They Ousted Netanyahu, but Bennett and His Number Two Still Refer to Him as PM

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, speak to each other as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits nearby the swearing-in of the new government, in June.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, speak to each other as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sits nearby the swearing-in of the new government, in June. Credit: Ronen Zvulun / Reuters
Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.
Sam Sokol

Despite ousting Benjamin Netanyahu from office last month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked have both publicly referred to the newly minted opposition leader as prime minister, highlighting the difficulty many Israelis have in adjusting to the country’s first change of premier since 2009.

During a press conference in the Knesset on Monday, Bennett, who got his start in politics as Netanyahu’s office director in 2006, was corrected by a reporter after referring to his former boss as prime minister. 

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“The former prime minister, of course. Bibi,” he backtracked.

The following day, Shaked, whose tenure as Netanyahu’s office director coincided with Bennett’s time as chief of staff, also accidentally referred to Netanyahu as prime minister during an interview on Channel 12.

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Netanyahu’s closest supporters in the Likud Party have continued to refer to him as the prime minister, with former coalition whip and lawmaker Miki Zohar going so far as to declare that Netanyahu will “always be our prime minister” at an opposition meeting in the Knesset last month.

According to Channel 12, during the June 14 meeting, Shas chairman Arye Dery paused after accidentally referring to Netanyahu as prime minister, leading him to quip “don’t fight it, say your majesty.”

Netanyahu has also come under intense criticism for remaining in the Prime Minister’s Residence following the end of his premiership, going so far as to host foreign dignitaries in the official government building.

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On June 15, Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under the Trump administration, tweeted a picture or herself with Netanyahu in the residence in which she also referred to him as the prime minister.

“Time with Prime Minister @netanyahu is always invaluable,” she tweeted. “His contributions to Israeli security and prosperity are historic. We have not heard the last from him.”

Netanyahu had asked Bennett to give him and his family a few more weeks to pack their things and arrange their new life before leaving the official residence, and Bennett agreed. Netanyahu and Bennett later agreed that Netanyahu would be out by this Saturday, July 10.

A moving van was spotted entering the residential compound in Jerusalem on Tuesday afternoon, about a month after the new government was sworn in.

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