Israel’s Knesset begins swearing-in process of 35th government

Israel has a new government but some Likud ministers are left feeling alienated.

By David Isaac, World Israel News

It looks like Israel finally has a government. It only took 507 days.

The Knesset plenum gathered at 1:00 p.m. to swear in Israel’s 35th government. It will be the largest in Israel’s history with 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers to accommodate all the players.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened the proceedings with a speech outlining the policies of the new government. Speaking to critics of the bloated government, he said the real waste would have been going to a fourth election.

He warned of a possible second wave of the coronavirus, as happened with the Spanish Flu of 1918, and said that the first step of the new government will be to set up a ‘corona cabinet’ to deal with the crisis.

Blue and White’s Benny Gantz, who will serve as prime minister in a year and a half, spoke afterwards.

It was supposed to happen on Thursday but a small rebellion on the Likud’s side led to a delay. Several senior Likud ministers were angry that they hadn’t received posts in the new government or were given posts they deemed not to be commensurate with their positions in the party.

Likud MKs Avi Dichter, currently chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and Tzahi Hanegbi, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Minister of Regional Cooperation, expressed unhappiness. Likud MK Gila Gamliel,  Minister for Social Equality, also was reportedly unsatisfied with what she was offered.

Netanyahu invited those ministers and others, including Likud MK Gideon Sa’ar, who had challenged him in the Likud primaries, to a meeting on Saturday night to work out the disagreements.

Yoav Galant will take on the education portfolio. Hanegbi will be Minister of Settlement in a year and a half, taking over from Tzipi Hotovely. Gamliel appeared satisfied to receive the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

However, Dichter will be without portfolio. Sa’ar also will not receive anything, but that was to be expected given his attempt to unseat Netanyahu. Sa’ar said it would be an honor just to serve in the Knesset.

Neither will Nir Barkat, the former mayor of Jerusalem, get a cabinet position. However, Netanyahu said he would make an effort “to integrate MK Barkat into a senior government position down the road.”

Yuval Steinitz, whose future in the cabinet was also in doubt, will continue as Minister of Energy after refusing another position that was offered him.

Netanyahu will face challenges from his right-wing flank as the Yemina faction moves into the opposition.

Its leader, Naftali Bennett, posted to social media on Friday: “Who knows, maybe precisely because of Netanyahu’s decision to prevent our entry into the government he will have a stronger motivation to prove to everyone that he will apply sovereignty on the settlements, that he will [be the one] to make daring reforms in the justice system and the economy.”

Yemina has argued that Netanyahu’s government, which is joining together with the Blue and White party, will ultimately be a left-wing government, pointing to the fact that Netanyahu has conceded the Justice Ministry and Ministry of Finance to the opposition, meaning right-wing reforms will not be carried out in those areas.