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May 14, 2015 8:44 pm

Israel’s New Government Sworn in Amid Raucous Debate

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The Knesset. Photo: Wiki Commons. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new governing coalition was sworn in on Thursday evening amid a raucous Knesset session.

The Knesset voted 61-59 to approve Netanyahu’s fourth government after he worked until the last minute to finish appointing ministers from within his Likud party. Among those who received ministerial portfolios from Likud were Miri Regev, who becomes the culture and sport minister, Haim Katz, the new welfare minister, and Danny Danon, the new minister of science.

Netanyahu’s close ally, Yuval Steinitz, was put in charge of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission as energy minister and becomes a member of the security cabinet. Yisrael Katz replaces Steinitz as intelligence minister and also joins the security cabinet. Moshe Ya’alon will continue to serve as defense minister.

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Two senior members of Likud, Gilad Erdan and Silvan Shalom, had eyed the foreign minister position. Erdan turned down Netanyahu’s offer continuing his position as interior minister in hopes of gaining the foreign minister portfolio, causing some last-minute drama before Thursday’s vote. But the foreign minister position was left vacant by Netanyahu with the hope of possibly attracting opposition leader Isaac Herzog to join the government.

“I am leaving the door open to expanding the government for two reasons. The first: because I think the state needs it. And second: because this is the only way to amend this [political system],” Netanyahu said, the Times of Israel reported.

But Herzog called the new government a “circus,” saying it was “not the government the people wanted.”

Joint Arab List leader Ayman Odeh, meanwhile, said that a “black flag of racism flies over this government.”

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