Israel’s 37th government was sworn in on Thursday, Dec. 29, the culmination of a weeks-long political process following the victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-religious bloc in the Nov. 1 national elections. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-ever serving leader, takes the reins for his sixth term in the prime minister’s ofice, to which he returns following a year-and-a-half hiatus.
His Likud Party will lead a 64-member coalition in the 120-seat Knesset, that comprises the Religious Zionism Party (RZP), Otzma Yehudit, Noam, Shas and United Torah Judaism.
High-ranking appointments include Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (Likud), Foreign Minister Eli Cohen (Likud), Justice Minister Yariv Levin (Likud), Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich (RZP), Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit) and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas).
Three Main goals
In a speech to the Knesset on Thursday, Netanyahu said his new government would focus on three main goals.
First, he said, it would prevent Iran from “developing an arsenal of atomic weapons that will threaten us and the whole world.” Second, it would develop Israel’s infrastructure and deliver “a flourishing economy to every part of Israel.” Third, it would expand “the circle of peace with Arab states with the goal of ending the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
Occasionally interrupted by catcalls from the opposition benches, Netanyahu said, “I hear the opposition’s eulogies about the end of state, the end of democracy—members of the opposition, to lose an election isn’t the end of democracy, it’s the essence of democracy… And I ask that you cease to rebel against the elected government.”
Ahead of the transfer of power, former Prime Minister Yair Lapid delivered a parting shot at the incoming coalition, calling it a “government of destruction” and vowing to return to power. “This is not the end, this is the beginning of the fight for our beloved country,” Lapid said in a Facebook post. “We are fighting for the future of our children and we will not stop until we topple the government of destruction and return [to power],” he added.
Netanyahu’s government on Wednesday published a list of policy guidelines that includes a vow to promote settlement throughout the country.
“The Jewish people has an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel—in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan Heights and Judea and Samaria,” the document states.
It also reinforces a commitment to strengthening the status of Jerusalem, which by law is Israel’s unified capital.
The guidelines outline the incoming government’s desire to “preserve the Jewish character of the state and the heritage of Israel,” while “respecting the practices and traditions of members of all religions in the country in accordance with the values of the Declaration of Independence.”
The government also intends to maintain the status quo on issues of religion and state that has been in effect for decades, including with regard to the holy places.