image Photo: GPO Kobi Gideon

Israel’s 35th government sworn into office

A new era is set to begin in Israel following the official formation of the country’s 35th government.

The development will hopefully end more than 500 days of political limbo – which included three taxing elections and a magnified projection of deep-rooted divisions within Israel’s diverse society.

Soon after the ceremonious taking of their oaths of office, Members of the 23rd Knesset (MKs) held an obligatory vote to approve the new government. During an address to the plenum, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prayed for the success and continued unity of his newly-formed coalition, which faces “important tasks ahead” as well innumerable challenges. “In our ancient past, we stood at junctures in which brothers rose against each other. We paid a price – who ever knows the history of Israel is privy to this truth – we paid for it a terrible price,” said the newly-reinstated Premier, adding “I want to believe that we have learned the necessary lessons.”

Netanyahu spoke of a long list of topics during his 27-minute speech, including Israel’s possible annexation of the West Bank, which includes the Jordan Valley and the Biblical districts of Judea and Samaria. “The whole issue of sovereignty is on the agenda only because I personally advanced it,” he declared, “During three whole years, overt and covert. Among others, I discuss it with (U.S.) Secretary of State (Mike) Pompeo, last week.”

Netanyahu also revealed his discussion with the top U.S. diplomate included the “relentless” campaign to thwart malign activities by Iran, which he insisted continues to advance its goal to attain nuclear weapons. “We will speak about this at the (Security) cabinet,” said the Israeli leader, in addition to the Islamic Republic’s attempts to entrench itself militarily in Syria.

In accordance with procedure, the head of the opposition also addressed the new Israeli lawmakers. Yesh Atid party leader and former Blue and White co-chairperson Yair Lapid condemned the newly-established Israeli government, which he insisted ‘is rooted in cheap opportunism and dishonesty, rather than unity, which it will never attain.’

“Real unity is a nurse from (the Israeli-Arab town) Baqa Al-Garbiya who hands forceps to a medical intern from (the Israeli-Jewish town)  Rishon L’Zion who served in Givati (IDF Brigade), who then passes them to a surgeon who immigrated from Russia, who saves the life of a Holocaust survivor who fought in the Six Day War. This is unity in reality. A unit of people which has a united task, who love and believe in one another. These amazing Israelis are everything that this (new) government will never be,” said Lapid.

The first official meeting held by the newly-established national unity government took place later outside the main hall of the Knesset, where Lapid’s former partner, newly-appointed Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz highlighted the severity of the political situation that motivated his decision to join the government of his former rival, Prime Minister Netanyahu.

“In a normal world, when I would talk with you about priorities, I would start with education, move to the national infrastructure of the state, continue with justice authorities and domestic security that permits everyone to live here in dignity; turn to a fair welfare policy including welfare and health services, and then conclude with defense – which is a kind of common denominator for all of our needs,” said the former IDF Chief of Staff, adding, “However, we are living in an abnormal time period.”

“Amid the need to keep a defensive eye in each one of the sectors, we are faced with a health crisis,” said Gantz, who went on to say that Israel will have “more and more to deal with” regarding the economic and social consequences wielded by the coronavirus.