Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted US President Joe Biden in a ‘scorched earth’ speech on his last day in office before handing over power on Monday, warning Iran will be ‘celebrating’ his defeat because Israel will be ‘weak’.
In a scathing speech that was meant to last 15 minutes but ran for more than half an hour, Netanyahu said the Islamic Republic would celebrate his loss because ‘they understand that starting today there will be a weak and unstable government that will align with the dictates of the international community.’
He went on to warn Biden against talks to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, saying a return to the agreement ‘threatens Israel’s existence’.
‘The prime minister of Israel needs to be able to say no to the president of the United States on issues that threaten our existence’, he told the Knesset.
Netanyahu made the comments despite being asked by Washington ‘not to discuss our disagreement on Iran publicly’ and in a warning to the Islamic Republic, Hamas, and Hezbollah, declared ‘we’ll be back soon.’
He then turned on his replacement, and former ally, Naftali Bennett, in the rambling speech, branding the new government ‘terrible’ and ‘dangerous’ and vowing he would soon return to the top of Israeli politics.
‘The opposition in Israel will have a clear and strong voice’, he said, promising to ‘fight daily’ to ‘topple’ the fragile coalition.
The two were scheduled to hold a handover meeting later in the day, but without the formal ceremony that traditionally accompanies a change in government.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted US President Joe Biden in a ‘scorched earth’ speech as he left office on Sunday, warning Iran will be ‘celebrating’ his defeat because Israel will be ‘weak’
Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted by Yair Lapid (left) and new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) after the country’s parliament voted 60-59 in favour of the new coalition government comprising eight ideologically opposed parties
The new Israeli government was sworn in on Sunday, ending the reign of the country’s longest serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured, front row, L to R: Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, President Reuven Rivlin, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid)
In a directly assault on Bennett, Netanyahu said he was ‘concerned’ over the new government because the prime minister ‘does the opposite of what he promises’.
He ‘does not have the international standing, he doesn’t have the credibility, he doesn’t have the capabilities, he doesn’t have the knowledge, and he doesn’t have the governmental support’ to stand up to Iran.
Netanyahu added a government ‘that is not able to stand up to the international community on issues that determine our fate is not fit to lead Israel for even one day – and this is the incoming government!’
‘I will fight daily against this terrible, dangerous left-wing government in order to topple it’, he said. ‘With God’s help, it will happen a lot earlier than you think it will.’
He added: ‘If it’s our destiny to be in the opposition, we’ll do so with our heads high until we take down this bad government and return to lead the country our way.’
Netanyahu spent much of his speech lauding praise on himself, saying his achievements had ‘turned Israel from a marginal state into a rising force on the global stage.’
Adding as a final quip: ‘I have just one, modest request – try to ruin the economy that we are leaving you as little as possible, so that we can fix it as quickly as possible when we return to power.’
It was a fiery end to 12 consecutive years as prime minister that came after the country’s parliament voted 60-59 in favour of the new coalition government and Bennett was sworn as his replacement on Sunday.
As the new prime minister, Bennett will have to maintain an unwieldy and fragile coalition of eight parties with deep ideological differences.
Netanyahu sat silently during the vote. After it was approved, he stood up to leave the chamber, before turning around and shaking Bennett’s hand.
A dejected Netanyahu, wearing a black medical mask, then sat down in the opposition leader’s chair.
Benjamin Netanyahu sat silently during the vote. After it was approved, he stood up to leave the chamber, before turning around and shaking Bennett’s hand
Naftali Bennett has become Israel’s new Prime Minister after the country’s parliament voted in his coalition government, ending Benjamin Netanyahu’s record 12 years in power
People cheer and wave flags as the new coalition government wins the parliamentary vote on Sunday in Jerusalem
Israelis celebrate the swearing in of the new government in Tel Aviv with a foam party as a cannon shoots foam into the crowd on Sunday
Israel’s parliament narrowly voted 60-59 in favour of the new government on Sunday and shortly afterwards, Bennett was sworn in as prime minister. Pictured: People are covered in foam as they celebrated the vote
The Israelis celebrated with a foam party as a cannon launched the white liquid into the crowd in Tel Aviv
Sunday’s vote ended a two-year cycle of political paralysis in which the country held four elections. Pictured: People celebrate the result and light a red flare in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Sunday
Sunday’s vote ended a two-year cycle of political paralysis in which the country held four elections.
Minutes later, Bennett was sworn into office, followed by members of the new Cabinet.
Bennett will be prime minister until September 2023 before handing the power over to Yair Lapid, the leader of centrist Yesh Atid party, for a further two years as part of a power-sharing deal.
In Jerusalem, supporters of the new coalition cheered as the results of the parliamentary vote came in and waved their flags in the air.
Meanwhile thousands of delighted revelers poured into Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Sunday night after hearing of the results as they danced, hugged each other and cheered.
‘I am here celebrating the end of an era in Israel,’ said Erez Biezuner in Rabin Square. ‘We want them to succeed and to unite us again,’ he added, as flag-waving supporters of the new government sang and danced around him.
‘I have mixed feelings about this government,’ said 19-year-old Tal Surkis about the change coalition, but he added that ‘it’s something Israel needs’.
The supporters brought their own foam cannon to the square in Tel Aviv and celebrated with a foam party.
Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, remains the head of the largest party in parliament and is expected to vigorously oppose the new government. If just one faction bolts, it could lose its majority and would be at risk of collapse, giving him an opening to return to power.
Bennett (right) will be prime minister until September 2023 before handing the power over to Yair Lapid (left), the leader of centrist Yesh Atid party, for a further two years as part of a power-sharing deal
Yair Lapid is set to become the Prime Minister in 2023 in a power-sharing deal. Pictured: Lapid arrives for the parliamentary meeting on Sunday before the vote.
People were covered with foam as they celebrated the parliamentary vote which saw Bennett become the new prime minister
Israelis celebrate in Tel Aviv with foam as the new government is sworn in on Sunday night
Thousands of people gather for spontaneous celebrations in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv after the confidence vote on Sunday
Hundreds of people gathered for a foam party in Tel Aviv in celebration of the vote, with many dancing and cheering
The supporters gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv and had a foam party, with the white foam contrasting with the night sky
‘We are aware that this step has a lot of risks and hardships that we cannot deny, but the opportunity for us is also big: to change the equation and the balance of power in the Knesset and in the upcoming government,’ said Mansour Abbas, an Arab member of the new Israeli government.
But in a sign of what is to come, Bennett was heckled and repeatedly interrupted by Netanyahu’s supporters who shouted ‘shame’ and ‘liar’ as he addressed parliament on Sunday. Several of the Netanyahu loyalists were escorted out of the chamber.
The eight parties, including a small Arab faction that is making history by sitting in the ruling coalition, are united in their opposition to Netanyahu and new elections but agree on little else.
They are likely to pursue a modest agenda that seeks to reduce tensions with the Palestinians and maintain good relations with the U.S. without launching any major initiatives.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s record 12 years in power has now come to an end after the vote
Bennett reaches out to touch Netanyahu’s arm following the vote which ended Netanyahu’s 12 years in power
People celebrate in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Sunday night after Israel’s parliament voted in the new coalition government
People cheer as they celebrate the confidence vote which has meant a new coalition has formed a government. A woman held a sign which seemingly told Netanyahu to ‘sashay away’
A man and woman dressed in fancy dress hug each other as they celebrate the results of the confidence vote on Sunday in Jerusalem
Hundreds of people, including small children, gathered in front of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, on Sunday as they awaited the results from the parliamentary vote in Jerusalem
On Sunday evening, Bennett opened his first cabinet meeting as prime minister with a traditional blessing for new beginnings.
He said: ‘We are at the start of new days,’ adding this his government will work to ‘mend the rift in the nation’ after two years of political deadlock.
‘Citizens of Israel are all looking to us now, and the burden of proof is upon us,’ he said. ‘We must all, for this amazing process to succeed, we must all know to maintain restraint on ideological matters.’
Alternate prime minister Yair Lapid, who will serve as foreign minister for the first two years of the government’s term, said in brief remarks that ‘friendship and trust’ built their government, and that’s what will keep it going.
US President Joe Biden was the first world leader to congratulate Bennett on his win and said the United States remained committed to Israel’s security.
‘I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations,’ Biden said. ‘Israel has no better friend than the United States.’
‘United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security,’ Biden, who is currently in Cornwall, UK, for the G7 Summit, continued. ‘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: ‘Thank you Mr. President! I look forward to working with you to strengthen the ties between our two nations.’
Bennett’s office said he later spoke by phone with Biden, thanking him for his warm wishes and longstanding commitment to Israel’s security.
The leaders agreed to consult closely on all matters related to regional security, including Iran, the White House said, adding that Biden said his administration intends to work closely with the Israeli government on advancing peace, security and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians.
On Sunday evening, Bennett (right) held his first cabinet meeting as prime minister
On Sunday evening, Bennett opened his first cabinet meeting as prime minister with a traditional blessing for new beginnings. He said: ‘We are at the start of new days,’ adding this his government will work to ‘mend the rift in the nation’ after two years of political deadlock
One man was having a particularly good time during the foam party celebrations in Tel Aviv and decided to lie in the foam
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday congratulated Bennett.
‘Germany and Israel are connected by a unique friendship that we want to strengthen further. With this in mind, I look forward to working closely with you,’ Merkel said in a message addressed to Bennett and shared by her spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer on Twitter.
Britain’s Prime Minister also tweeted his congratulations to both Bennett and Lapid on their victory and said it is an ‘exciting time’ for the UK and Israel to work together.
Mr Johnson said: ‘On behalf of the UK, I offer my congratulations to @naftalibennett and @yairlapid on forming a new government in Israel. As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all.’
Palestinian militant group Hamas said they will confront the new Israeli government that is expected to take office.
Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the Islamic militant group, said Sunday any Israeli government is ‘a settler occupier entity that must be resisted by all forms of resistance, foremost of which is the armed resistance.’
Israel’s deep divisions were on vivid display as Bennett addressed parliament ahead of the vote as he was heckled by supporters of Netanyahu.
Bennett said the country, after four inconclusive elections in under two years, had been thrown ‘into a maelstrom of hatred and in-fighting’.
‘The time has come for different leaders, from all parts of the population, to stop, to stop this madness,’ he said to angry shouts of ‘liar’ and ‘criminal’ from right-wing opponents.
Ahead of the vote, a parliamentary debate became heated as Netanyahu vowed to ‘topple’ the new coalition, which is led by Bennett
Israel has a change of government but Benjamin Netanyahu will be back, experts say
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, was succeeded on Sunday by a coalition that includes for the first time a party from Israel’s Arab minority.
The 71-year-old right-winger was ousted by an unlikely coalition of right-wing, centrist and other parties who clinched a deal to form a government that would break a period of unprecedented political deadlock that saw four elections in two years.
WHO ARE THE NEW GUARD?
Naftali Bennett, 49, heads the ultra-nationalist party Yamina – ‘Rightwards’. The religious, pro-settler, party won only seven of the Knesset’s 120 seats in the March 23 election but he emerged first as kingmaker, then kingslayer and now king as the new prime minister.
Naftali Bennett (above), 49, heads the ultra-nationalist party Yamina – ‘Rightwards’
Yair Lapid (pictured), 57, and his centre-left party Yesh Atid – ‘There is a Future’ – came second, with 17 seats
A high-tech millionaire who dreams of annexing most of the occupied West Bank, Bennett spent some of his childhood in North America. He may face cries of betrayal for forming a government with centre-left partners instead of his natural allies on the right.
Yair Lapid, 57, and his centre-left party Yesh Atid – ‘There is a Future’ – came second, with 17 seats.
The former finance minister and TV host campaigned to ‘bring sanity’ back to Israel, a dig at Netanyahu. But the coalition with Bennett will likely be unstable, uniting unlikely allies from across the political spectrum. Lapid will become prime minister in 2023 as part of a power-sharing deal.
Gideon Saar, 54, a former member of Netanyahu’s Likud who quit to set up the New Hope party. He rejected Netanyahu’s offer of a rotating premiership to keep him in power.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR NETANYAHU?
Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) fought the most recent election by asserting that he turned Israel into the ‘vaccination nation’
His supporters love the man they call ‘King Bibi’ – admiring his hawkish stance on issues such as Iran and the Palestinians, and his high profile on the international stage.
But critics accuse him of being a polarising figure. They also highlight corruption allegations that led to the tag ‘Crime Minister’ – Netanyahu is on trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies wrongdoing.
A canny political operator, many expected him to glue together a coalition. But his deal-making touch deserted him, with many rivals wanting to emerge from his shadow.
DIDN’T HE GET CREDIT FOR ISRAEL’S VACCINE RECORD?
Netanyahu fought the most recent election by asserting that he turned Israel into the ‘vaccination nation’, leading the world in the recovery from COVID-19.
Even as the ballots were being counted, Israel passed the mark at which 50% of the population received two vaccine shots.
But such is the polarisation in Israeli politics that even this could not break the stalemate. Netanyahu was also accused of mismanaging earlier pandemic lockdowns that hit Israel’s economy hard.
WILL HE BE BACK?
Yes. A quarter of the electorate voted for his Likud Party, which remains the largest party with 30 of 120 Knesset seats.
While he is no longer prime minister, Netanyahu is now the leader of the opposition. This is familiar territory – in the mid-1990s he made life very uncomfortable for then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Reporting by Associated Press
Bennett, an observant Jew, noted the Jewish people twice lost their homeland in biblical times due to bitter infighting.
‘This time, at the decisive moment, we have taken responsibility,’ he said. ‘To continue on in this way – more elections, more hatred, more vitriolic posts on Facebook – is just not an option. Therefore we stopped the train, a moment before it barreled into the abyss.’
The coalition, including a small Islamist faction that is making history as the first Arab party to sit in a coalition, agree on little beyond their opposition to Netanyahu.
‘We will forge forward on that which we agree – and there is much we agree on, transport, education and so on, and what separates us we will leave to the side,’ Bennett said. He also promised a ‘new page’ in relations with Israel’s Arab sector.
Israel’s Arab citizens make up about 20 per cent of the population but have suffered from discrimination, poverty and lack of opportunities. Netanyahu has often tried portray Arab politicians as terrorist sympathizers, though he also courted the same Arab party in a failed effort to remain in power after March 23 elections.
Bennett, who like Netanyahu opposes the establishment of a Palestinian state, made little mention of the Palestinians beyond threatening a tough response to violence.
Bennett, a former defence minister, also expressed opposition to U.S. efforts to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
‘Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons,’ Bennett said, vowing to maintain Netanyahu’s confrontational policy. ‘Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action.’
Bennett nevertheless thanked President Joe Biden and the U.S. for its decades of support for Israel.
Netanyahu, speaking after him, vowed to return to power. He predicted the incoming government would be weak on Iran and give in to U.S. demands to make concessions to the Palestinians.
He also accused Bennett of carrying out the ‘greatest fraud in Israel’s history’ after he formed a coalition with Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, despite saying he had ruled out a government with Lapid before the election.
Netanyahu said: ‘I’ve heard what Bennett said [about standing firm against Iran], and I’m concerned, because Bennett does the opposite of what he promises,’ Netanyahu said. ‘He will fight Iran the same way he won’t sit with [Yesh Atid leader Yair] Lapid, Labor and Ra’am.’
‘The prime minister of Israel needs to be able to say no to the president of the United States on issues that threaten our existence,’ Netanyahu said during the 30-minute speech, which went past the 15 minutes allocated to him.
‘Who will do that now?… This government does not want and is not capable of opposing the United States.’
Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said the new government will likely be more stable than it appears.
‘Even though it has a very narrow majority, it will be very difficult to topple and replace because the opposition is not cohesive,’ he said. Each party in the coalition will want to prove that it can deliver, and for that they need ‘time and achievements.’
Still, Netanyahu ‘will continue to cast a shadow,’ Plesner said. He expects the incoming opposition leader to exploit events and propose legislation that right-wing coalition members would like to support but can’t – all in order to embarrass and undermine them.
The new government is meanwhile promising a return to normalcy after a tumultuous two years that saw four elections, an 11-day Gaza war last month and a coronavirus outbreak that devastated the economy before it was largely brought under control by a successful vaccination campaign.
The driving force behind the coalition is Yair Lapid, a political centrist who will become prime minister in two years, if the government lasts that long.
‘A morning of change,’ promised a Sunday tweet by Lapid, who would serve as foreign minister under the coalition deal before taking over the premiership in 2023.
Lapid called off a planned speech to parliament, instead saying he was ashamed that his 86-year-old mother had to witness the raucous behavior of his opponents. In a brief speech, he asked for ‘forgiveness from my mother.’
‘I wanted her to be proud of the democratic process in Israel. Instead she, along with every citizen of Israel, is ashamed of you and remembers clearly why it’s time to replace you,’ he said.
Netanyahu, who is battling corruption charges in an ongoing trial he dismisses as a conspiracy, has been the dominant Israeli politician of his generation, having also served a previous three-year term in the 1990s.
Thousands of protesters rallied outside his official residence late Saturday, waving ‘Bye Bye Bibi’ signs.
The anti-Netanyahu bloc spans the political spectrum, including three right-wing, two centrist and two left-wing parties, along with an Arab Islamic conservative party.
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.
Supporters of the new coalition watch the voting session at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday
Children were among those who were covered in foam as they all celebrated the formation of the new coalition government on Sunday in Tel Aviv
The driving force behind the coalition is Yair Lapid, (centre with Bennett on Sunday in parliament) a political centrist who will become prime minister in two years, if the government lasts that long
The new prime minister Bennett and Lapid, who is now the Foreign Minister, were in good spirits following the vote on Sunday
Listed: The agreements outlined by Israel’s ‘unity government’
Among the agreements outlined by parties in what Lapid described as a ‘unity government’ are:
- Limiting the prime minister’s term of office to two terms, or eight years.
- An infrastructure push to include new hospitals, a new university and a new airport.
- Passing a two-year budget to help stabilize the country’s finances – the prolonged political stalemate has left Israel still using a pro-rated version of a base 2019 budget that was ratified in mid-2018.
- Maintaining the ‘status-quo’ on issues of religion and state, with Bennett’s Yamina party to have a veto. Possible reforms include breaking up an ultra-Orthodox monopoly on overseeing which foods are kosher, and decentralizing authority over Jewish conversions.
- An ‘overall plan for transportation’ in the Israeli- occupied West Bank.
- A general goal to ‘ensure Israel’s interests’ in areas of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
- Allocating more than 53 billion shekels ($16 billion) to improve infrastructure and welfare in Arab towns, and curbing violent crime there.
- Decriminalizing marijuana and moving to regulate the market.
It’s unclear if Netanyahu will move out of the official residence. He has lashed out at the new government in apocalyptic terms and accused Bennett of defrauding voters by running as a right-wing stalwart and then partnering with the left.
Netanyahu’s supporters have held angry protests outside the homes of rival lawmakers, who say they have received death threats naming their family members. Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service issued a rare public warning about the incitement earlier this month, saying it could lead to violence.
Netanyahu has condemned the incitement while noting that he has also been a target.
His place in Israeli history is secure, having served as prime minister for a total of 15 years – more than any other, including the country’s founder, David Ben-Gurion.
As Netanyahu has lost the premiership, he will not be able to push through parliament changes to basic laws that could give him immunity on charges he faces in his corruption trial.
Netanyahu began his long rule by defying the Obama administration, refusing to freeze settlement construction as it tried unsuccessfully to revive the peace process. Relations with Israel’s closest ally grew even rockier when Netanyahu vigorously campaigned against President Barack Obama’s emerging nuclear deal with Iran, even denouncing it in an address to the U.S. Congress.
But he suffered few if any consequences from those clashes and was richly rewarded by the Trump administration, which recognized contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, helped broker normalization agreements with four Arab states and withdrew the U.S. from the Iran deal.
Netanyahu has portrayed himself as a world-class statesman, boasting of his close ties with Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has also cultivated ties with Arab and African countries that long shunned Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians.
But he has gotten a far chillier reception from the Biden administration and is widely seen as having undermined the long tradition of bipartisan support for Israel in the United States.
His reputation as a political magician has also faded at home, where he has become a deeply polarizing figure. Critics say he has long pursued a divide-and-conquer strategy that aggravated rifts in Israeli society between Jews and Arabs and between his close ultra-Orthodox allies and secular Jews.
In November 2019, he was indicted for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes. He refused calls to step down, instead lashing out at the media, judiciary and law enforcement, going so far as to accuse his political opponents of orchestrating an attempted coup. Last year, protesters began holding weekly rallies across the country calling on him to resign.
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 has become a divisive figure in Israeli politics, with the last four elections all seen as a referendum on his rule
Netanyahu remains popular among the hard-line nationalists who dominate Israeli politics, but he could soon face a leadership challenge from within his own party. A less polarizing Likud leader would stand a good chance of assembling a coalition that is both farther to the right and more stable than the government that is set to be sworn in.
Sunday’s vote comes at a time of heightened tensions in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, which has grown more bitter in the Netanyahu years, in part due to the expansion of settlements considered illegal under international law in the occupied West Bank.
Meanwhile, right-wing anger has grown in Israel over last week’s postponement of a controversial Jewish nationalist march through flashpoint areas of east Jerusalem.
The ‘March of the Flags’ is now slated for Tuesday, and the agitation surrounding it could represent a key initial test for a new coalition government.
Gaza’s rulers Hamas said that the political developments in Jerusalem wouldn’t change its relationship with Israel.
‘The form the Israeli government takes doesn’t change the nature of our relationship,’ said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. ‘Its still a colonising and occupying power that we must resist.’
The end of an era: From Trump to corruption probes, how Netanyahu has dominated Israel’s politics like no other leader
By Lauren Lewis for MailOnline
Israel’s longest serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was ousted from power on Sunday after dominating the country’s politics for more than 25 years.
Netanyahu was replaced by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid who took the reins after forming a coalition government with six other parties, including Mansour Abbas’s Islamic conservative Raam party.
Netanyahu became the country’s longest-serving prime minister in 2019, surpassing Israel’s founding father David Ben Gurion, after holding the office office continuously for 12 years since 2009.
During his reign, the Israeli prime minister oversaw the unveiling of the Deal of the Century; signed four normalisation deals with Arab states; and presided over three conflicts with the Gaza Strip.
He also railed against the Iranian nuclear deal, and became the first sitting Israeli president to be indicted.
Benjamin Netanyahu served as the 9th Prime Minister of Israel between 1996 and 1999, he returned to the role in 2009 (pictured attending a Likud Party meeting at the Knesset in March 2009)
Four conflicts in Gaza Strip
In November 2012, Netanyahu oversaw his first operation in Gaza – Operation Pillar of Defence.
The conflict started when after rocket fire from Gaza prompted Israel to strike back, killing Hamas’ military chief in an air attack and carrying out hundreds of assaults on militants’ underground rocket launchers and weapons stores.
An Egyptian-brokered truce was eventually agreed on November 21, ending the war.
A second conflict came in 2014 – Operation Protective Edge – after Hamas allegedly kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers, prompting Israel to launch a military operation with the stated aim of ending rocket fire and destroying tunnels used for smuggling.
The war left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers. A ceasefire was agreed on August 26 and both sides claimed victory.
Smoke from explosions are seen over Gaza City following Israeli strikes on November 19, 2012, during Operation Pillar of Defence
Following the conflict, Netanyahu vowed a ‘very strong action if fire is resumed’, warning Hamas not to restart the war.
He also said he was no longer willing to renew peace talks with Abbas, saying the Palestinian leader would have to first distance himself from Hamas militants.
‘He has to choose,’ Netanyahu told Israeli Channel Two in an interview at the time. ‘It’s either yes to Hamas or no to Hamas.’
Mass protests then erupted in Gaza in March 2018. Demonstrators demanded the right to return to homes in Israel that Palestinians fled or were expelled from after the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.
The protests sparked a surge in violence on the border where Palestinians gathered every Friday. From March 2018 to December 2019, at least 352 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire. Eight Israelis also died in related incidents.
Protests intensified in May 2018 after the new US embassy opened in Jerusalem following Donald Trump’s announcement that it would move from Tel Aviv.
Rockets seen in the night sky fired towards Israel from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 14, 2021
On May 10, 2021, the fourth conflict of Netanyahu’s premiership broke out following days of unrest in east Jerusalem.
Hamas issued Israel an ultimatum to withdraw soldiers from the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on May 10. When the ultimatum expired without response, Hamas launched several rockets towards Israel, sparking an air offensive by the IDF.
At least 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, and 13 Israelis were killed during the 11-day conflict.
Netanyahu later claimed victory in the conflict and said Israel’s bombing campaign had killed ‘more than 200 terrorists’ in Gaza.
He promised a ‘very powerful’ reaction if Hamas breached the truce which ended 11 days of bloodshed. He said: ‘If Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful’.
Political turmoil with four elections in two years
The right-wing Likud party chief became prime minister for a second time in March 2009, after a first stint between 1996 and 1999.
He formed a coalition firmly anchored in the right, with ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister.
A snap poll in January 2013 returned him to the premiership, this time in a coalition with hardliners keen to build settlements on Palestinian land seized during the 1967 Six-Day War.
He returned again to government after winning a confidence vote in parliament in May 2015.
Two years later, Netanyahu oversaw the construction of the first new government-sanctioned settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories since 1991, in defiance of international opinion.
In a general election in April 2019, Netanyahu’s party Likud won 35 of the 120 parliamentary seats in a general election, the same number as centrist challenger Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu was tasked with forming a government but was unable to secure a majority and instead decided to call another election on September, which returned the same results.
Neither managed to form a coalition, propelling the country into a third poll – the third election in less than a year.
Likud won 35 of the 120 parliamentary seats in the April 2019 general election (pictured, Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara celebrate after the vote)
An election in March 2020 returned a stalemate, forcing Gantz and Netanyahu to work together. On April 20, the pair unveiled a three-year unity government.
The deal allowed Netanyahu to stay in office for 18 months while Gantz, a former army chief, headed the defence ministry.
Under the agreement, Gantz would then take over as premier for another 18 months before a new round of elections. But, the agreement only held for a few months.
Likud came first in new elections on March 23, 2021, but Netanyahu was not able to form a government within the month-long deadline.
On May 5, centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid was tasked with forming a government, gathering support from nationalist hardliner Naftali Bennett – an arrangement Netanyahu warned would be ‘a danger for the security of Israel’.
Indicted on charges of corruption, bribery, fraud, and breach of trust
The three key cases brought against ‘Bibi’
Case 1000: Fraud and breach of trust
Opened in 2016, and involves valuable presents and gifts – such as cigars and bottoms of champagne – allegedly received by Netanyahu and his wife from several wealthy acquaintances in exchange for favours.
Case 2000: Fraud and breach of trust
Relates to recorded conversations between Netanyahu and Arnon Mozes, chairman and editor of Yedioth Ahronoth, one of the largest newspapers in circulation in Israel.
The conversations are said to have discussed legislation that could harm a major competitor of the newspaper – Israel Hayom, despite it being seen as pro-Netanyahu. In exchange, Netanyahu is said to have received positive coverage.
Case 4000: Bribery, fraud and breach of trust
Alleges Netanyahu promoted regulatory decisions favourable to the controlling shareholder in the Bezeq telecom giant, Shaul Elovitch, in exchange for positive coverage on his Walla news site.
In November 21, 2019, Netanyahu was indicted by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on charges of corruption, bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in three separate cases.
‘It is an attempted coup based on fabrications and a tainted and biased investigative process,’ Netanyahu said during a televised speech after the indictment was announced.
‘I will continue to lead the country, according to the letter of the law, with responsibility, devotion and concern for all of our futures,’ he said, standing at a podium against the backdrop of four Israeli flags in his official residence.
Netanyahu added that the indictment was based on ‘false accusations’ and a systematically ‘tainted investigation.’
It is the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister has been charged with a crime.
The first case involves him allegedly receiving gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from wealthy friends, including Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan and Australian billionaire James Packer.
In the second case, he is accused of trying to orchestrate positive coverage in a major Israeli paper in exchange for curbing distribution of a free pro-Netanyahu tabloid.
The third, dubbed Case 4000, which will be the focus of Monday’s first witness testimony, alleges that he backed legislation worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the owner of Israeli telecom giant Bezeq in return for positive coverage on its news site Walla.
He was formally charged over the alleged offences in January 2020 after he withdrew his appeal for immunity – which the Knesset was widely expected to reject.
Netanyahu has maintained his innocence and denied any wrongdoing in the three corruption cases, saying he is a victim of a political witch-hunt.
Netanyahu appeared in court for the first evidentiary hearing of his trial on charges of corruption, fraud, bribery, and breach of trust, on April 21.
Israeli law does not require prime ministers to resign while under indictment, and Netanyahu has refused to do so.
His trial, in which he pleaded not-guilty, started last year and expected to take up to two years.
A protester wearing a mask, depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, attends a gathering outside the district court in Jerusalem on April 5
A close relationship with Trump
Netanyahu enjoyed a positive relationship with US President Donald Trump after years of strained relations with Barack Obama.
Together Netanyahu and Trump worked towards the Deal of the Century – an agreement intended to move towards ending the Arab-Israeli conflict by providing a framework for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The deal, unveiled in January 2020, recognised Israeli sovereignty over major settlement blocs in the West Bank while offering to more than double the territory currently under Palestinian control.
Netanyahu and Trump presented the deal as a ‘win-win’, but it was widely rubbished by Palestinians, who were not involved in negotiations – and termed the deal the ‘slap of the century’.
US President Donald Trump and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speak to the press on the West Wing Colonnade prior to the unveiling of the Deal of the Century in January 2020
Four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco – normalised relations with Israel in late 2020 in a deal known as the Abraham Accords.
The agreements were signed by Trump, Netanyahu, and the Emirati and Bahraini foreign ministers at the White House on September 15.
Each of the four leaders signed four copies of the Abraham Accords – one in English, one in Hebrew and two in Arabic.
At the time, Netanyahu said Israel was negotiating normalisation deals with five other Arab states, but he did not offer hints as to which ones those may be.
He later signed normalisation agreements with Sudan and Morocco in October and December respectively.
The deals were a dramatic shift of power dynamics in the Middle East, where Israel had been consigned to relative pariah status.
Trump then gifted Netanyahu US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy there, as well as recognising Israel’s annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights.
The four leaders hold up the signed copies of the Abraham Accords – they signed one in English, one in Hebrew and two in Arabic – at the White House on September 15, 2020
Netanyah’s ‘red lines’ on Iran – shown with a cartoon drawing of a bomb and a red felt tip
In September 2012, Netanyahu warned the UN ‘red lines’ were needed to stop Iran from making nuclear weapons.
In a memorable speech, Netanyahu used a visual aid – a cartoon drawing of a bomb – to demonstrate the necessity of taking action against the Islamic Republic.
He told delegates the failure to establish ‘red lines’ to stop Tehran from building a nuclear bomb ‘by next spring, at most by next summer’ would be catastrophic.
‘At this late hour’, he said. ‘There is only one way to peacefully prevent Iran from getting atomic bombs and that’s by placing a clear red line on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. Red lines don’t lead to war; red lines prevent war.’
Towards the end of his speech, Netanyahu held up a board showing a cartoon-like diagram of bomb that separated Iran’s nuclear efforts into three stages.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brandishes a cartoon of a bomb during a speech against a nuclear deal between the US and Iran in September 2012
He said that Iran has completed the first stage of developing enough low-enriched uranium and that it was almost at the end of the second stage, the further enrichment of the uranium to weapons grade.
Once that stage was completed next spring or summer, a third stage, preparing an actual weapon, could then be accomplished within ‘a few months, possibly a few weeks’.
Building a detonator for the highly enriched uranium would be relatively simple and easily concealed – and by implication not possible to stop militarily.
Using a felt tip pen, he drew a red line across the diagram and said that Iran must be stopped before it completed the second stage. ‘I believe that faced with a clear red line, Iran will back down,’ he said.
Netanyahu later argued the nuclear deal with Iran was a ‘very bad’ deal that would make the world a ‘much more dangerous place’.
In April 2015, hours before the US and Iran signed the Nuclear Deal, Netanyahu made a furious televised statement claiming the agreement was a threat to the Jewish state.
He said: ‘A deal based on this framework would threaten the survival of Israel… such a deal would not block Iran’s path to the bomb. It would pave it.’
Despite Netanyahu’s protestations, the deal was signed in Vienna on July 14, 2015. It came into force in January 2016.