Israel’s parliament has sworn in Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, the country’s most far-right, religiously conservative government in history.
Netanyahu, 73, took office on Thursday, minutes after Israel’s parliament, or Knesset, passed a vote of confidence in his new government. Of the 120 members of parliament, 63 voted in favor of the new government and 54 against.
His inauguration marked a personal return to power and the arrival of a government that has sparked fear among Palestinians and left-wing Israelis.
Al Jazeera’s Sarah Ghairat, reporting from West Jerusalem, said it had been almost two months in the making and was “a victory for Benjamin Netanyahu, who has partnered with a coalition that includes a mix of the ultra-Orthodox and the right”. -Wing Block”.
The coalition, Khairat said, includes some of the “most right-wing politicians we’ve ever seen”. “They were on the fringes of politics, and now they’re on the main stage.”
“Although the local residents we spoke to said yes, the process was democratic, they are very deeply concerned about the laws that were passed,” he said from outside parliament, where left-wing Israelis had gathered to protest. .
A far-right government
Netanyahu, who was prime minister between 1996 and 1999 and then between 2009 and 2021, addressed a session of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, ahead of the referendum.
Netanyahu, along with his coalition parties, has a majority in the Knesset. He shouted during his speech in the Knesset as opponents chanted that he was “weak”.
He said his top priority would be ending the “Arab-Israeli conflict,” halting Iran’s nuclear program and building up Israel’s military capabilities.
Netanyahu’s victory in the Nov. 1 parliamentary election was expected to end years of political unrest in Israel, which has seen governments fall repeatedly and elections held five times in four years.
Much of that, he denies, is the result of intense political opposition to Netanyahu, who is under investigation for corruption.
However, it took weeks of hustling and introducing new legislation to keep his far-right and ultranationalist coalition partners and his own Likud party happy.
The result is a coalition that has openly stated that settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, illegal under international law, is its top priority.
It mirrors the positions of high-ranking far-right leaders such as Religious Zionist leader Bezalel Smodrich and Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who previously supported Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish Israeli man who killed 29 Palestinians. 1994 shooting at Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque.
Israel is heading in a “very dangerous direction”, left-wing Knesset member Ofer Cassif told Al Jazeera from a demonstration outside parliament, adding that the arrival of a new government would mark Israel as a “completely fascist state”.
“The international community needs to realize that and act,” Ghassif added.
The formation of a new government will further strain relations with the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
According to the United Nations, Palestinians are already facing their deadliest year since 2006, when Israel’s outgoing government launched an offensive in Gaza in August, as well as daily attacks in the West Bank that have led to dozens of killings and arrests.
Liberal Israelis have been vocal about the new government, particularly its positions on LGBTQ rights and the primaries occupied by ultra-conservative religious figures.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who plays a largely ceremonial role, has warned of the harm the new Israeli government could bring and got on the hot mic, saying “the whole world” is worried about people like Ben. Jivir enters the government.
He tried to reassure
Netanyahu tried to push back against some of those fears.
“We will establish a stable government for a full term that will take care of all the citizens of Israel,” he said Wednesday, after his supporters in the Knesset introduced legislation paving the way for his government to take office.
A bill to allow a minister serving a suspended sentence to take office was specifically designed to allow Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Shaz party, to become a minister.
However, much of the attention and fear of Israeli and Palestinian opponents of the new government is on Smodrich and Ben-Gvir.
They are part of the broader religious Zionism ideological movement in Israel. Separate men’s parties contested joint lists in the November elections. In order to cross the electoral threshold before they split again.
Both Smodrich and Ben-Gvir, who live in illegal settlements in the West Bank, will hold top posts in the new government – Smodrich will be finance minister and have authority over settlements. After he called for the expulsion of Palestinians in Israel for “anti-Arab incitement”, he will become national security minister with greater powers over the police, including in the occupied territories.
Palestinians now fear what they consider to be even harsher policies against them and the status of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.
Speaking on Wednesday, Jordan’s King Abdullah warned Israel not to cross any “red lines” in Jerusalem.
“If people want to engage in conflict with us, we’re more than willing,” he said in an interview with CNN.
Mahmoud Abbas, of the Palestinian Authority (PA), said on Saturday that the new Israeli government’s motto was “extremism and apartheid”.
However, Israel’s outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz told Abbas in a phone call on Wednesday that “maintaining an open line of communication and coordination” between the PA and the Israeli government is critical.