New Knesset speaker swears in 33rd Israeli gov't

New coalition approved by vote of 68-48; PM presents 33rd government, says it has opportunity to enact domestic reform.

PM Binyamin Netanyahu addressing 33rd Knesset
PM Binyamin Netanyahu addressing 33rd Knesset
PM Binyamin Netanyahu addressing 33rd Knesset
Knesset swearing in ceremony
Knesset swearing in ceremony
Knesset swearing in ceremony
Knesset swearing in ceremony
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 deals.
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 said.
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.
While acknowledging internal challenges, like lowering housing costs, Netanyahu said he cannot ignore threats outside of the state’s borders.
“The first priority is to defend the country’s security and citizens,” he stated.
“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 Jordan.
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,” she began.
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.”
Yacimovich 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 quipped.
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 minister.
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 Knesset.
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,” Liberman added.
Netanyahu also praised Elkin’s work as coalition chairman and welcomed his replacement, MK Yariv Levin, at a Likud Beytenu faction meeting Monday afternoon.
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 job.
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 Edelstein.
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.
Former 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.