Israel’s parliament has sworn in Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, inaugurating the country’s most far-right, religiously conservative government in history.
Netanyahu, 73, took the oath of office on Thursday, moments after Israel’s parliament, or Knesset, passed a vote of confidence in his new government. Of the parliament’s 120 members, 63 voted in favour of the new government, with 54 votes against.
His swearing in marks a personal return to power and the arrival of a government that has sparked fears among Palestinians as well as left-wing Israelis.
Al Jazeera’s Sara Khairat, reporting from West Jerusalem, said this has been in the making for almost two months and is “quite a victory for Benjamin Netanyahu”, who partnered up with a coalition that includes “a mix of an ultra-Orthodox and right-wing bloc”.
The coalition, Khairat said, includes some of the most “right-wing politicians we’ve seen”. “They were on the fringes of politics and now here they are on the main stage.”
“Even though locals we’ve spoken to have said that yes, the process is democratic, they are very deeply concerned about the laws that have been put through,” she said from outside the parliament, where left-wing Israelis had gathered to protest.
Netanyahu, who was prime minister between 1996 and 1999, and then between 2009 and 2021, addressed a session of the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, ahead of the vote.
Netanyahu, along with his coalition partners, has a majority in the Knesset. He was heckled during his speech to the Knesset, with opponents chanting that he was “weak”.
He said an end to the “Arab-Israeli conflict” would be his top priority, as well as stopping Iran’s nuclear programme and building up Israel’s military capacity.
Netanyahu’s win in the November 1 parliamentary elections was expected to end years of political unrest in Israel, with governments repeatedly falling, and elections held five times in less than four years.
Much of that was the result of intense political opposition towards Netanyahu himself, who is on trial for corruption, an allegation he denies.
However, it has taken weeks of jostling and the introduction of new legislation to keep his far-right and ultranationalist coalition partners happy, as well as his own Likud party.
The result has been a coalition that has explicitly called settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, illegal under international law, its top priority.
That reflects the positions of far-right leaders who have been given top posts, such as Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich, and Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, who previously expressed support for Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish Israeli man who killed 29 Palestinians in a shooting at Hebron’s Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994.
Israel is heading in a “very dangerous direction”, left-wing Knesset member Ofer Cassif told Al Jazeera from a protest outside the parliament, adding that the new government’s arrival would mark Israel as a “fully-fledged fascist state”.
“The international community must be aware of that and act upon it,” Cassif added.
The make-up of the new government is likely to further inflame relations with the millions of Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation. (AlJazeera)