Netanyahu out as Naftali Bennett to become Israels next prime minister

Washington, İsrail’in yeni liderini bekliyor. Oldukça ayrıntılı bir dosya okunmalı: Israel’s likely leadership change prompts a hasty rethinking in Washington

Netanyahu out as Naftali Bennett to become Israels next prime minister Photo

From the first months of Barack Obama’s eight years in office through the whole of Donald Trump’s four-year presidency, and now the first months of President Biden’s term, the same man has led the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year run as Israel’s hard-right prime minister now appears to be ending, and with it a tumultuous and politically divisive chapter in U.S.-Israel relations. That has left Biden — along with lawmakers, activists and a spectrum of interest groups — scrambling to figure out what to make of Israel’s sudden change in leadership and what it means for the United States.

“Bibi Netanyahu made a decision to try to create and exploit partisan division about Israel in the United States,” said Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), using the prime minister’s nickname. “That was a horrible mistake, because support for Israel needs to be bipartisan.” He added, “I think his leaving is just a huge relief.”

Publicly, the White House insists little will change. “We have a long and abiding relationship — strategic relationship — with Israel, and that will continue to be the case no matter who is leading the country,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday.

That obscures Netanyahu’s role in starkly rewriting the terms of the U.S. relationship with Israel, and the challenge that leaves now. Biden signaled early on he would not throw himself into the Middle East peace process as his predecessors did, but the recent violence in Israel and its change in leadership could shift his calculus.

Netanyahu, who spent some of his youth in the United States and prided himself on a sophisticated understanding of Washington, curried support among evangelical Christians, distanced himself from liberal Jewish constituencies and used his close ties to Trump as a political calling card.

Now he is likely to be replaced within days by Naftali Bennett, also a hard-right figure but one who is displaying a flair for pragmatism. Bennett will oversee a narrow and potentially fragile coalition that includes an Arab party, and he has signaled he wants to take a more unifying approach than Netanyahu.

Republicans are responding cautiously to Netanyahu’s likely exit. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) appeared publicly with Netanyahu in Israel last week, and both grinned for the cameras. “No one has done more for Israel than you,” Netanyahu said.

Graham later publicly thanked Netanyahu, whom he called a “great friend.” But he predicted bipartisan support for Israel regardless of who is in charge.

“From our perspective, it’s not about an individual, it’s about the relationship,” Graham told reporters Tuesday in Jerusalem. He predicted that a request for $1 billion to help Israel restock its Iron Dome missile-defense system would “sail through” Congress with White House support.

“I really think Netanyahu became an impediment” to bipartisan support for Israel, said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.). “The United States and Israel have a strong relationship, but it’s run into previously unheard-of problems in the last five years.”

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