Israel’s New Unity Government

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, started the swearing-in ceremony of Israel’s new parliament on Sunday with a speech that hailed the formation of the unity government.

He sought to justify a government including 35 ministers saying:

“If we would have gone to another election, it would have been the real waste.
It is no wonder most of the public welcomes the unity government.
The public wants a unity government, and that is what it is getting.”

Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018
Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018

He also acknowledged that three consecutive elections which were inconclusive and required an interim government to operate for more than 500 days, “deepened the polarization in our nation.”

The justification was made necessary by a wave of criticism of the size of the new government. The Times of Israel published a review of media comments which included statements such as:

“The closer it got to the swearing in, the 35th government
just became more wasteful and distended.”

And one observer estimated that the ministries which have been ‘invented’ or are considered ‘unnecessary’ will cost Israeli taxpayers NIS 1 billion a year.

Nevertheless, some world leaders congratulated Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz on the formation of the new government after the Knesset voted its approval by 73 votes in favour and 46 against.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, posted congratulations in Hebrew on his Twitter account, saying:

“I look forward to continuing our close co-operation with the new government
and strengthening the strategic partnership between India and Israel.”

While Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, sent a telegram saying:

“I hope that your new government will continue the policy towards the development
of friendly ties and mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries.”

Overall, it seems that many people in Israel are grateful to have a confirmed government again, after such a long period of political deadlock. It includes several firsts for the Jewish state, including the first hijab-wearing member of the Knesset and the first Ethiopian-born female minister.

Pnina Tamano-Shata Pnina Tamano-Shata at a conference in 2020 (photo: Flash 90/Avshalom Shoshani)

Attorney and former journalist Pnina Tamano-Shata is also the first female Ethiopian member of the Knesset. She immigrated to Israel at the age of three with her family via the Mossad airlift Operation Moses.