Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, was ousted on Sunday night by a cross-party coalition government, raising hopes that the worst political crisis in the country’s history is drawing to a close.
At a special session in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, lawmakers voted narrowly in favour of removing Mr Netanyahu from high office and swearing in a unity government.
The coalition will be led by Naftali Bennett, the right-wing leader of the Yamina party, who will serve as prime minister for two years before handing the reins to centrist leader Yair Lapid.
As the result of the vote was announced, crowds of anti-Netanyahu campaigners gathered for celebrations at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv where they brandished "Bye bye, Bibi," placards, referring to Mr Netanyahu’s nickname.
The end to the deadlock comes after four inconclusive election results in Israel since 2019 which had plunged the country into political turmoil.
Mr Netanyahu furiously condemned the new government on Sunday and vowed to bring it down from the opposition benches, in a sign that he clings to the hope of eventually returning as prime minister.
"If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country in our way," Mr Netanyahu said in a lengthy speech before the vote.
“With God’s help, it will happen a lot earlier than you think it will.”
He went on to claim that Mr Bennett "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 allow him a real defense [against Iran]."
Mr Bennett was heckled with insults from right-wing lawmakers as he gave a speech shortly before the vote, prompting the speaker to remove several of them from the chamber.
"The time has come for different leaders, from all parts of the population, to stop, to stop this madness," Mr Bennett said, though his speech was almost drowned out by hecklers in the Knesset branding him a liar and a criminal.
When the results of the crucial vote were read out, crowds of anti-Netanyahu demonstrators In Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, cheered as they brandished "Bye bye, Bibi," placards, a reference to his nickname.
Ra’am, an Islamist party, will be part of the new coalition, making it the first Arab party to join an Israeli government, rather than lend external support.
Mansour Abbas, the leader of Ra’am, said that tackling crime which has blighted Arab communities in Israel would be among his top priorities.
He added that his party would "advance a dialog that will bring about better, new, principled relations for all citizens of the state: Jews and Arabs."
Mr Netanyahu now faces a potential leadership challenge in his right-wing Likud party, though he remains its most popular and high-profile member. Mr Netanyahu is also standing trial on corruption and fraud charges which have severely damaged his public image. He claims the trial is a politically motivated "witch hunt."
The high point in Mr Netanyahu’s career arguably came in November 2016, when Donald Trump won the US presidential elections and became Mr Netanyahu’s closest ally.
The crowning achievement of that partnership – from Israel’s perspective – was US recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in 2017.
The United States also moved its embassy to Jerusalem and helped Israel secure historic normalisation treaties with Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
In his final months as prime minister, Mr Netanyahu intensified operations against Iran including the assassination of the regime’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
But during his last speech as prime minister on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu warned that his successors lacked the gumption to stand up to Israel’s enemies in the region.
"We’ll be back soon," he added.