Jerusalem, May 14 (efe-epa).- The swearing-in of a new government was postponed Thursday at the last minute, meaning that Israelis will have to wait a few more days for the resolution of a political stalemate that has paralyzed the country for more than a year.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to put off the ceremony for a second time – it was originally scheduled for Wednesday – by disputes within his own right-wing Likud party over the distribution of Cabinet posts.
After months leading a caretaker government, Netanyahu, the longest-serving premier in the country’s history, was to formally begin his fourth consecutive term and fifth overall after a vote of confidence in parliament Thursday night.
Netanyahu, who faces a trial on corruption charges this month, is to take the reins for a period of 18 months before stepping down in favor of Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White Alliance, under the terms of a coalition pact the two men worked out after three elections in the space of a year failed to return a clear result.
Forging that deal was an arduous process, involving changes to Israel’s Basic Law to accommodate the unusual governing arrangement.
But everything appeared to be in place for the new government to take office Thursday until Netanyahu called for yet another delay.
At the last minute, according to Israeli daily Haaretz, Likud lawmakers Avi Dichter and Tzachi Hanegbi decided to boycott the parliamentary session because Netanyahu failed to offer them positions in what will be the country’s largest-ever Cabinet, with as many as 36 ministers.
The emergency government will primarily focus for the first six months on the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying economic crisis, with the exception of the issue of advancing plans to annex portions of the West Bank.
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Israel on Wednesday to voice Washington’s support for the new government.
Gantz had vowed not to serve alongside the indicted Netanyahu, but agreed eventually, saying that Israel needed political stability to deal with the Covid-19 crisis, and the former army chief of staff is to hold the posts of deputy premier and defense minister for the first 18 months of the new administration.
Israeli authorities have reported 16,000 confirmed cases of the disease, with the country’s death toll standing at 264.
Netanyahu is supposed to go on trial this month on charges he traded political favors for positive press coverage and expensive gifts. EFE jma-lfp/smq/rb-dr