Israel swears in new gov’t as Netanyahu pledges annexation push | Israel News

Israel's parliament has sworn a new government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival Benny Gantz, ending the biggest political crisis in the country's history.

After more than 500 days without a stable government and three inconclusive elections, the 120-seat Knesset parliamentarians approved a three-year coalition, with 73 votes in favor and 49 against. One member was absent.

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The new government was prepared to face serious crises in the first few weeks, including the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus and an imminent battle for the possible annexation of large parts of Israel's occupied West Bank.

Speaking in parliament before the vote, Netanyahu said his new government must apply Israeli sovereignty over Jewish settlements, which are illegal under international law.

"It is time to apply Israeli law and write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism," said Netanyahu on the question of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

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"These territories are where the Jewish nation was born and grew up," he said of the settlements.

For his part, Gantz, a former military chief, made no mention of possible attachments in his subsequent speech.

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The two ex-rivals agreed to a three-year coalition government last month, after more than 500 days of political stalemate and three inconclusive elections in less than a year. Under the power-sharing agreement, Netanyahu will serve 18 months as prime minister and then hand over to Gantz.

The new government's agenda includes a possible declaration of sovereignty over Jewish settlements and the Jordan valley in the West Bank – a de facto annexation.

This move is likely to cause international uproar and ignite tensions in the West Bank.

Palestinian leaders have threatened to abolish bilateral agreements with Israel if they proceed with the plan to annex parts of the West Bank – land they want as part of a future state – since July 1.

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Meanwhile, King of Jordan Abdulla II has warned Israel of a "massive conflict" if he pursues the plan, while the European Union's foreign policy chief said the bloc would use "all of our diplomatic capabilities" to try to dissuade the new government to move on. ahead with the measure, approved under the so-called Middle East plan of the President of the United States, Donald Trump.

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Israel's new government was challenged in the Supreme Court, with opponents arguing that Netanyahu was ineligible to rule due to several corruption charges. They also complained that certain provisions of the coalition agreement were in breach of the law.

But the court ruled earlier this month that "there was no legal reason to prevent the formation of a government" led by Netanyahu, who denies allegations of corruption.

He added that, in approving the coalition, he "was not trying to lessen the seriousness of the charges" against Netanyahu, but concluded that they could be dealt with in his trial, which is due to begin on May 24.

Although Israeli law prevents ministers from serving on charges, there is no such law for prime ministers.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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