By Erin Viner
Outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held a modest handover ceremony at the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) in Jerusalem in the presence of their families and senior officials from their respective bureaus. yesterday
“May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Good luck my brother,” Bennett wished his successor, emphasizing, “This very special position, and this country, do not belong to any one person. They belong to the entire people of Israel. I hand over to you the responsibility for the State of Israel. I wish that you guard it well and may God watch over you.”
Lapid commented that, “In a somewhat wonderful manner, my mother gave me the same blessing 25 minutes ago.”
The two leaders then held “an orderly and in-depth transition meeting” during which the new premier was provided with an outline of “the main security and diplomatic issues of the State of Israel” by his predecessor, said the PMO.
Earlier, Bennett said that following “transfer of the baton to my friend, Yair Lapid,” he would “continue to assist and help him in the framework of my role as an Alternate Premier, as much as it is deemed necessary. His success is the success of the state. The transition of power will be professional and orderly. The best of the state and only its best is what guides me. This is what always was and so it will remain.”
Bennett also announced his decision not to compete in the upcoming election,” but vowing to “remain a loyal soldier of this country, which I served my entire life as a fighter, as an officer, as a minister and as your Prime Minister.” He added that, “The State of Israel is the love of my life, next to my family. To serve the state is my destiny.”
At a time when Israeli society remains deeply divided, with polls projecting the continued stalemate between the opposing blocs, the outgoing Israeli Premier urged the country to work for unity amid ongoing challenges which threaten the security of the Jewish State.
“I wish at this time to remind ourselves that only together we will emerge victorious. If we are divided, my friends, we will simply cease to exist. And if we are united, no one can challenge us. So, let us be good to one another, let’s listen, let’s learn to get to know and respect instead of hate,” he said, emphasizing that, “The Bible tells us “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micha 6 : 8)”
The exchange of power follows the Knesset’s approval of its own dissolution with 92 of the 120 members voting in favor, compelling Israelis to return to the ballot boxes on 1 November for the fifth time in just four years.
Bennett and Lapid moved last week to dissolve parliament after infighting rendered their ruling government no longer tenable. The two political partners and their diverse eight-party coalition of far-right, liberal, centrist and Israeli-Arab parties led the nation for just over a year, ending the record 12-year reign by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As current Opposition Leader, Netanyahu was quick to criticize the outgoing 35th government, saying, “They promised change, spoke about healing, conducted an experiment and this experiment failed.” He went on to pledge that he and his allies would soon return to power, restore national pride and “get Israel back on track to success.”
Surveys show Netanyahu’s rightwing Likud is leading the polls but still short of a governing majority despite support of religious and nationalist parties. Members of the bloc said they already began efforts to form the next government even before the 24th Knesset was dissolved, an unlikely move that would nullify the upcoming election
Lapid has served the last decade in public service at the head and founder of the Yesh Atid (“There is a Future”) party, following a career in journalism. The 58-year-old is married with three children, one of whom is autistic – a condition he has spoken of publicly in campaigning for improved rights for impaired Israelis. Shortly after the Knesset dissolution vote, his first stop was at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum to visit the gravesite of his father, former Israeli Justice Minister and Holocaust survivor Yosef “Tommy” Lapid – where he promised to “always keep Israel strong and capable of defending itself and protecting its children.”
Following is a list of Incoming Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Senior Staff:
Chief of Staff – Dani Vesely
Senior Special Advisor – Gili Haushner
Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office – Naama Schultz
Diplomatic Adviser – Yair Zivan
Director of Communications – Yael Bar
Spokesperson – Roei Konkol
Senior Adviser – Tami Nassee
Director of Government-Knesset Relations – Dana Pitelis Kaduri
Head of the Digital Department – Noy Alroy Schnitzer
Head of Bureau – Heli Sinai
Cabinet Secretary – Shalom Shlomo
Military Secretary – Major General Avi Gil
National Security Advisor and Head of the National Security Council – Dr. Eyal Hulata
International Spokeswoman – Keren Hajioff