Coalition lawmakers bid farewell to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday, shortly after he announced that not only was he not running in the next elections, but was taking a break from politics altogether.

Bennett’s No. 2 in the Yamina Party, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, said his departure was “a great loss for the country.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who established the coalition together with Bennett and is now set to become interim prime minister, posted on Twitter, “My brother Naftali, thank you in my name and the name of all the people of Israel.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz praised Bennett for ensuring the security of Israel.

“Naftali, thank you for everything you’ve done for the citizens of Israel, for the difficult decisions you’ve made for the people of Israel, and for the cooperation for the security of Israel,” Gantz tweeted. “We will continue to work together and do what is best for the country in the near future as well.”

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar tweeted, “Naftali Bennett is an Israeli patriot. He was a good prime minister who filled the position with statesmanship. We worked in full cooperation on behalf of Israel and its citizens. I am convinced that he will return to serve the country in the future. Naftali, thank you and good luck!”

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz lauded Bennett for his love of the people of Israel.

“For the past year, I have worked very closely with Prime Minister Bennett. Through two coronavirus waves, every day, several times a day. There were disagreements and political matters, but I discovered a hard-working and matter-of-fact person who truly cares about the public,” Horowitz tweeted. “His positions are not my positions and that is clear, but I have great appreciation for him. Israel has earned a year of good government, much to its credit. Great job.”

President Isaac Herzog, who met Bennett at the President’s Residence on Wednesday, thanked him for “their close cooperation for the sake of Israel’s security,” and added that the two always worked “in a positive atmosphere of friendship and mutual respect.”

While the coalition lamented Bennett’s departure, opposition lawmakers rejoiced.

The head of the far-right Religious Zionist Party, Bezalel Smotrich, said it was the public who had decided Bennett’s fate.

“The decision to leave was not his, but that of the public who got fed up with him and removed him,” he tweeted.

“Good riddance,” tweeted Likud Knesset Member Miri Regev.

Similarly, United Torah Judaism chief Moshe Gafni said, “Turns out that God runs the world. One cannot lie and deceive the whole country … Over the past year there were accusations against us [that we had made] harsh remarks against him and against this evil government; it turns out we were right with every word. Everyone left him, he was alone and now he too is walking with shame.”

“There are no shortcuts,” tweeted rogue Yamina Knesset Member Amichai Chikli.

Meanwhile, Bennett’s political party faces an uncertain future.

Shaked will take over the helm, and has already expressed optimism by tweeting a screenshot of a Channel 12 poll that showed  Yamina is projected to win five seats in the next election, one more than the electoral threshold required to get into the Knesset.

Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana is expected to leave Yamina and join either Yesh Atid, New Hope or Blue and White.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.


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