Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn into office as Israel’s Prime Minister.
Netanyahu took the oath of office on Thursday, December 29, 2022, moments after parliament passed a vote of confidence in his new government.
His return marks his sixth term in office, continuing his more than decade-long dominance over Israeli politics.
Netanyahu’s new government has pledged to prioritize settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, extend massive subsidies to his ultra-Orthodox allies and push for reforms of the judicial system that could endanger the country’s democratic institutions.
The plans have sparked an unprecedented uproar from across Israeli society, including the military, LGBTQ rights groups, the business community and others.
Netanyahu is the country’s longest serving Prime Minister, having held office from 2009 until 2021 and a period in the 1990s.
However, Netanyahu was ousted from office last year after four deadlocked elections by a coalition of eight parties solely united in their opposition to his rule.
Despite his political comeback, Netanyahu remains on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three corruption cases.
Netanyahu has denied all charges against him, saying that he is the victim of a witch hunt orchestrated by a hostile media, police and prosecutors.
The diverse yet delicate coalition that overthrew Netanyahu collapsed in June, and Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies secured a clear parliamentary majority in November’s election.
After taking the podium in parliament ahead of the government’s formal swearing-in on Thursday, Netanyahu noted, “I hear the constant cries of the opposition about the end of the country and democracy.”
“Opposition members, to lose in elections is not the end of democracy, this is the essence of democracy.” he added.
Netanyahu heads a government comprised of a 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 sections of the Israeli public, deepen the 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.
Jewish People Have Exclusive And Indisputable Rights
According to Netanyahu’s government platform, “the Jewish people have exclusive and indisputable rights” over the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories and promises to advance settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
That includes legalizing dozens of wildcat outposts and a commitment to annex the entire territory, a step that would draw heavy international opposition by destroying any remaining hopes for Palestinian statehood and add fuel to calls that Israel is an apartheid state if millions of Palestinians are not granted citizenship.
Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem; territories the Palestinians seek for a future state.
Israel has built dozens of Jewish settlements that are home to around 500,000 Israelis who live alongside around 2.5 million Palestinians.
The White House National Security Council has noted that it does not “support policies that endanger the viability of a two-state solution or contradict our mutual interests and values.”
“We support policies that advance Israel’s security and regional integration, support a two-state solution, and lead to equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians,” it added.
Yair Lapid, the Outgoing Prime Minister who will now reassume the title of Opposition leader, told parliament that he was handing the new government “a country in excellent condition, with a strong economy, with improved defensive abilities and strong deterrence, with one of the best international standings ever.”
“Try not to destroy it. We’ll be back soon,” Lapid added.