Jerusalem, May 18 : Israels 35th government was sworn in at the Knesset (Parliament), bringing an end to a 508-day political impasse.
On Sunday night, the Knesset voted 73-46 in favour of the new coalition government agreed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival, Benny Gantz, reports The Times of Israel.
Netanyahu was sworn in as Prime Minister and will head the government for the fifth term of his political career.
Gantz, also the Chairman of the Blue and White Party, was sworn in as “alternate Prime Minister and future Prime Minister” as well as Defence Minister.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader who was first elected as Prime Minister in 1996 and has served three consecutive terms since 2009, promised to hand over the premiership to Gantz on November 17, 2021.
“We established the precise terms under which our agreement will be fulfilled and will not be fulfilled,” Netanyahu said later in a Channel 12 interview, amid widespread scepticism that he will honour the deal.
“I will fulfil exactly, but exactly, what is written in the agreement. It is my intention and my goal to do so. And there is no reason for me to say anything to you but, yes, that’s what we will do.”
In addition to Netanyahu and Gantz, 32 ministers were sworn in, including the first female ultra-Orthodox Minister, Omer Yankelevich (Diaspora affairs), and the first Ethiopia-born Minister, Pnina Tamano-Shata (immigration and absorption), in Israel’s history, said The Times of Israel report.
Totaling 73 lawmakers, the coalition will include 35 MKs from the Likud party, 16 from the Blue and White party, nine from the Shas party, seven from the United Torah Judaism party, two from the Labor party, two from the Derech Eretz party, one from the Jewish Home party and one from the Gesher party.
Speaking at the cabinet’s first meeting, which took place immediately after the swearing-in ceremony, Netanyahu told the new Ministers that the COVID-19 pandemic topped the government’s agenda.
The second mission would be to pass a state budget and revive the economy, while the third item would be to combat Iran, he said.
The fourth was fighting the war crimes probe in the International Criminal Court and the fifth was the diplomatic issue of West Bank annexation.
Gantz spoke after Netanyahu, saying Israel was ending the “worst political crisis in its history” and calling for an end to “the era of incitement” and the start of an “era of reconciliation”.
He said he would do everything so that all Israeli citizens — Jewish or Arab, heterosexual or LGBT — would “feel at home”.
Meanwhile, the new government’s swearing-in comes just a week before Netanyahu’s criminal trial over his suspected corruption.
His trial on charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud will start on May 27, but he denies any wrong-doing, slamming the allegations as part of “a witch hunt”.