Israel PM Says Government Should Annex West Bank Settlements

Israel PM Says Government Should Annex West Bank Settlements”

Their controversial power-sharing deal calls for Mr Netanyahu to serve as PM for the government's first 18 months before being replaced by Mr Gantz for the following 18 months.

His centrist rival Benny Gantz will serve as deputy PM, before taking over.

He also vowed to push on with controversial plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian leaders reject the legitimacy of the move.

Ahead of the swearing-in ceremony, Likud and Blue and White on Wednesday evening released the policy principles of the new government, as instructed by Israel's Supreme Court.

The formation of the government, which saw the rivals join forces to combat the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout, came after three deadlocked elections and over a year of political paralysis.

In theory, ministerial portfolios have been distributed in such a way that gives Netanyahu and Gantz an equal footing in the new cabinet, but Israel's longest-serving prime minister may still take the reigns, according to Professor Eyal Zisser, the vice rector of the Tel Aviv University.

Mr Netanyahu's long-held desire to annex the territories, also held by Donald Trump, the USA president, will lead to a collision with Palestinians and a host of other countries, and is seen as the end for hopes of a Palestinian state. Mr Trump's plan also envisages a Palestinian state in about 70% of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and with its capital on the fringes of East Jerusalem.

Israel has occupied the territories since the 1967 Middle East war.

Speaking to German magazine Der Spiegel days ago, Jordan's King Abdullah II said: "If Israel really annexes the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan".

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Israeli settlements there are considered illegal by most of the worldwide community.

Gantz campaigned on replacing Netanyahu due to the prime minister's indictment on graft charges, but dropped his opposition to sitting in a government with him after the latest elections again ended with no clear victor, citing the coronavirus pandemic and a desire to avoid a fourth round of voting.

The coalition government was agreed last month between veteran right-wing leader Netanyahu and the centrist Gantz, a former army chief.

With the acute need for political stability, it is hardly unlikely that Netanyahu, often referred by media as "magician" for his political survivability, would try to sideline Gantz right away, but he may still try some tricks in the run-up to the rotation in order to stay in power, according to Zisser.

The move led to the breakup of the Blue and White alliance, with Gantz being elected as Knesset speaker with the backing of Netanyahu's right-wing religious bloc as they negotiated the terms of the new government.

It also comes just a week before Netanyahu is due to stand trial on corruption charges, which he denies. He is alleged to have accepted gifts from wealthy businessmen and dispensed favours to try to get more positive press coverage.

In the time of Covid-19, Israel's Knesset looks different as lawmakers sit apart wearing masks, but some things remain the same.

Israel's parliament approved on Sunday (May 17) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new unity government, ending more than a year of political deadlock after three inconclusive elections.

"It's a remarkable achievement", says journalist Anshel Pfeffer, who wrote a biography of Mr Netanyahu.

Netanyahu said his incoming government should apply Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements.

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