Yair Lapid officially becomes Prime Minister of Israel

Before the ceremony of Lapid's transition to prime minister, the Yesh Atid leader paid a visit to Yad Vashem.

Bennett, Lapid and their families participated in a small ceremony for Lapid's transition to prime minister. (photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)
Bennett, Lapid and their families participated in a small ceremony for Lapid's transition to prime minister.
(photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

Yair Lapid officially became Israel’s prime minister on Thursday, after the Knesset dispersed itself and scheduled a November 1 election.

"Congratulations to Yair Lapid, Israel’s new Prime Minister, and thank you to Alternate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett for your friendship over the past year," US President Joe Biden congratulated Lapid.

Lapid will lead the interim government until a new coalition is formed.

In accordance with the coalition agreement, Naftali Bennett stepped down from the premiership, becoming alternate prime minister, a title Lapid held for the past year. Lapid will remain foreign minister, as well.

Lapid’s first stop after becoming prime minister was the Hall of Remembrance at Yad Vashem, which he said he visited “to promise my father that I will always keep Israel strong and capable of defending itself and protecting its children.”

His father, former justice minister Tommy Lapid, was a Holocaust survivor.

Lapid then went to the Prime Minister’s Office for a handover ceremony and transition meeting with Bennett. Lapid’s wife, Lihi, and Bennett’s wife, Gilat, and their children attended, as did Prime Minister’s Office staff, but the ceremony was otherwise closed to press or guests.

Bennett gives way to Lapid

“I have worked under prime ministers,” Lapid said to Bennett. “I am familiar with prime ministers. You are a good man and an excellent prime minister. You are also a good friend. This is not a farewell ceremony because there is no intention to take leave of you.”

 Bennett and his family June 30, 2022. (credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO) Bennett and his family June 30, 2022. (credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO)

Bennett told Lapid that Israel and the premiership “do not belong to any one person; they belong to the entire people of Israel. I hand over to you the responsibility for the State of Israel. I wish that you guard it well, and may God watch over you.”

“I hand over to you the responsibility for the State of Israel. I wish that you guard it well and may G-d watch over you.”

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett

Bennett wished Lapid luck, and spoke the blessing that parents traditionally say to children on Shabbat: “May God make you like Efraim and Menashe. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you. May He lift up His face to you, and grant you peace.”

Lapid said his mother, author Shulamit Lapid, had blessed him in the same way earlier that day.

Visiting the echelon

The new prime minister’s next stop was the residence of President Isaac Herzog.

Herzog said that having five elections in a short time is “very unhealthy for the state. We must remember before all, first and foremost, that there’s a country to run, a country to lead, a country whose citizens have needs that must be taken care of.”

The president wished Lapid luck, despite their political clashes. Lapid said he’s glad Herzog mentioned those clashes because they were political but never personal.

Lapid said to Herzog that Israeli society will face a great test “to keep our disputes for... the good of the state of Israel. That was your way your whole life.”

Lapid’s first trip as prime minister, originally planned for Bennett, is set for Tuesday, when he will fly to Paris to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron.

The new prime minister is expected to move into an apartment in the same compound as the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem, while the larger home is under heavy renovation.

He will stay in an apartment within a house inside the security perimeter that is known as Villa Salameh, which is where security guards for prime ministers slept in recent decades.

The house used to be the Guatemalan embassy in the 1980s.

Reuters contributed to this report