Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn in as Israeli prime minister and head of a 30-member Cabinet, the largest in Israel’s history.
The Knesset approved by a 69-45 vote Netanyahu’s coalition, which includes his Likud Party, the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu, the ultra-Orthodox Shas and a small religious faction, as well as the center-left Labor Party of defense minister Ehud Barak, who will maintain his post. Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beitenu, was sworn in as Israel’s new foreign minister.
In his address to the Knesset, the 59-year-old Netanyahu said the biggest threat Israel faced was the possibility of “a radical regime armed with nuclear weapons” – a reference to Iran. “It is shameful that decades after the Holocaust, calls by Iranian leaders to destroy Israel are greeted with indifference by the world,” he declared. “Contrary to what happened during the last century, today we have the means to defend ourselves.”
The Likud leader also said peace with the Palestinians was possible, while making no mention of a future Palestinian state. “We will carry out peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority with a view to reaching a final accord. Under the final accord, the Palestinians will have all the rights to govern themselves except those that can put in danger the security and existence of the state of Israel,” Netanyahu to the Israeli parliament in his investiture speech.
It will be Netanyahu’s second stint as prime minister, following his premiership in from 1996 to 1999. He succeeds Ehud Olmert, who resigned last year following allegations of corruption and embezzlement.