Jerusalem: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday announced that a new government led by him will be sworn-in with a pledge of Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank to write another glorified chapter in the history of Zionism”. Also Read - 6 Feet Apart: Thousands of Israelis Maintain Social Distancing While Protesting Against Benjamin Netanyahu
On Wednesday, Netanyahu, 70, announced that he has succeeded in forming a unity government in letters sent to President Reuven Rivlin, and Blue and White party Chairman Benny Gantz, who was temporarily serving as the speaker of Knesset (Israeli Parliament). Also Read - Israel President Reuven Rivlin Urged to Give Benjamin Netanyahu Chance to Form Govt
“It’s time to apply the Israeli law and write another glorified chapter in the history of Zionism,” Netanyahu, who last year in July became Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister surpassing David Ben-Gurion, said ahead of the swearing-in. Also Read - Coronavirus: Benjamin Netanyahu Tests Negative, Will Continue to Stay in Isolation
The government was to be sworn-in on Thursday but internal squabbles in the ruling Likud party over ministerial claims postponed it.
The new government, which according to the coalition agreement, will see Gantz replace Netanyahu as Prime Minister after 18 months on November 17, 2021, as the per power-sharing deal.
Netanyahu would then acquire the title of “Alternate Prime Minister”, something that Gantz would now enjoy while also being the Defence Minister.
“The time has come for anyone who believes in the justness of our rights in the Land of Israel to join a government led by me to bring about a historic process together,” Netanyahu said on the Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank.
The issue is “on the agenda” only because I acted on it personally,” he stressed, saying he pushed for it for three years, publicly and covertly.
Dismissing claims that it will harm the efforts to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians, the hawkish Israeli leader emphasised that on the contrary it will promote the chances.
These regions are the cradle of the Jewish people. It is time to extend Israel’s law over them. This step won’t bring us further away from peace, it will get us closer. The truth is, and everyone knows it, that the hundreds of thousands of settlers in Judea and Samaria will always stay put in any future deal, Netanyahu said.
The vast majority of the international community considers Israeli settlements in the region to be illegal under the international law, and as such stands against the proposed annexation of the area and other areas of the West Bank, such as the fertile Jordan Valley.
However, Israel’s close ally the US has pledged to support the move as part of its “Deal of the Century” peace proposal unveiled earlier this year. The plan backs Israel’s annexation of most Israeli settlements and the Jordan Valley as long as it enters into peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Friday that the bloc would use “all our diplomatic capacities” to try to dissuade Israel from going ahead with the move.
Some analysts have said that the annexation could prompt a break-down in the 1994 peace treaty signed between Israel and its neighbour Jordan. A former minister of Jordan, Marwan al-Muasher, during a webinar last week, did not rule out the possibility of his country walking out of the historic agreement if Israel moves ahead with unilateral annexation. According to the Netanyahu-Gantz pact, the government can begin moves to implement the Trump administration’s peace plan from July 1. There will be no peace with occupation and apartheid, an Arab lawmaker, Yousef Jabareen, said.
Netanyahu praised the US’ support for the move, but added that “Israel should rely only on itself to defend itself”.
He also claimed that the unity government between him and Gantz avoided a fourth round of elections, which would have threatened the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis.
“The majority of the public is glad to accept a unity government. The public wants a unity government, and that’s what the public is getting today,” he said.
He also pointed out that his Likud party “received the highest number of votes a party ever received in the history of the country”.
Netanyahu was constantly booed by the Opposition members who shouted, “election fraud” and “pathological liar” while he spoke.
The government with 32 ministers initially will swell to 36 in six months, making it the largest government in the Jewish state’s history.
Prominent ministerial appointments include Gabi Ashkenazi (Blue and White party) as foreign minister, Israel Katz (Likud) as finance minister, Avi Nissenkorn (Blue and White party) as Justice minister and Likud Yuli Edelstein (Likud) as health minister.
Netanyahu’s close confidante Amir Ohana, currently serving as interim Justice Minister, is expected to receive the public security portfolio, which oversees law enforcement.
During his tenure as justice minister, Ohana repeatedly attacked the judiciary and those leading it as they pushed forward with criminal investigations, and eventually indictments, against Netanyahu. Netanyahu has denied any wrongdoing and his trial is set to start later this month.
Ohana’s possible appointment as public security minister has sparked speculation among top police officials that he may oppose possible new probes against Netanyahu.
The beleaguered Israeli Prime Minister managed to hold on to his right-wing bloc amid three inconclusive polls to force his main rival Gantz to finally succumb to the demand of a broad national unity government.