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Political bombshell: Bennett and Lapid to bring down their own coalition

Lapid set to become interim prime minister; elections likely to be set for October

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid hold a joint press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, June 20, 2022. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

This article was updated at 9:41 p.m. Israel time

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and alternate-Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid decided to dissolve the Knesset "for the good of the country," the prime minister said in a press conference Monday night.

"We turned over every rock," to try to find a solution, Bennett said of his government, which had been paralyzed by defections in recent weeks.

One of the reasons he cited was the inability to pass emergency regulations that extend Israeli law over citizens in Judea and Samaria – the West Bank. The regulations are set to expire on June 30 and were being used by the opposition as a bargaining chip to shake up the coalition.

While Bennett was speaking, the lights in the Knesset flickered and went out for a second.

Bennett graciously announced that his "friend," Lapid, would take over as prime minister and promised an orderly and thorough transition.

Lapid said the two reached the agreement together and vowed to continue working as a team.

"A year ago we started the process of rebuilding, and now we're carrying it on together," Lapid said. "What we need to do today is go back to the concept of Israeli unity and not let dark forces tear us apart from within. We must remind ourselves that we love one another, love our country and that only together will we prevail."

The unlikely coalition – comprised of eight divergent parties from far left to right and Islamist – held together for just over one year against the odds.

The government managed to pass a budget – the country's first since 2018.

This political earthquake dominated the headlines in Israel tonight and comes on the heels of growing speculation that the government was going to fall soon – one way or another.

New elections would tentatively be set for Oct. 25.

Lapid will take over as interim prime minister according to an agreement reached in knitting this current coalition together last year.

Bennett and Lapid understood their days were numbered and took the matter of a governmental break up into their own hands, despite surviving a no-confidence vote earlier in the day.

Apparently, the news took coalition members by surprise.

But the opposition welcomed the news.

"This is an evening of great news for the masses of citizens in Israel," opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "After a determined struggle of the opposition in the Knesset and great suffering of the Israeli public, it is clear to everyone that the worst government in the history of the country has come to an end."

Netanyahu already has his sights set on his former role as the longest serving prime minister.

"My friends and I will form a broad national government headed by the Likud. A government that will take care of you, all the citizens of Israel, without exception. A government that lowers taxes, that lowers prices, will lead Israel to tremendous achievements including expanding the circle of peace as we have already done," he said.

However, according to recent polls, the government will find itself deadlocked again and even Netanyahu will be unable to amass the 61-seat majority needed to command a government.

The upcoming elections will be Israel's fifth round of voting in three and a half years.

The current government lasted longer than any other coalition since then, reaching the one-year mark last week.

Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.

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