Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn in as the leader of Israel’s most right-wing government ever



CNN

Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday completed a dramatic comeback as Israel’s prime minister, after being sworn in as leader of what is likely to be the country’s most right-wing government in history.

Netanyahu and his government were sworn in Thursday for his sixth term as prime minister, 18 months after he was removed from power.

He is back with support from many far-right figures who were once on the fringes of Israeli politics, after forming a coalition shortly before last week’s deadline.

Members of Netanyahu’s Likud party will hold some of the most important cabinet posts, including foreign minister, defense minister and justice minister.

But a number of politicians from the far right of the Israeli political spectrum have been appointed to ministerial positions, despite controversy over their positions during the run-up to the November elections, which were won by an ultra-nationalist bloc led by Netanyahu. Extremist religious parties.

Itamar Ben Gvir, an extremist who was Convicted of supporting terrorism and inciting racism against Arabs, he will assume a newly expanded public security role, renamed Minister of National Security, overseeing the police in Israel as well as some police activities in the occupied West Bank.

Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionist Party, was appointed Minister of Finance and was also given the authority to appoint the head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), an Israeli military unit that handles among its duties the management of border crossings and permits for Palestinians.

During his election campaign, Smotrich proposed a series of radical legal reforms, which many critics saw as an obvious way to undermine the independence of the judiciary. This includes dropping the ability to charge a public servant with fraud and breach of trust — a charge Netanyahu faces in his ongoing corruption trial.

Netanyahu pleaded not guilty, calling the trial a “witch-hunt” and an “attempted coup”, and called for changes to Israel’s justice system.

Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic Shas party, will be interior minister and health minister.

The Jerusalem police spokesman said that as the new ministers prepared to be sworn in at the Knesset, the country’s parliament, some 2,000 demonstrators gathered outside to protest Netanyahu’s return to office.

The rightward shift in the Israeli government has raised eyebrows abroad and at home. On Wednesday, more than 100 retired Israeli ambassadors and State Department officials expressed their concerns about Israel’s incoming government in a signed letter to Netanyahu.

Former diplomats, including former ambassadors to France, India and Turkey, expressed their “deep concern about the serious damage to Israel’s foreign relations, its international standing and its core interests abroad apparently caused by the policy of the next government.”

The letter cited “statements made by potential senior government and Knesset officials,” reports of policy changes in the West Bank, and “some potentially extreme and discriminatory laws” as points of concern.

The US ambassador to Israel, Tom Neides, congratulated Netanyahu on Thursday, writing on Twitter: “Here is a solid relationship between the US and Israel and unbreakable ties.” Needs is married to Virginia Moseley, Executive Vice President of Editorial Department of CNN USA.

A spokesman for the National Security Council noted that Netanyahu “has repeatedly said he will set the policy of his government” as he enters a coalition with far-right parties.

“As we have made clear, we do not support policies that jeopardize the viability of the two-state solution or run counter to our shared interests and values,” the spokesperson said.

Biden administration officials have largely avoided addressing the far-right components of the new Israeli government. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last week that the United States “will communicate with our partners in Israel and judge them on the basis of the policies they pursue, not the personalities who happen to form a government.”

Netanyahu’s narrow victory in November in Israel’s fifth election in less than four years came amid a period of protracted political chaos during which he remained a dominant figure.

In his speech to the Knesset on Thursday, Netanyahu said that among the three main tasks assigned to his government, the first would be to “thwart Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.” The second priority will be the development of the country’s infrastructure, including the launch of a high-speed train, and a third will be the signing of more peace agreements with Arab countries “in order to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Netanyahu was already Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, holding the position from 2009 to 2021 and before that for one term in the late 1990s.

Israel also got its first openly gay parliamentary speaker on Thursday. Amir Ohana, the former Minister of Justice and Public Security, is a Knesset member representing Netanyahu’s Likud party.

Some ultra-Orthodox lawmakers who refused to be sworn into the Knesset seven years ago were among those who voted for him on Thursday.

Before the parliamentary vote on the new government, outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid tweeted: “We are passing you a country in perfect condition. Try not to destroy it, we will be right back. The delivery files are ready.”

With an additional report by Karim El Damanhoury

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