After more than a year of political stagnation and three consecutive elections, Israel on Sunday got its first full government since November 2018 as the Knesset voted to approve the new coalition by a vote of 73 to 46.
The 35th government is the largest in Israel's history, with 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers. It sees Benjamin Netanyahu still in the prime minister's seat for the next 18 months at least and his political partner Benny Gantz serving as defense minister until he is scheduled to take over as premier in October 2021.
After Knesset members approved the coalition, ministers walked up to the podium one by one to take their oath of office, vowing to carry out their duty as members of the government, fulfill the laws of the land and adhere to the decisions of the Knesset.
Netanyahu said he opted for a coalition agreement with Gantz' Blue & White party in order to avoid a fourth election campaign in just over a year.
The 73 members of Knesset who now support the government would, according to Netanyahu, ensure a stable government that could lead the country during the coronavirus crisis and the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has presented.
"There is a drop in the number of COVID-19 cases," Netanyahu told journalists, "but no one knows if there will be another spike or a second wave and no one can say what the virus will do."
"We saved thousands of lives, but we must not think the pandemic is over," the prime minister said as he called on the public to maintain vigilance.
"The new government's first challenge is jobs, jobs, jobs," he said.
Netanyahu said he has not closed the door on the possibility that Naftali Bennett's far-right Yamina party would join the coalition.
Earlier Sunday, the Knesset approved former tourism minister Yariv Levin of Likud for the position of Knesset speaker, a position vacated by Benny Gantz.
In his acceptance speech, Levin warned of growing intervention in legislation by the Supreme Court.
Levin, who was slated to become justice minister had Netanyahu succeeded in forming a right-wing government, has been outspoken in his criticism of the judiciary.
First published: 18:19, 05.17.20