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Benjamin Netanyahu-led coalition sworn in after three divisive elections, Gantz takes oath as alternate PM

Benny Gantz took his oath of office as the alternate prime minister and future prime minister after Netanyahu’s swearing-in. 

May 19, 2020 13:13 IST
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Benjamin Netanyahu-led government was sworn into office in Israel on May 17, 2020 ending almost a year and half of divisive politics that saw three deadlocked elections. 

The oath-taking ceremony took place in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in accordance with coronavirus social distancing directives. This marks the beginning of Netanyahu’s fifth term in office, his fourth consecutive term.

Benjamin Netanyahu was flanked at his swearing-in ceremony by his rival-turned partner Benny Gantz, who took his oath of office as the alternate prime minister and future prime minister after Netanyahu’s swearing-in. The two leaders had announced last month that they will be putting aside their differences and join forces to steer the nation through coronavirus crisis and its resulting economic impact.

Key Highlights 

•  Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government received Knesset approval with it passing a vote of confidence in his favour, officially ending the over 500 days of political turmoil.

•  The Knesset voted the new coalition into office by a 73-46 margin, with one lawmaker skipping vote. The swearing-in comes after three deadlocked elections and a year and a half of political crisis and another three-day delay because of political infighting in Netanyahu’s Likud party.

•  Both Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz announced their appointments for the new government over the weekend. The new government is expected to have one of the largest-ever cabinets with 36 Cabinet ministers and 16 deputies.

•  Under Netanyahu and Gantz power-sharing deal, Netanyahu will serve as the Prime Minister for the first 18 months and will be replaced by Gantz for the next 18 months. Both the leaders will be having a similar number of ministers and mutual veto power for most major decisions.

•  Benny Gantz will initially serve as the defense minister and his party colleague Gabi Ashkenazi will serve as the foreign minister. The outgoing Foreign Minister Israel Katz will become the new finance minister and Yariv Levin, Netanyahu's closest ally, will become the new parliament speaker.

•  Netanyahu’s swearing-in comes just as his trial is expected to begin on criminal charges filed against him. This is the first first time an Israeli leader indicted on criminal charges will formally lead the country. Netanyahu has been indicted on corruption charges and he faces a criminal trial starting next week. 

Alternate Prime Minister

Benny Gantz will be initially holding the post of alternate Prime Minister and later it would go to Netanyahu. The new position is expected to have all the priveledges that are provided to the Prime Minister including an official residence.

Creation of New Ministries

Disagreements within Likud senior members forced Netanyahu to delay his swearing-in ceremony, which was initially supposed to be conducted on May 14, 2020. Netanyahu then created a series of new ministries to pacify the senior Likud members such as community development, settlement affairs and higher education and water resources. Netanyahu's bloc includes several smaller parties so he had only a limited number of Cabinet ministries to hand out to the Likud rank and file.

This move has been faced with criticism as so many new cabinet posts have been created at a time when unemployment in Israel has risen to 25 percent due to coronavirus pandemic. Each ministry comes with its own expenses including payment for office space, staff and drivers. 

Background

Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz’s coalition was formed after the nation’s Supreme Court ruled that it had no legal grounds to block it. Gantz and Netanyahu had fought against each other in three bitter and division election campaigns in the past year. In the most recent elections in March, Benny Gantz had looked to get enough support in the parliament to pass legislation that would have barred Netanyahu from continuing as prime minister.

However, to the surprise of many, Gantz agreed to enter into a partnership with his opposition. According to Gantz, teaming with Netanyahu offered the country its only way to end the prolonged political crisis and prevent a fourth election in just a year. Netanyahu also acknowledged that a fourth election would have been devastating. He stated that the public wanted a unity government and that is what it is getting. 

Netanyahu has been indicted on charges of corruption, breach of trust, fraud and accepting bribes in a series of scandals. He has denied any wrongdoing and blamed the charges on a media-orchestrated plot to oust him from power.

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