It is now official: Benjamin Netanyahu is once again the Prime Minister of Israel – his 6th term in office and the second time that he has “returned” to power – as the 37th government of the State of Israel was formally sworn in at the Knesset in Jerusalem Thursday afternoon.
The now former Prime Minister of Israel Yair Lapid addressed the new government at the ceremony saying, “We are giving you a state that is in excellent condition with a strong economy, improved security and some of the best international standing ever; try not to destroy it — we will be back.”
The new government has 31 cabinet ministers, but just five of them are women.
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It took 58 days since the elections of November 1 for Benjamin Netanyahu to finally form a new government. Before he could do so, however, he was forced to push through a series of new laws just to satisfy his coalition partners.
This is something that a majority of the Knesset can do even before a government is formed. And even if no government gets formed and they have to call for another round of elections. The smaller parties that are now coalition partners insisted that certain laws be passed before the swearing in of the government, withholding their votes to ensure that they got what they wanted out of Netanyahu who could have reneged once he was in office.
For example, Aryeh Deri – leader of the Sephardi ultra-orthodox Shas Party – has twice been convicted of felony corruption charges and the last time was in the past year. So, in order to ensure that there would not be a legal challenge to Deri’s appointment as a cabinet minister they passed what has been dubbed the “Deri Law” before the government formed. This law allowed for someone like Deri to be a cabinet minister. Deri is now both the Minister of the Interior and Health Minister and is slated to become the Finance Minister mid-term.
Shas received four other cabinet portfolios.
Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the right-wing Religious Zionism party is now the new Finance Minister. He also gets to be a “minister in the defense ministry.”
Meir Porush, leader of the Ashkenazi ultra-orthodox United Tora Judaism Party, is now the Jerusalem and tradition minister. The newly created post comes with the mandate to ensure the “strengthening Jewish tradition,” whatever that means.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of the right-wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) Party is now the National security minister. This was previously known as the minister of internal security, but Ben-Gvir demanded so many new additional powers he also needed a whole new title. These powers include direct supervision of the entire Border Police which traditionally is under the authority of the Ministry of Defense. A new law had to be passed to allow for this before the government was sworn in. The law was dubbed the “Ben-Gvir” law.
There are also other entirely new cabinet posts that were created just to satisfy all of the demands of both Netanyahu’s own Likud Party members and the coalition partners. Inventing new ministries seems to be the new custom in Israel and comes after every round of elections.
Israel has come a long since its first government had only 12 cabinet ministers.