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Netanyahu sworn into Israel's new parliament


Added 30th April 2019 08:09 PM

On April 17, President Reuven Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with building a government

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) is sworn in during a special parliamentary session at the Knesset in Jerusalem. AFP Photo

On April 17, President Reuven Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with building a government

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn into Israel's new parliament on Tuesday following his victory in April 9 elections and will seek to form a governing coalition in the days ahead.

Netanyahu was among the 120 members of the Knesset, or parliament, sworn in during an official ceremony.

Stormy sessions could be in store for lawmakers, as they work to resolve key religious and state issues, and await a possible proposal that would shield Netanyahu from prosecution.

The premier faces potential indictment in the months ahead on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

Netanyahu's Likud party won 35 seats in the election, the same as his main opponents from the centrist Blue and White alliance, led by ex-military chief Benny Gantz.

But support from smaller right-wing parties allied to Likud led to a majority of 65 lawmakers backing Netanyahu to remain as premier for a fifth term.

On April 17, President Reuven Rivlin tasked Netanyahu with building a government.

He has 28 days to do so, with a possible extension of a further two weeks.

Netanyahu said in remarks to party members on Tuesday ahead of his swearing in that tough negotiations meant he may have to request the two-week extension.

After being sworn in, Netanyahu, who faced criticism during the campaign for comments seen as demonising Israeli Arabs, said "we shall continue to act for the benefit of every Israeli citizen without exception."

"We live in a rough environment which does not cease to make noise," he said in a speech.

"The Arab spring -- that's what they call it -- has not brought an end to instability, which strikes not only at our region but broad swathes of territory around us."

Rivlin in his speech before the new parliament urged lawmakers to move past the divisive election campaign.

"We have disparaged and been disparaged. We have distorted. We have worked overtime in the service of delegitimization, hatred and execration," he said.

"Now, it's over. Enough. Time to climb up."

Immunity proposal

Netanyahu's support comes mainly from the nationalist right and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties.

Among issues likely to be tackled in the new parliament is the fierce debate over whether ultra-Orthodox Jews should perform mandatory military service.

The strengthening of the two ultra-Orthodox parties -- to a combined 16 seats, up from 13 in the outgoing parliament -- increased their clout and their opposition to the draft is central to their demands in the ongoing coalition negotiations.

Disagreement on the issue contributed to Israel holding early elections.

In addition, Netanyahu made a last-minute pledge ahead of the elections to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, a move that could end remaining hopes for a two-state solution if carried out on a large scale.

Beyond that, Netanyahu faces the prospect of becoming the first sitting prime minister to be indicted.

The attorney general has announced -- pending a hearing -- he intends to indict the premier for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Netanyahu is not required to resign if indicted, only if convicted with all appeals exhausted.

Bezalel Smotrich, a potential member of the premier's coalition, has said he wants to propose a law that would automatically shield lawmakers from prosecution, with a caveat that parliament would still be able to lift immunity in individual cases if a majority was in favour.

It is unclear whether the proposal will gain traction.

Netanyahu's outgoing government was considered the most right-wing in Israel's history and his next is expected to be at least as hawkish, if not more so.

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