New Israeli government gets down to work

Government's first crisis may come tomorrow with march through Jerusalem


Benjamin Netanyahu will today meet his successor for an icy handover session to transfer power to the new government that he has slammed as “dangerous.”

Naftali Bennett started his first full day as Israel’s leader by taking his new cabinet to the President’s residence for the traditional coalition photograph. 

It was one of the last major engagements for President Reuven Rivlin, whose term soon comes to an end. After much of his time in office was dogged by political instability and ongoing election cycles, Mr Rivlin looked relieved to be hosting a new coalition that is pledging to deliver stability.  

There was a first-day-at-school feel at the event, as politicians who have not worked together before chatted and ties and dresses were straightened as the photographers placed everyone in their positions.  

Mr Netanyahu is expected to skip the traditional handover toast at the President’s residence and limit his interactions to a business-like work meeting at the Prime Minister’s office. 

He has decried the new government as a “fraud,” as Mr Bennett had said he would not cooperate with the centrist Yesh Atid and ended up doing so, leading to the widest coalition Israel has ever seen.  

Mr Bennett said in a meeting with his new cabinet, which spans right wingers like him to members of the left-wing parties Labour and Meretz and the Arab party Raam, that it is time to end the “debiltation” that internal disagreements have wrought on Israel. 

“Now we must prove ourselves and work together in unity and cooperation to mend the rift among the public and return the state to proper governance,” he said. 

This may be easier said than done as he is being thrown into the deep end with a potential crisis tomorrow. Hamas and other Palestinian leaders have called for a “day of rage” in Jerusalem as a right-wing Israeli flag march takes place tomorrow, raising the possibility of clashes in the city and fallout fuelling renewed Arab-Jewish violence around Israel. 

During Mr Netanyahu’s final hours in power he claimed that the new leadership will fail to safeguard Israel’s security and manage its international relations.

However, the reaction in Washington has been positive, with not only a congratulatory statement to Mr Bennett from President Joe Biden, but also a phone call. 

“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet,” said the Biden statement. “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”

During the phone call Mr Bennett noted that Mr Biden is “a great friend of the State of Israel,” his office said, stating: “The Prime Minister thanked President Biden for his warm wishes on the inauguration of the new government, and for his long-standing commitment to the State of Israel and its security.” 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken talked to Israel’s new Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and invited him to visit Washington. According to Mr Lapid’s office, the two men “discussed the special relationship between the United States and Israel.” The statement added: “During the call the Foreign Minister thanked Secretary Blinken for the United States’ unwavering support for Israel.”

According to the coalition agreement, Mr Bennett, leader of Yamina, will be Prime Minister for two years and then hand the reins to Mr Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid. 

Avigdor Liberman, leader of the rightist Israel Beytenu, is Finance Minister; Gideon Saar of New Hope is Justice Minister and will become Foreign Minister in two years. The leaders of left-wing Labour and Meretz, Merav Michaeli and Nitzan Horowitz, are Transportation Minister and Health Minister respectively.  


Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive