The 22 ministers of the 33rd government swore to be faithful to the State of
Israel and its laws in doing their job on Monday evening, as the opposition
accused them of detachment from the public and making secret political
The Knesset meeting opened with the election of Yuli Edelstein as
Knesset speaker, followed by speeches by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and
opposition leader Shelly Yacimovich (Labor).
“As prime minister, I have a
major responsibility to the one and only Jewish state. Our existence here cannot
be taken for granted, and our presence here is not coincidental,” Netanyahu
The prime minister called for the new government to act “in the
spirit of cooperation and partnership,” and promised it will serve all of the
Israeli public, including those outside the coalition.
acknowledging internal challenges, like lowering housing costs, Netanyahu said
he cannot ignore threats outside of the state’s borders.
priority is to defend the country’s security and citizens,” he
“The challenges are greater than they have been since the
establishment of the state. We face great threats. Iran has yet to cross the red
line but is getting closer to it. Syria is splitting into pieces, and weapons
are leaking out.”
Still, the prime minister said the government opens its
arms to peace and will work to keep treaties with Egypt and
Netanyahu called US President Barack Obama’s visit, scheduled to
begin on Wednesday, “an opportunity to give thanks” for continued aid from
Washington in recent years.
Yacimovich gave a speech highly critical of
the incoming government and its tactics.
“The coalition negotiations
cannot be called new politics.
Everything here is old and well known,”
The Labor leader pointed out that the leaders of the four
coalition parties are wealthy, adding that they don’t know what it feels like to
not be able to make ends meet.
“You are all capitalists. It’s the
opposite of the Zionist vision,” Yacimovich stated.
“There is a
detachment from what is happening in Israeli society. It’s not just money but
values and the right to education and a roof over our heads.”
also referred to Netanyahu’s attempts to bring Labor into the coalition, saying
she values the fact that the prime minister is an ideologue and unwilling to
back down from his beliefs, but that the gap between her worldview and his is
too large to bridge.
“You may not have wanted to sit with these coalition
partners, but don’t worry; they’re just like you,” she
Yacimovich said that “Zionism is a state of all for all. This is
a government of exclusion and not unity. It excludes the ultra-Orthodox and
Arabs. The new world never looked so old.”
Later, before the government
was sworn in with 68 MKs in favor and 48 opposed, MKs from Labor, UTJ and Hadash
demanded to know whether there were any hidden political deals not mentioned in
the coalition agreement.
According to Knesset legal adviser Eyal Yinon’s
interpretation of the law, agreements made verbally must also be presented to
the Knesset ahead of votes on a new government.
Home Front Defense
Minister Gilad Erdan disclosed the already known agreement between Netanyahu and
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, in which the prime minister will save
the Foreign Ministry for Liberman until after the conclusion of his corruption
trial. If Liberman is declared innocent, he will assume the position of foreign
In response to questions about the agreement between Likud and
Yisrael Beytenu, Edelstein explained that only deals relevant to government
positions need to be disclosed.
Still, Liberman took the stand to say
that Likud Beytenu is a faction made up of two parties, like many other
factions, including Bayit Yehudi, which consists of the vestiges of the National
Religious Party and Tekuma.
Earlier Monday, Liberman denied rumors of a
split between the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu.
“It’s possible, but it’s not
planned for the near future, and we have not even gotten to the point of
learning lessons [from the months of unity]. In the Likud and maybe in Yisrael
Beytenu, some would prefer if it were otherwise, but I and the prime minister
intend to keep a joint faction,” he said at a press conference in the
The most important thing, Liberman emphasized, is to bring the
new government into a regular routine, and after that, he will start thinking
about whether or not to separate from the Likud.
The Yisrael Beytenu
leader also referred to the new deputy foreign minister, Ze’ev Elkin, saying
that he approves of the appointment.
“I think he surprised everyone in
the last term, and was one of the most successful coalition chairmen ever,”
Netanyahu also praised Elkin’s work as coalition chairman
and welcomed his replacement, MK Yariv Levin, at a Likud Beytenu faction meeting
After Netanyahu spoke and Levin thanked him, the prime
minister dismissed the press in the room, but Energy and Water Minister Silvan
Shalom did not let Netanyahu have the last word.
Shalom stood up and
mentioned that he is one of the veteran lawmakers in the room and had years of
experience as a journalist in the Knesset. Then, he called Elkin one of the best
coalition chairmen the legislature has seen and gave Levin tips for the
The minister’s surprise speech can be viewed as the opening shot of
a rebellion by dissatisfied Likud MKs.
Shalom spent nearly 12 hours in
Netanyahu’s office Sunday, insisting on receiving a more senior ministry than
what he had been offered.
Other younger Likud MKs who expected to be made
ministers and weren’t have expressed frustration, and former Knesset speaker
Reuven Rivlin has repeatedly snubbed the prime minister after being replaced by
Several appointments were made within the Likud on Monday,
including Tzipi Hotovely as deputy transportation minister and Miri Regev as
chairwoman of the Knesset Interior and Environmental Committee. Moshe Feiglin
was named deputy Knesset speaker, which means he, along with several other MKs,
will preside over plenum meetings when the speaker is not there.
deputy minister Gila Gamliel will be a regular MK with no other position, but
says Netanyahu promised her a ministerial position within the next year.