Israel swears in new gov't as Netanyahu pledges annexation push

Israel swears in new gov't as Netanyahu pledges annexation push”

"The public wants a unity government and that's what the public is getting today", Netanyahu said at the start of the session in the Knesset, or parliament, in Jerusalem.

"The time has come to apply Israeli law to them and write another glorious chapter in Zionist history", Mr Netanyahu said at the swearing-in ceremony.

Such a move was likely to cause global uproar and inflame tensions in the West Bank, home to almost three million Palestinians and some 400,000 Israelis living in settlements considered illegal under worldwide law.

Netanyahu's nationalist base is eager to push for annexation before the USA elections in November - after which Trump could be replaced by Joe Biden, who has said he opposes unilateral annexation.

Under his accord with Mr Gantz, after three inconclusive elections, Mr Netanyahu will remain prime minister for 18 months before handing over to his new partner.

When it was finally Gantz's turn to speak, Netanyahu interrupted his "alternate prime minister" nearly as soon as he had begun, breaking in to thank Gantz's No.2, the incoming foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi, for his contribution to the establishment of the coalition.

A mini-insurgency by angry senior Likud members forced Netanyahu to seek a delay in the swearing-in ceremony last Thursday.

Mr Netanyahu's long-held desire to annex the territories, also held by Donald Trump, the U.S. 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.

Having secured an agreement under which he takes the first prime ministerial shift in their rotation government, while Gantz is "alternate" PM and defense minister, it was Netanyahu who presented this emergency unity coalition to the Knesset - a surreal Knesset, filled with lawmakers in masks dispersed to the farthest corners of the hall for maximal social distancing.

Israel swears in new gov't as Netanyahu pledges annexation push

The new government may be confronted with yet another worldwide crisis in matter of weeks, centred on the West Bank.

"These territories are where the Jewish nation was born and grew", he said.

Some experts warn that Jordan may back away from its historic 1994 peace deal with Israel if the Jewish state tries to annex the strategically crucial Jordan Valley border region.

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

Mr Gantz, in his address to the legislature, said: "The biggest political crisis in Israel's history is over".

Gantz and incoming Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi are both known to have reservations about annexation and the global backlash.

Gantz and incoming Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi are both known to have reservations about annexation and the worldwide backlash and did not mention the issue in his Knesset speech on Sunday.

The 35th government since Israel's creation in 1948 includes representatives from across the political spectrum, with a record 34 to 36 cabinet seats. But because Netanyahu's bloc includes several smaller parties, he still only has a limited number of Cabinet ministries to hand out to the Likud rank and file. "The new government has been formed with the support of most of Israel and will be the government of all Israelis", he said.

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