Israel finally has a new government after more than a year of deadlock, but the new power-sharing administration between the right and centrist wings has not put the political controversy to rest.
The Israeli parliament gave its approval to the new unity government Sunday, 73-46.
Benjamin Netanyahu will remain prime minister for 18 months. The head of the centrist Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, will be “alternate prime minister,” then they will swap jobs.
“The public wants a unity government, and this is what the public is getting today,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “We chose to serve the country together.”
Speaking after Netanyahu, Gantz said he chose a unity government over civil war, adding that “the worst political crisis Israel has known is over.”
Netanyahu promised a budget that he says “will prevent the economy from collapsing, that will guarantee stability, that will restore growth -- a budget that will give you, citizens of Israel, hope, and a horizon, by restoring three things: Jobs, jobs, jobs.”
He also says Israel will not back away from plans to annex part of the West Bank.
“The time has come to apply sovereignty to Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria,” he said. “This won’t distance peace. It will bring it closer. These (Jewish) settlements will be part of Israel in any scenario. These areas of the country were the places of the birth and the growth of the Jewish nation. And it is time to apply Israeli law and to write a glorious new chapter in the history of Zionism.”
Some parliamentary opponents of annexation shouted “apartheid” during Netanyahu’s address.
The Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state. The European Union and others warn that an Israeli annexation of areas it has occupied since the 1967 war would open a powder keg of violence.
The new Israeli government will be the largest in the country’s history with 36 Cabinet ministers.
Israeli opposition leader, Yair Lapid, says the new government is already bloated and corrupt and something the Israeli people don’t really want.
“The government being formed today is the largest and most wasteful in the history of the country,” he said. “It’s not just the waste, it’s the contempt. The complete contempt for the crisis facing the Israeli public.”
The new government takes office after three inconclusive elections in which neither Netanyahu nor Gantz were able to form a government on their own.
Netanyahu goes on trial next week for alleged corruption.
Gantz had originally said he would refuse any power-sharing deal with a leader who was facing trial. But he later said he wants to help Israel emerge from the coronavirus pandemic without a fourth election hanging over its head.
A court indicted Netanyahu late last year on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. They include allegations of promising political favors to media tycoons in exchange for lavish gifts or favorable news coverage. He denies the charges and calls himself the victim of a political witch hunt.
Opponents to the new unity government say the deal would allow Netanyahu to govern throughout his trial and the long appeals process if he is convicted. They also say they believe Netanyahu may try to work his way out of the bargain to turn over the premiership to Gantz in 18 months.