Outgoing PM to Incoming PM: 'Try Not to Destroy' Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu is back for 6th term, leading nation's most far-right government yet
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 29, 2022 10:10 AM CST
Netanyahu Is Israel's Prime Minister Once Again
Protesters hold banners against Benjamin Netanyahu's new government in Jerusalem on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn into office Thursday, taking the helm of the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in Israel's history and vowing to implement policies that could cause domestic and regional turmoil and alienate the country's closest allies. Netanyahu took the oath of office moments after parliament passed a vote of confidence in his new government, per the AP. His return marks his sixth term in office, continuing his more than decadelong dominance over Israeli politics. His new government has pledged to prioritize settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, extend massive subsidies to his ultra-Orthodox allies, and push for sweeping reform of the judicial system that could endanger the country's democratic institutions.

Netanyahu is the country's longest-serving prime minister, having held office from 2009 until 2021 and a stint in the 1990s. He was ousted from office last year after four deadlocked elections by a coalition of eight parties solely united in their opposition to his rule while he was on trial for corruption. That coalition broke apart in June, and Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies secured a parliamentary majority in November's election. "I hear the constant cries of the opposition about the end of the country and democracy," said Netanyahu after taking the podium in parliament ahead of the government's formal swearing-in on Thursday afternoon. His speech was interrupted repeatedly by heckles and jeers from opposition leadership, who at times chanted "weak."

"Opposition members: To lose in elections is not the end of democracy; this is the essence of democracy," he said. Netanyahu heads a government comprised of a hard-line religious ultranationalist party dominated by West Bank settlers, two ultra-Orthodox parties, and his nationalist Likud party. His allies are pushing for dramatic changes that could alienate large swaths of the Israeli public, raise the risk of conflict with the Palestinians, and put Israel on a collision course with some of its closest supporters, including the United States and the Jewish American community. Netanyahu's previous administrations have been strong proponents of Israel's West Bank settlement enterprise, and that's only expected to be kicked into overdrive under the new government.

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Netanyahu's government published its platform, which stated that "the Jewish people have exclusive and indisputable rights" over the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories and will advance settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Most of the international community considers Israel's West Bank settlements illegal and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. The US already has warned the incoming government against taking steps that could further undermine hopes for an independent Palestinian state. Yair Lapid, the outgoing prime minister who will now reassume the title of opposition leader, told parliament he was handing the new government "a country in excellent condition." He added: "Try not to destroy it. We'll be back soon."

(More Benjamin Netanyahu stories.)

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