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Israel swears in new Netanyahu-Gantz unity government

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a swearing-in ceremony of his new unity government with election rival Benny Gantz, at the Knesset, Israel's parliament on Sunday. Photo by Adina Valman/Knesset spokespersons' office/UPI
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a swearing-in ceremony of his new unity government with election rival Benny Gantz, at the Knesset, Israel's parliament on Sunday. Photo by Adina Valman/Knesset spokespersons' office/UPI | License Photo

May 17 (UPI) -- Israel's parliament on Sunday swore in a new government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political rival Benny Gantz, ending a cycle of political deadlock that lasted more than a year.

The legislative body known as the Knesset voted 73-46 in favor of the new government, swearing in 32 new ministers as part of the 73-person coalition government and cementing a deal that will see Netanyahu serve a fifth term as prime minister.

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Gantz was sworn in as "alternate prime minister and future prime minister" as well as minister of defense as Netanyahu pledged to fulfill the deal that would see Gantz take on the prime minister role in 2021.

"We established the precise terms under which our agreement will be fulfilled and will not be fulfilled," said Netanyahu. "I will fulfill exactly, but exactly, what is written in the agreement. It is my intention and my goal to do so. And there is no reason for me to say anything to you but, yes, that's what we will do."

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The government consists of 73 lawmakers including 35 from Netanyahu's Likud Party, 16 from Gantz' Blue and White Party, with others from smaller parties.

Gantz cited his "national responsibility" as the driving force behind his decision to enter the agreement with Netanyahu and avoid a fourth election after the two repeatedly failed to form a government.

"The people told us to stop fighting and start working for them," he said.

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Netanyahu warned a fourth round of elections would have threatened to hinder the government's response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, which he described as "the first mission" for the new government.

"So long as the virus is here and there is no vaccine, it can come back overnight," he said of the coronavirus.

Further, Netanyahu said the government would seek to pass a state budget to revive the countries economy and focus on combatting Iran.

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He also described the war crimes probe in the International Criminal court as a "troubling development" while adding he intends to quickly bring the issue of West Bank annexation to the cabinet.

Netanyahu also faces a trial for suspected bribery, fraud and breach of trust, which some opponents said should prevent him from holding the position of prime minister, which is set to begin on May 24.

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