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Biden congratulates Israel’s incoming PM Naftali Bennett, vows support for ‘Israelis, Palestinians’

President Joe Biden on Sunday congratulated Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett after Israel’s parliament voted to approve a new government, effectively ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s historic 12 years in office. 

The “United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security,” Biden said in a statement addressed to Bennett and other members of his incoming cabinet. “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.” 

Bennett tweeted his thanks to President Biden, writing: “I look forward to working with you to strengthen the ties between our two nations.”

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In a similarly worded statement, Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken said the United States remains “unwavering in our commitment to Israel’s security.” 

“We look forward to strengthening all aspects of the U.S.-Israel partnership and working together for a more secure and prosperous future.” 

President Joe Biden speaks with reporters before boarding Air Force One at Heathrow Airport in London, Sunday, June 13, 2021. Biden is en route to Brussels to attend the NATO summit.

President Joe Biden speaks with reporters before boarding Air Force One at Heathrow Airport in London, Sunday, June 13, 2021. Biden is en route to Brussels to attend the NATO summit.
(AP)

The statements came shortly after Bennett, a former Netanyahu ally turned rival, became prime minister after a narrow 60-59 vote among parliament. 

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The exiting Netanyahu made clear he has no intention of leaving the political stage. 

“If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country,” he said.

Yemina party leader Naftali Bennett speaks to the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 30, 2021. 

Yemina party leader Naftali Bennett speaks to the Israeli Parliament in Jerusalem, Sunday, May 30, 2021. 
(AP)

Sunday’s vote ended a tumultuous two-year cycle of political paralysis in which the country held four deadlocked elections. Those votes focused largely on Netanyahu’s divisive rule and his fitness to remain in office while on trial for corruption charges.

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Much of the opposition to Netanyahu was personal. Three of the eight parties in the new government, including Bennett’s Yamina, are headed by former Netanyahu allies who share his hard-line ideology but had deep personal disputes with him. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, March. 8, 2020. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, March. 8, 2020. 
(AP)

Bennett, 49, is a former chief of staff to Netanyahu whose small Yamina party is popular with religious Jews and West Bank settlers. As he addressed the raucous debate, he was repeatedly heckled and shouted down by Netanyahu’s supporters accusing him of betrayal.

Bennet has promised to take a different approach than Netanyahu, who alienated much of the Democratic Party through his antagonistic relationship with then-President Barack Obama and close ties with former President Donald Trump.

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“My government will make an effort to deepen and nurture relations with our friends in both parties — bipartisan,” Bennett said. “If there are disputes, we will manage them with fundamental trust and mutual respect.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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