A new coalition government takes charge in Israel with Netanyahu as prime minister

The new government with a three-year term has the highest number of ministers in Israeli history. It also includes some novel experiments such as designating Benny Gantz as the “alternative and future prime minister” of Israel

May 18, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Israel new government
Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz. (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky/POOL)

A new coalition government was sworn in Israel yesterday, May 17, with Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister and Benny Gantz as “alternate prime minister and future prime minister” and the minister of defense.

The coalition got the approval of the 120-seat Israeli parliament (Knesset) with 73 votes in favor and 46 against. The term of the current government will be for three years.

Benjamin Netanyahu will head this 35th government of Israel for the first 18 months. This will be his fifth term as prime minister. After 18 months, Benny Gantz will take over on November 17, 2021, as per the announcement made by Netanyahu. There are 33 other ministers in the government.  

The coalition government brought an end to more than 500 days of political crisis, which saw three consecutive parliamentary elections. All the elections since the first one in March last year resulted in hung parliaments. 

In the current coalition, there are 35 Members of Knesset (MKs) from Likud, 16 MKs from Blue and White, nine from Shas, seven from United Torah Judaism, two each from Labour and Derech Eretz, and one each from the Jewish Home and Gesher parties.

According to Netanyahu’s announcements, the main focus of the new government will be to deal with the economic problems created by the COVID-19 outbreak. More than 16,600 people have tested positive for COVID 19 and over 270 deaths have been recorded in Israel, so far.

The new government’s controversial agenda also includes proposals to ‘legalize’ the annexation of the illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank. These territories are already de-facto annexed by the State of Israel but the move would formalize decades of settlement building, strategic road construction and fence/wall placement within the West Bank. The US expressed its support to the move last week. However, there is massive opposition to the Israeli annexation plans from Palestinians both in the occupied territories and in the diaspora, as well as from the international community.

Netanyahu is also facing possible indictment in several corruption cases and may be in a hurry to act on his Zionist legacy. He told his cabinet colleagues, “I do not hide my intention to bring it [annexation of the West Bank] quickly to the cabinet.”

Speaking in the parliament, new opposition leader of Israel, Yair Lapid said that “Israel deserves better than the largest and most wasteful government in the history of the country,” Times of Israel reported.  

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