Israel finally has a government following an 18-month political stalemate, after the Knesset on Sunday voted confidence in the new government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz by a vote of 73-46.
When presenting his government, Netanyahu started by referring to his partner in the government, Gantz, who Netanyahu said would take over from him as prime minister on November 17, 2021, in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s Office.
“I will abide by the agreement exactly as it is written,” Netanyahu told reporters at the Knesset, vowing to surprise them by ensuring that the government would complete its term.
Netanyahu told Gantz they had served well together when Gantz commanded Operation Protective Edge, adding that he is sure they will work well together in the new government serving all citizens of Israel.
“We decided to form a unity government and avoid a fourth election that would have caused divisiveness and would have wasted NIS 2 billion,” Netanyahu said. “The public wanted a unity government and will receive one.”
The cost of a wide government was much less than another election, he said.
Netanyahu presented the guidelines for the new government, including its commitment to West Bank annexation.
“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 settlements will be part of Israel in any scenario.”
Referring to Yamina, Netanyahu said: “I hope another party in our bloc will join the government.”
Speaking after Netanyahu, Gantz said he chose a unity government over civil war, adding that “the worst political crisis Israel has known is over.”
In a fierce speech, presumptive opposition leader Yair Lapid criticized his former partners in Blue and White, Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, for joining the government.
“Two IDF chiefs of staff surrendered to a man with three serious criminal indictments,” he said. “You’re swearing loyalty today to a man who in a week will start a criminal trial for breach of trust, for bribery and for fraud. In the real world you don’t let your children play with a man like that. In this building, he’s the prime minister.”
Earlier, Netanyahu completed forming his government by giving the Education Ministry to Yoav Galant, the Environment portfolio to Gila Gamliel, the Energy Ministry to Yuval Steinitz and part of the Education and Energy portfolios to a new ministry headed by Ze’ev Elkin. Elkin will be in charge of higher education and the state’s water resources. Elkin, Steinitz and Galant will serve in the security cabinet.
In his speech presenting his cabinet to the Knesset, Netanyahu announced he had decided to appoint Tzipi Hotovely as “minister of settlements,” with responsibility for key religious-Zionist issues, and Tzachi Hanegbi as a minister-without-portfolio in the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu said Hanegbi would receive Hotovely’s responsibilities when she becomes an ambassador.
Among the high-profile Likud figures left without a portfolio are Nir Barkat, Gideon Sa’ar and Avi Dichter.
“I have not heard a reason that could convince me or anybody else why I was not seen as worthy by him of the position of minister and a member of the security cabinet,” Dichter said. “At the same time, I am a Likud man and a state man who respects decisions made by those in authority and will therefore support a government in which quite a few of my closest friends, members of the Likud, are serving and wish them success.”
Sa’ar, who ran against Netanyahu for Likud leader, revealed that Netanyahu had offered him to serve as ambassador to the United States and United Nations – posts that later went to Gilad Erdan after Sa’ar rejected them.
“It is a great honor to serve the Israeli nation and the State of Israel as a member of Knesset,” Sa’ar wrote on his Twitter page.
The Knesset voted on Sunday to elect Yariv Levin as the speaker of the 23rd Knesset. Levin, who is close to Netanyahu, will replace Gantz, who held the post for a month, following the ousting of Yuli Edelstein, who was Knesset speaker for seven years.
Seventy-two MKs voted for Levin. Opposition MKs Karin Elharar (Yesh Atid) and Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) did not come close to beating Levin, winning the support of 23 and 20 MKs, respectively.