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Benjamin Netanyahu – the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history – appeared on the verge of losing his 12-year grip on power Thursday.
About 30 minutes before a midnight deadline, opposition leader Yair Lapid, a centrist, officially informed the country's president that he has reached agreements with political allies to form a new government, according to a party statement.
President Reuven Rivlin, who was attending Israel's soccer cup final at the time, congratulated Lapid by phone, according to his office.
Lapid's main political partner, nationalist Naftali Bennett, would serve as prime minister first under a proposed rotation between the two men. Their coalition government would comprise a patchwork of small and medium parties from across the political spectrum, including for the first time in Israel's history a party that represents Israel's 21% Arab minority.
But the fragile new government, which would command a razor-thin majority in parliament, was not expected to be sworn in for another 10 days, leaving slight room for Netanyahu's camp to try to abort it by turning lawmakers over to their side to vote against it. Israeli political analysts widely expected Netanyahu to try every possible political maneuver to make this happen.
Last month, Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas engaged for 11 days in some of the worst fighting the region has seen in years, with both sides chastised by Western nations for the number of civilian casualties, including the deaths of at least 68 Palestinian children.
Netanyahu – who was also prime minister from 1996 to 1999 – has been an often polarizing figure at home and abroad. An end to his tenure may bring reprieve from domestic political turmoil, but major shifts in Israel's foreign policy appear less likely from the staunch U.S. ally.