TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to apply Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements in the West Bank ahead of the swearing-in ceremony of Israel’s 35th government, ending nearly 16 months of political deadlock.
Netanyahu, alongside alternate prime minister and Blue and White party chief, Benny Gantz, presented the new government which is the largest in Israel’s history with 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers.
The new government was voted in with 73 in favor and 46 against.
Netanyahu, amid heckling from opposition members, said that the power-sharing unity deal with Gantz prevented a fourth election cycle.
“We went through three elections that deepened chasms and had a heavy financial toll. Another election would have cost NIS 2 billion more,” he said.
“The majority of the public is happy to accept a unity government. The public wants a unity government, and that’s what the public is getting today,” he said. He added that his Likud party “received the highest number of votes a party ever received in the country’s history.”
Among the hecklers were Joint List MKs Ahmad Tibi and Ofer Cassif who yelled out “Election fraud” and “pathological liar” over the prime minister as he spoke. Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz shouted, “He’s guilty of crimes!”
“There is an illusion by new Knesset members that clashing with me will help them over time. From my experience I can say that doesn’t work,” Netanyahu responded to the hecklers.
He said he and Gantz would work well together as indeed they had in the past when the former IDF chief led the 2014 50-day summer conflict against Hamas in Gaza.
Netanyahu also said annexing the West Bank would bring peace closer.
“The time has come for anyone who believes in our just rights in the Land of Israel to join a government led by me to bring about a historic process together.”
“These areas are the cradle of the Jewish people. It is time to extend Israel’s law over them. This step won’t bring us further away from peace, it will bring us closer. The truth is, and everyone knows it, that the hundreds of thousands of settlers in Judea and Samaria will always stay put in any future deal,” he added, referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.
Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen interjected throughout, “There will be no peace with occupation and apartheid!”
Jabareen and Cassif were eventually told to leave the plenum by the Knesset speaker.
Speaking after Netanyahu, Gantz hailed the end of the “worst political crisis in Israel’s history.” Gantz said that failing to strike a unity deal would have ended in “a kind of civil war.”
“The people told us to stop fighting and start working for them,” he said.
Gantz vowed to do everything so that all Israelis — Jewish or Arab, heterosexual or LGBT — will “feel at home.”
Gantz will replace Netanyahu as prime minister in 18 months’ time.