Naftali Bennett sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister; PLO, Hamas threaten to attack Jerusalem

In coming Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (R) and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid attend the first meeting of the new government on June 13, 2021 in Jerusalem, Israel. The new government, a broad coalition of parties with a razor-thin majority, has ended the 12-year prime ministership of Benjamin Netanyahu. | Amir Levy/Getty Images

As Naftali Bennett was sworn in as Israel’s new prime minister Sunday, ending the rule of the longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas threatened to attack Jerusalem.

The parliament approved by a razor-thin 60–59 majority a new “government of change” led by 49-year-old Bennett, while Netanyahu, 71, pledged he would soon return to power, The Epoch Times reported, adding that as part of a deal with his centrist and left-wing coalition, Bennett will be replaced as prime minister by 57-year-old Yair Lapid in 2023.

Bennett is not likely to introduce any drastic measures in relation to sensitive international issues, including policy toward the Palestinians, and has said he will focus more on healing the country’s divisions and restoring a sense of normalcy, The Associated Press reported.

Netanyahu’s support had declined since 2009, and he was going through a corruption trial though he had denied any wrongdoing.

The new prime minister’s alliance includes a party that represents its 21% Arab minority, which has close family relations with the Palestinians, although Bennett is opposed to Palestinian independence and supports Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Bennett is also expected to maintain Israel’s hard-line stance on Iran and oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive its international nuclear deal, according to analysts.

Bennett has briefly served as head of the West Bank settler’s council, called Yesha, and as cabinet minister of diaspora affairs, education and defense in various Netanyahu-led governments.

On the day of his swearing-in, the PLO’s Jerusalem Department threatened to carry out an “explosion” to push his administration to cancel a march called “Flag Parade,” which is planned to be held Tuesday in celebration of Jerusalem Day, YNet News reported.

In a statement, the PLO said that its violence could extend beyond Jerusalem to the Palestinian territories if the march takes place.

Hamas has also reportedly issued a warning saying it had not ruled out the option of resuming rocket fire at cities across the country.

Organizers of the march have reached an agreement with police and altered the route to avoid the Damascus Gate and the Old City’s Muslim Quarter, where violence could erupt, Israel Hayom reported.

The parade, which is to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War, was scheduled for May 10, which was Jerusalem Day this year but was postponed after Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem, which led to 11 days of hostilities.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden spoke to the new Israeli prime minister on the phone late Sunday to congratulate Bennett and to continue to strengthen ties between the two countries, The Jerusalem Post reported.

“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet,” Biden said in a statement. “Israel has no better friend than the United States. The bond that unites our people is evidence of our shared values and decades of close cooperation.”

Biden added, “My administration is fully committed to working with the new Israeli government to advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region.”

The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates also congratulated both Bennett and Lapid, saying, “We look forward to working together to advance regional peace, strengthen tolerance and coexistence, and embark upon a new era of cooperation in technology, trade, and investment.”

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