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Once allies, Netanyahu threatens to topple Bennett’s government

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
(R to L) Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid look on during an address at the Knesset in Jerusalem al-Quds on June 13, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Escalating rifts among Israeli leaders have burst into the open with the transition of power, with former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatening to topple the new government headed by his ally-turned-rival Naftali Bennett.

On Sunday, a recently formed Israeli political coalition narrowly won a vote to oust Netanyahu as the regime’s prime minister.

Bennett was then sworn in as prime minister, ending Netanyahu’s unprecedented 12-year run on premiership. As part of a power-sharing deal, Bennett would hand power over to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in 2023.

The new government began work on Monday, but without the traditional handover ceremony.

David Bitan, a lawmaker with Netanyahu's Likud party, told Kan public radio that the former premier feels “cheated” and “doesn't want to give even the slightest legitimacy to this matter.”

Topaz Luk, a Netanyahu aide, also told Army Radio that the former prime minister, who has now become an opposition leader, is “full of motivation to topple this dangerous government as soon as possible.”

Shortly after the transfer of power, Netanyahu held a meeting with right-wing opposition parties and called for cohesion in order to make life harder for the coalition.

Netanyahu said the new government was based on “fraud, hate and power-seeking,” and predicted the new coalition would not succeed because it was too fractured.

“It can be overthrown on the condition that we act together and with iron discipline. If we squabble, we will not achieve it,” he said.

“My request is to shoot [politically] from the armored vehicle outwards, and to hit,” he added, paraphrasing an Israeli idiom.

“If we concentrate our effort outwards, we will bring them down,” Netanyahu stressed, calling for unity among the opposition.

“If we work toward that goal we will succeed, but if we clash with each other we won’t,” he said in an apparent criticism of Likud MK David Bitan, who earlier in the day blamed the Religious Zionism party chief, Bezalel Smotrich, for Netanyahu’s fall.

Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for criminal corruption, was ousted after two years of political turmoil which saw four indecisive elections.

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