The Knesset held a vote of confidence on Sunday, May 17, giving support to the new government of far-right and racist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the leader of the opportunistic Blue & White, Benny Gantz. The vote was 73 MKs for and 46 against. The ruling coalition will comprise 73 lawmakers: 36 from the right-wing Likud; 1 (out of 4) from the ultra-chauvinistic and racist Jewish Home party; 15 MKs from the neo-liberal Blue & White; 9 from the ultra-Orthodox Shas and 7 from the similarly haredi United Torah Judaism parties; 2 (out of 3) MKs from the Labor party; 2 from the center-right Derech Eretz and 1 from Gesher.
The parliamentary opposition will be headed by the neo-liberal and chauvinistic former Finance Minister MK Yair Lapid with his Yesh Atid-Telem list of 16 legislators, which was formed in the wake of its split with Gantz’s Blue & White. The other opposition parties include the 15 lawmakers from the Joint List led by MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash); the 3 MKs from the Zionist left Meretz; a single Labor parliamentarian who refused to serve under Netanyahu; and the far-right Yisrael Beitenu party with 7 MKs.
Netanyahu presented his new government in the Knesset on Sunday and said, “It is time to extend Israeli sovereignty” to settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. “The time has come to apply Israeli law to [settlements] and to write another brilliant chapter in the history of Zionism,” Netanyahu crowed. “This step will not drive peace away, [but rather] will bring it closer, because peace can only be based only the truth. And we all know that hundreds of thousands of settlers in Judea and Samaria, our brothers and sisters, will remain forever in their places as part of any permanent peace settlement.”
Joint List lawmakers interrupted the premier’s speech repeatedly. “Bribery, fraud and breach of trust,” was heard as a refrain listing the charges against Netanyahu. The PM was formally indicted on these charges in three separate cases last November. His previously postponed trial will begin next Sunday, May 24.
“There will be no peace with occupation and apartheid,” interrupted Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) before being removed from the plenary after having been warned three times by the Knesset Speaker. Jabareen and MK Ofer Cassif (Hadash – Joint List) heckled Netanyahu, saying settlements were built on “the occupied land of another nation.” Responding to Netanyahu’s promise that the government would fight against Israel’s being brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC). “You are afraid of international justice,” heckled Jabareen, a law professor who received his doctorate in jurisprudence from Georgetown University.
The new opposition leader Lapid said, “Israelis deserve better than the largest and most wasteful government in the history of the country.” With 36 ministers and 16 deputy ministers and “fewer than 50 coronavirus patients on ventilators in Israel… we have more ministers and deputy ministers than patients on life support.”
MK Odeh attacked the new government that will ultimately have a combined total of 52 ministers and deputy ministers at a time when over 1 million workers in Israel have been laid off due to the COVID-19 crisis. “Gantz and Netanyahu’s new government of surrender is a slap in the face of the civilian majority that went to the polls time and time again to oust Netanyahu,” said the head of the Joint List during the plenum session. “The new government will legitimize annexation, occupation, exploitation, racism and corruption,” asserted Odeh. “We will lead the true opposition to this annexation government – during and after the Corona crisis. We call upon our citizens to take to the streets and fight against [the government].” On Monday morning, Odeh told Israeli radio, “We’ll do everything to shorten the life of this government, with the help of Yair Lapid and others.”
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said on Sunday, that “annexation is a great threat. It is prohibited under international law, and will undermine the rules-based international order.” The envoy warned that if Israel applies its laws to parts of the West Bank, “it will have legal, political and security implications that will be difficult to deal with, damage prospects for peace, and encourage radicalization on all sides.” “Annexation will also diminish the prospects for normalization of ties between Israel and Arab states,” stated the UN envoy.
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