Israel’s new prime minister Naftali Bennett promised to unite the country as he started his first full day in office, but was immediately faced with his first challenge as Hamas called for a “day of rage” later this week.
Mr Bennett heads a fragile coalition government, made up of eight parties, representing many aspects of the Israeli political spectrum. The coalition was narrowly approved by the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, on Sunday.
He said he would govern for all and “work for the sake of all people” in Israel in a country still reeling from last month’s 11-day war with the Gaza Strip militant group.
Hamas said on Monday it would confront the controversial Jerusalem flag march on Tuesday and have told Palestinians to mobilise at the al-Aqsa mosque and the Old City.
Mr Bennett was due to meet outgoing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest ever serving prime minister, for a transition meeting on Monday.
However, it was reported that Mr Netanyahu would not attend a handover ceremony with Bennett because he feels “cheated” by the formation of the new government and “doesn’t want to give even the slightest legitimacy to this matter”.
Mr Netanyahu, the divisive former leader, who was in office for 12 years, will now serve as the opposition leader.
Under a coalition agreement, Bennett will hold office of the premier for the first two years of the term, and then foreign minister Yair Lapid, the architect of the coalition, will become prime minister.
World leaders have congratulated Bennett on becoming just the 13th person to hold the office of Israeli prime minister.
US President Joe Biden said “Israel has no better friend than the United States” in a message relayed from the White House.
British prime minister Boris Johnson congratulated Mr Bennett and Mr Lapid on forming a government, tweeting that “this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all”.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, who shared close ties with Netanyahu, congratulated Bennett in a tweet in Hebrew, saying he “looks forward to meeting you and deepening the strategic relations between our countries”.