Israel Gets New Government After 18 Months

  • The new government will now be able to vote on a new budget.
  • Stabilization of the economy during Coronavirus crisis is of first importance.
  • Annexation during these tense times from Coronavirus may be put off temporarily.

The largest government in Israeli history was sworn in after a year and a half, in which the Knesset dissolved for three consecutive elections. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his coalition’s immediate challenge is to provide jobs. The 35th government is the largest in history, with 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets then-Vice President Joe Biden in March 2016. Annexation may have to wait until after the American elections.

Netanyahu will remain in his position as Prime Minister for another 18 months. Benny Gantz, his political partner, is scheduled to take over the Prime Minister position in October, 2021. Gantz is now serving as Defense Minister. After the Knesset members approved the coalition, each minister walked up to the podium to take their oath of office vowing to carry out their duty as members of the government, and to adhere to the decision of the Knesset.

Netanyahu spoke, and said that he chose a coalition agreement with Blue and White in order to avoid a fourth election. Seventy-three members will sit in the 35th government, a large united majority of the total of 120 Knesset seats. The choice to unite the two coalitions was for the sake of making a stable government that could lead the people during the crisis period of the Coronavirus.

Netanyahu in his speech mentioned that even though the Coronavirus Pandemic in Israel is partially under control, the government must continue to stay on alert in case of a future spike in cases. The government has many challenges ahead of it, including the destabilization of the economy and high levels of unemployment caused by the coronavirus. Returning to normalcy without affecting a spike in coronavirus cases will also be a challenge, as will making a new budget to fill the gaps left by the year and a half where there was no government.

The Foreign Minister will be Gabi Ashkenazi from Blue and White. In the period without a government, both the ministry and the embassies have a NIS 300 million deficit.  The cancellation of international flights has further exacerbated a dire state of foreign diplomacy. This is considered one of the biggest challengers for Knesset ministries. There is anxiety in Israel over future relations with America, especially if Joe Biden wins the next presidential elections.

Blue and White’s Gabi Ashkenazi, the new Foreign Minister, will have to deal with the International opposition to annexation.

Israel is planning annexation of the West Bank and Jordan Valley, in which, as Foreign Minister, Ashkenazi will have the job maintaining foreign relations with nations opposed to annexation. Likud, united with Blue and White, has agreed to carry ahead annexation, but the nation will have to face opposition from the international community and the Arab nations.

Yamina, the religious Zionist alliance most interested in annexation, have left the government. Very likely, Gantz objected to them receiving ministerial positions to weaken their say regarding annexation. Naftali Bennett, who was the former Minister of Defense, withdrew from the coalition because they were left outside without ministerial positions.

Netanyahu chose Shas and United Torah Judaism over Yamina to give them strong ministerial positions. Aryeh Deri of Shas remains Minister of the Interior. Yaakov Litzman of UTJ, the former Minister of Health, was moved over to Minster of Construction. Shas and UTJ are less extremely Zionist right than Yamina, and less likely to push ahead for annexation.

Very possibly, there may not be annexation in this government, which combines Likud with Gantz. Yamina may have left the government for this reason. Stabilization of the economy due to the Coronavirus is first priority in the new government.

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David Wexelman

Author of 5 books on the internet on topics of Jewish mysticism, managing two websites.

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