans from the far right to the far left and for the first time includes an Arab group.

It was approved by the Knesset, Israel's parliament, by a majority of 60 to 59, with one member abstaining.

A small faction opposing new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stood protesting outside the Knesset on Sunday afternoon and a larger group of Orthodox Jews gathered for prayer at the Old City's Western Wall.

But celebratory crowds far outweighed the Netanyahu supporters.

Last Thursday, the bloc staged a large demonstration outside the Knesset, calling on its members to prevent the formation of the new government.

But cheers erupted in Jerusalem when the new government was announced on Sunday evening, with people waving rainbow and Israeli flags, shouting "Bibi Ciao" to the tunes of the Italian original Bella Ciao.

Mr Bennett's supporters and left wingers claiming that anyone would be better than their former premier danced into Jerusalem's night, later taking the celebrations to Tel Aviv.

Many dressed in bright colours, their faces painted In the Israeli flag's white and blue, carrying banners in support of the new coalition.

Thousands gathered later in coastal Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, chanting and dancing.

“Netanyahu’s ideology throughout the last 12 years has been a disaster, just like the Trump administration,” said Haim Flikier, 69, a supporter of the new government.

"It won’t be easy with Bennett but we need to change the dynamics. That’s the most important thing.

"We need to unite people, both Jews and Arabs, and we need stability, peace and brotherhood.”

Like Ms Flikier, many of Mr Bennett’s supporters are older and claim that removing Israel’s longest-serving prime minister had been one of their main goals.

“I see a lot of young people gravitating towards the religious right; somehow it’s ‘in’ here," she said.

"But religion and state need to be separated to guarantee a better future."

The parliament session had been heated, with members of Mr Netanyahu's Likud party calling Mr Bennett a "criminal" and "liar".

Coalition partner Yair Lapid, head of the centrist Yesh Atid party and alternating as prime minister after two years, cancelled his address to the Knesset as tension increased.

Before the vote, a group of young right-wing supporters shouted at those celebrating, calling them “disgusting traitors".

Orelle Khalili, 26, said she had voted for Mr Bennett but felt betrayed when he formed a coalition with both left and Arab parties.

“He cheated everyone, he stole our votes,” she said. “I believe I represent a large part of the English-speaking Jewish community in Israel.

"Everyone is disgusted. Bennett claimed to be someone he is not and his rush to fame can't be justified.”

Hosting his first Cabinet meeting as Prime Minister, Mr Bennett pledged to mend Israel’s rifts.

He acknowledged in his speech that Israel is “facing an internal challenge, a divide in the people that is being seen at these very moments” and that “hate had paralysed this country".

But while celebrations continued through the night, many were sceptical about the new government.

Naftali Bennett holds first cabinet meeting as Israeli prime minister

Naftali Bennett holds first cabinet meeting as Israeli prime minister

“I’m not happy. Everyone in there is a criminal,” said Dani Batito, 69, pointing towards the Knesset shortly after the vote had been cast.

He admitted having voted for Mr Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud in the past, but became disillusioned with his policies.

“Even though I didn’t vote for him back then, I realise now that former prime minister [Yitzhak] Rabin really wanted to bring peace," Mr Batito said.

We now need change and peace more than ever. As for Netanyahu, I hope he will go to jail.”

Palestinians have remained largely apathetic to Mr Bennett’s inauguration, believing the new prime minister to be little better than his predecessor.

Shir Aharon Bran, 28, an Israeli activist who attended the celebrations outside the Knesset, hoped that the new government would use the opportunity to talk about real issues.

“That’s first of all the Israel-Palestine conflict,” Mr Bran said. “It touches every sector of our society, and yet no one has even come close to any agreement.

"One thing is certain. The occupation didn’t start with Bibi and it won’t end with him.”

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