The long-awaited swearing in of the Palestinian unity government was postponed to Sunday after it was scheduled for Thursday, at the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The unity government, in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival Benny Gantz would be sworn in on Thursday, was supposed to be sworn in after a year and a half of the longest political deadlock in Israel during which three inconclusive elections were held.
“Netanyahu asked Gantz to postpone the oath until Sunday to enable him to complete the distribution of the bags in the Likud, and Gantz agreed to that,” the Likud and Blue and White parties said in a joint statement.
The regular committee agreed to be sworn in next Sunday at 1:00 PM in the afternoon.
This government is the result of an agreement between Netanyahu and Gantz last month to continue for three years, whereby Netanyahu leads the government for 18 months and then relinquishes the position to Gantz, who will take the post for the same period, after which the country will go to new elections.
Ministerial portfolios will also be shared between political blocs from both sides.
The Prime Minister, who represents the Israeli right and has been in power since 2009 without interruption, announced in a message sent to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin late on Wednesday evening that he had finished forming the government.
The government deal represents a victory for Netanyahu, whose first court hearing is scheduled to start in three separate corruption cases in the last week of May.
Gantz’s replacement prime minister position in the first half of the government is new to Israeli politics.
The Israel Daily newspaper, loyal to Netanyahu, wrote Thursday in an opinion article, that the prime minister signed his “expiration date” after the longest period in the history of Israel in his post as prime minister.
The thirty-fifth Israeli government since the establishment of Israel in 1948 includes representatives from various political frameworks.
Accordingly, ministerial portfolios will be distributed among deputies in the left-wing Labor Party, Gantz’s centrist “Blue and White” coalition, the right-wing Likud party, and leaders of conservative and hard-line parties.
The journalist Ben Dror Yamini wrote in the newspaper “Yediot Aharonot” that the government coalition is “huge” and “extravagant” with 34 ministerial portfolios and could increase the number to 36.
“It is not clear whether the government has any ideology… It is all about seats,” Yamini added.
As the “biggest” government, and because it will increase financial spending because of the alternative prime minister position, the criticism has sparked criticism, especially as the country is facing rebuilding of an economy that has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Israel has counted more than 16,500 infections and 264 deaths from the emerging virus.
The decline in the number of new infections has resulted in the authorities reducing the preventive restrictions imposed on the population.
The unemployment prevalent in the country due to the epidemic is a source of concern to the authorities.
According to the principles of the political directives presented by Netanyahu on Wednesday, the new government will draw up a “plan out of the deep economic crisis”.
The US Middle East peace plan announced in late January supported the annexation of parts of the occupied West Bank, including settlements, by Israel.
More than 450,000 Israelis live on Palestinian land in a hundred settlements in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the year 1967.
The number of settlers in the occupied West Bank has increased by 50 percent over the past decade under Netanyahu.
The Palestinians flatly reject the US plan.
In a speech broadcast on Palestinian state television late on Wednesday, President Mahmoud Abbas again threatened to cancel the agreements signed with Israel and the United States.
“We will be free from all of these agreements and understandings if the Israeli government announces the annexation of any part of our occupied lands,” Abbas said.
Abbas blamed the US and Israeli governments for “all the dangerous consequences or consequences that follow”.
Under the Netanyahu-Gantz deal, the annexation process could go ahead from July 1.
Experts believe that this step will cause great risks at the international level, especially as international law considers the settlements illegal.
Netanyahu’s “guidelines” did not address annexation plans, but dealt with “strengthening national security and seeking peace”.
Among the surprises of the last moments before the formation of the government, the outgoing Minister of Defense and the leader of the right-wing Nationalist Party, Naftali Bennett, announced that he would join the opposition.
Bennett is seen as a staunch supporter of annexation and settlement expansion in the West Bank.
The defense portfolio in the new government will go to former chief of staff Benny Gantz, who resigned from his position as speaker of the Knesset on Tuesday after taking office nearly two months ago.
The former US ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, believes that Gantz and the new foreign minister, Gabi Ashkenazi, are “not enthusiastic” about the idea of annexation.
Shapiro told Agence France Presse the reservations expressed by the Israeli military leaders regarding the annexation step, for their fear of regional instability.
On the other hand, hundreds of Israelis demonstrated, Thursday, in front of the Israeli Knesset headquarters, in the occupied city of Jerusalem, against the formation of a prospective government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the leader of the “blue-white” party, Benny Gantz, according to local media.
The demonstrators reject Netanyahu’s presence at the head of the next government due to suspicions of corruption that haunt him; He faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, in 3 corruption cases, and they refuse to submit Gantz to Netanyahu and make a deal with him.
The Haaretz newspaper said on its website that at least 200 people demonstrated in front of the Knesset, chanting slogans against forming the new government.
The newspaper reported that a number of human rights organizations, including “Peace Now” and the “Quality Government Movement in Israel”, organized the demonstration.
The protesters held up banners reading: “Corrupt people remain corrupt”.