Netanyahu back at Israel's helm for 6th time after swearing-in at Knesset

Israel's new government elected with 63 votes in favor in 120-seat parliament.

Netanyahu back at Israel's helm for 6th time after swearing-in at Knesset

Benjamin Netanyahu has returned to power as Israel's prime minister for the sixth time after being sworn in at the country's parliament, also known as the Knesset, on Thursday.

Netanyahu's new government was approved with 63 votes in favor in the 120-seat chamber, while 54 lawmakers opposed it.

Seen as the most right-wing administration in Israel's history, the country's 37th coalition government will consist of 30 ministers.

In the new Cabinet that the veteran politician presented to the Knesset prior to the voting and inauguration, Netanyahu's far-right coalition partner Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionist party, will rotate the finance portfolio with Aryeh Deri of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party.

Itamar Ben Gvir, who heads the far-right Jewish Strength Party, became National Security Ministry, while Netanyahu named Eli Cohen foreign minister.

Ben-Gvir holds far-right views on the Palestinian issue and has called for their displacement. He has repeatedly joined Israeli settlers in storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem.

Moreover, Israel's former ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, was named strategic affairs minister and former top general Yoav Gallant defense minister.

The incoming government includes five women who assumed ministerial posts on transportation, environmental protection, national missions, and intelligence, while one became a minister in the Prime Minister's Office.

Other notable new cabinet members include Gila Gamliel as intelligence minister, Nir Barkat as economy minister, Yisrael Katz as energy minister, Amichai Chikli as diaspora and social equality minister, and Yoav Kisch as education minister.

Netanyahu also appointed Yossi Shelley, Israel's former ambassador to Brazil, as director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, local media outlets reported.

Just before the swearing-in ceremony, lawmakers elected Netanyahu's Likud party deputy Amir Ohana as the legislative chamber's new speaker.

Known as Israel's first openly gay politician, Ohana had previously held the justice and internal security portfolios.

On Tuesday, interim Knesset speaker Yariv Levin resigned for the ministerial posts of intelligence and justice.

Netanyahu lays out government road map

In an earlier address to the Knesset, Netanyahu had declared that his government's priority would be to prevent Iran gaining nuclear weapons, as well as the restoration of internal security and developing state infrastructure.

Vowing to combat the rising cost of living in Israel, he said on Wednesday that the new government would promote settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and Syrian Golan Heights.

In response to now-opposition deputies interrupting his speech, Netanyahu said: "I hear the opposition's constant laments about 'the end of the state,' 'the end of democracy.' Members of the opposition, losing the elections is not the end of democracy -- this is the essence of democracy."

Israeli media outlets reported that hundreds of protesters staged a demonstration against the new hard-right government in front of the parliament in Jerusalem before the session.

In the last legislative elections held on Nov. 1, Netanyahu and his right-wing bloc won 64 seats against 51 seats for then-premier Yair Lapid's allies.

The elections were the fifth in less than four years in Israel. Some 71% of voters turned out, the highest in 20 years.

Hüseyin Demir

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