Israel’s Bennett will not run in next general election: Spokesperson

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Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will not stand at the upcoming general election, his spokesperson said Wednesday evening, just hours ahead of the expected dissolution of parliament.

Bennett announced to lawmakers from his Yamina party “his intention not to stand at the next elections,” his spokesman told the media, as MPs prepared to vote to dissolve Israel’s current legislature, paving the way for national elections later this year.

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Barring an 11th-hour shock agreement to save the coalition, Bennett’s eight-party alliance is due to end by midnight, installing Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as caretaker prime minister, in the absence of a new government being cobbled together from the existing parliament.

The move to end Bennett’s year-long tenure would trigger a fifth election in less than four years and could see ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu reclaim power.

Bennett, a religious nationalist, has led a coalition of right-wingers, centrists, doves and Islamists from the Raam faction, which made history by becoming the first Arab party to support an Israeli government in the Jewish state’s 74-year history.

The motley alliance formed in 2021 offered a reprieve from an unprecedented era of political gridlock, ending Netanyahu’s record 12 consecutive years in power and passing Israel’s first state budget since 2018.

Bennett’s office said he would still stay on as alternate prime minister in the coming months, as per an earlier power-sharing agreement with Lapid.

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