PM Bennett Announces He Will Not Run in Israel's Next Election

Ayelet Shaked, his number two, will lead Yamina in Israel's fifth election in three years

Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov
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Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem in July.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem in July.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Michael Hauser Tov
Michael Hauser Tov

Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told members of his Yamina party on Wednesday that he will not run again for the Knesset in the next election.

Ayelet Shaked, his number two in the party, will lead the party in the upcoming election, Israel's fifth poll in the space of three years.

>>> Lawmakers postpone vote to dissolve Israeli parliament until Thursday

In a farewell address from the Knesset, Bennett called for a broad government representing all Israelis: "Only together we will win … Let's respect each other instead of hating."

The prime minister also took a dig at the opposition, stating that his short-lived coalition achieved "more than what other governments did in a full term."

After announcing his resignation, he said he would continue serving the country, "the State of Israel is the love of my life."

Bennett, who will hand over the premiership to his coalition partner Yair Lapid following the expected dissolution of the Knesset, will remain as the alternate prime minister in the interim period.

Ahead of a long night of votes, Israel's parliament has already passed the first reading of the necessary legislation to hold elections.

Bennett and Lapid moved last week to dissolve the Knesset after infighting made their ruling coalition no longer tenable. A year ago, they had ended former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's record reign by forming a rare alliance of rightists, liberals and Arab parties, which – while ultimately faltering – lasted longer than many had expected.

Lawmakers from across Israel's coalition and opposition weighed in on Bennett's brief term.

"Though our political ideologies do not align, I have great respect for him." Health Minister and Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz said on Bennett. "Israel had earned a year of good government, much to his credit," he added.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar described Bennett as "a patriot," adding that he is sure that he will return to serve the country in the future.

Meanwhile, far-right lawmaker and Bennett's former party member Bezalel Smotrich said that "The decision to retire from politics wasn't his. It was the public who had enough of him and spewed him out."

"You can't cheat and deceive the entire country," ultra-Orthodox lawmaker Moshe Gafni said. "His party died a strange death," he added. "We were criticized for being too harsh on him and on this bad government. It appears we were right all along."

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