Outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett handed over Israeli premiership to Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Thursday after lawmakers voted to dissolve parliament (Knesset).
The Knesset dissolution followed the collapse of Bennett’s ruling coalition and opened the way for a Nov. 1 election that will be Israel’s fifth in less than four years.
Accompanied by their wives, Bennett and Lapid held a reduced handover ceremony at the prime minister office in Jerusalem.
Bennett stood down at midnight to be replaced by his coalition partner, Lapid, who will lead the government during what is expected to be a fierce election battle with opposition leader and ex-premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
Bennett, a former army commando and tech millionaire, will not run in the election. In a statement late on Wednesday, he said his government had left a “thriving, strong and secure country” and had shown that parties from different ends of the political spectrum could work together.
Netanyahu, ousted just over a year ago by Bennett’s unlikely coalition of parties from both the right and left as well as from Israel’s Arab minority, has vowed a return to power at the head of the right-wing Likud party.
While opinion polls currently show Likud to be the strongest political party, they show no clear winner from the election, leaving Israel facing months of political uncertainty.