Palestinians have denounced Benjamin Netanyahu’s swearing-in as Israel's prime minister in a comeback at the head of the Tel Aviv regime’s most far-right cabinet in history, which has promised to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and pursue other anti-Palestinian policies.
Netanyahu, 73, who is facing corruption charges in court, told the parliament, Knesset, that his top goal would be to thwart Iran's nuclear program and “ensure Israel's military superiority in the region.”
He also voiced hopes of expanding the circle of normalization with Arab countries following US-brokered agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.
Opponents heckled him with chants of "Weak! Weak!". They said Netanyahu had to make costly deals to secure new partners after centrist parties boycotted him over his legal woes.
The parliament voted to approve his cabinet and elected former minister Amir Ohana as the Knesset's speaker.
Former Israeli intelligence minister Eli Cohen, an architect of the so-called Abraham Accords, was named as foreign minister.
Moreover, Israel's new minister of military affairs Yoav Galant is a former general, a staunch ally of Netanyahu and a vocal advocate of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu was ousted in June 2021 by a motley coalition of leftists, centrists and Arab parties headed by right-winger Naftali Bennett and former TV news anchor Yair Lapid. It didn't take him long to come back.
Following his November 1 election win, Netanyahu entered into talks with ultra-Orthodox and extreme-right parties.
His allies include the Religious Zionism formation and Jewish Power Party, whose leaders Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir oppose Palestinian statehood and both have a history of inflammatory remarks about Palestinians.
Smotrich will now take charge of Israeli settlement expansion policies in the West Bank, and Ben-Gvir will be the national security minister with powers over the police, which also operate in the occupied territories since 1967.
Senior security officials have already voiced concern over the new Israeli administration’s direction, as have Palestinians.
Smotrich and Ben-Gvir “have a very strong thirst for power,” and their priority remains the expansion of West Bank settlements, Denis Charbit, professor of political science at Israel's Open University, said.
The cabinet is the result of “Netanyahu's political weakness, linked to his age and his trial,” Charbit added.
Netanyahu's conservative Likud party said in its guidelines for the new Israeli administration that it would “promote and develop settlements.”
“These guidelines constitute a dangerous escalation and will have repercussions for the region,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said.
Abbas has criticized Netayahu’s cabinet, saying its “motto is extremism and apartheid.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh also voiced his disapproval of Israel’s administration.
“This cabinet is the most extremist, the most threatening, and the most insolent. I know for a fact that the international community will not deal with many members of this administration, therefore to us, we are against all the cabinets that practice killing and oppression on our people,” Shtayyeh said during a rally in the occupied central West Bank city of Ramallah.
Moreover, the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement expressed its dismay with Israel's new administration.
“It is clear that a cabinet that is led by Netanyahu and include Smotrich and Ben Gvir as members, will surely create policies that are far more provocative, it is tampering with explosives detonators, whether through trying to change the status quo of al-Aqsa Mosque or the settlement craze that started showing, or the aggression on prisoners,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said.
“This administration has created a wide opportunity for a massive escalation on the ground, on all fields, and we in Hamas, clearly warn against these policies that provoke the Palestinian people, and create an explosion detonator,” he pointed out.