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The latest on Israel’s incoming government (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Naftali Bennett, Israel’s first Orthodox Jewish prime minister, has opened the first meeting of his government with a traditional blessing for new beginnings, saying that now’s the time to get to work to mending rifts in the nation.

Bennett addressed the newly sworn in Cabinet Sunday night, saying the country is “at the outset of new days.”

“Citizens of Israel are all looking to us now, and the burden of proof is upon us,” he said. “We must all, for this amazing process to succeed, we must all know to maintain restraint on ideological matters.”

Alternate prime minister Yair Lapid, who will serve as foreign minister for the first two years of the government’s term, said in brief remarks that “friendship and trust” built their government, and that’s what will keep it going.


10:30 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Palestinian Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office has little to say about Israel’s new government headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, calling it an “internal Israeli affair.”

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said Sunday that the Palestinian position remains “adherence to international legitimacy and the two-state solution by establishing an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

The new Israeli government includes a wide spectrum of parties ranging from hard-line nationalists to more dovish supporters of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Members of the new government have said they will avoid dealing with the divisive issue for the time being.


9:50 p.m.

JERUSALEM — U.S. President Joe Biden has congratulated Israel’s incoming Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, and Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, saying he looks forward to working “to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship” between the two nations. In a statement released by the White House, Biden said that “Israel has no better friend than the United States,” and that “the United States remains unwavering in its support for Israel’s security.”


8:31 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s parliament has appointed a new speaker, taking a key step toward approving a new coalition government that would end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year rule.

With 67 votes in the 120-member chamber, parliament named Mickey Levy of the centrist Yesh Atid party its new speaker. He is to succeed the current speaker, Yariv Levin, of Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The move set the stage for a confidence vote to approve a new coalition government later Sunday.


7:49 p.m.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Gaza’s Hamas rulers say they will confront the new Israeli government that is expected to take office.

Fawzi Barhoum, spokesman for the Islamic militant group, said Sunday any Israeli government is “a settler occupier entity that must be resisted by all forms of resistance, foremost of which is the armed resistance.”

Hamas and Israel fought an 11-day war last month. The bitter enemies have fought a total of four wars since Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza in 2007 from the rival Palestinian Authority.

Despite their enmity, the sides have been conducting indirect talks aimed at shoring up a cease-fire. Barhoum said “the behavior of this government on the ground will determine the way and nature of dealing with it on the ground.”


7:16 p.m.

JERUSALEM — The head of an Islamist party in Israel’s parliament says his faction will advance the interests of Palestinian citizens of Israel from within the new government.

Mansour Abbas said Sunday that his Raam party was making great sacrifices for the sake of his constituents, and will try “to advance a dialog that will bring about better, new, principled relations for all citizens of the state: Jews and Arabs.”

Raam is the first Arab party to join an Israeli government, and Abbas said that the partnership in the new government “will also bridge the gaps on the national level and the religious level.”

Abbas said that combatting crime and violence that has plagued Arab communities in Israel is a “top priority” for Israel’s Palestinian minority.

Abbas spoke ahead of a parliamentary vote that was expected to approve the new coalition government. Arabs make up about 20% of Israel’s citizens and largely identify with Palestinians in the neighboring West Bank and Gaza Strip.


5:25 p.m.

JERUSALEM — The Israeli politician who was the driving force in forming the country’s new government has called off a planned speech to parliament, saying he was ashamed that his 86-year-old mother had to witness the raucous behavior of his opponents.

In a brief speech, Yair Lapid said he wanted to “ask for forgiveness from my mother.”

“I wanted her to be proud of the democratic process in Israel. Instead she, along with every citizen of Israel, is ashamed of you and remembers clearly why it’s time to replace you,” he said.

Lapid led the efforts to form the new coalition, which is expected to be approved later Sunday. He is expected to be Israel’s new foreign minister for two years, and then become prime minister in a rotation agreement for the final two years of the government’s term.


5:20 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to lead his Likud Party back to power.

Netanyahu is slated to become opposition leader later Sunday when parliament is expected to approve a vote of confidence in a new coalition formed by his opponents.

In a speech to parliament, Netanyahu made clear he has no plans on giving up leadership of the Likud Party.

He vowed to “continue the great mission of my life, ensuring the security of Israel.” He added: “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.”


4:45 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s designated prime minister, Naftali Bennett, says that renewing the international nuclear deal with Iran will be a mistake.

In a speech to parliament, Bennett said that Israel remains ready to act against Iran. “Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” Bennett said. He added that “Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action.”

The strong comments maintain the confrontational policy by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bennett’s new government is scheduled to be sworn into office late Sunday after a parliamentary vote.


4:05 p.m.

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, has convened for a vote that is expected to end the historic 12-year rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The parliament is to hold a debate ahead of a vote of confidence for a new coalition government formed by a collection of Netanyahu’s opponents.

If the coalition is approved, Naftali Bennett, a former ally turned rival of Netanyahu, would become prime minister over a disparate coalition of parties from the political right, left and center. Netanyahu is slated to become the opposition leader.

Bennett, whose parents immigrated to Israel from the United States, is expected to stress the need for close relations with the U.S.

But Bennett, who shares Netanyahu’s hardline ideology, is also expected to echo the outgoing prime minister’s opposition to restoring the international nuclear deal with Iran.