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Israel swears in new government
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09:20, April 01, 2009

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Israel's new government led by second-term Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was officially sworn in on Tuesday night.

In the last leg of a 7-hour-long special parliamentary session for the inauguration of the 32nd government, Netanyahu and his ministers took the podium one by one to take the oath of office and sign the official document.

Following the procedure, Netanyahu officially became prime minister 10 years after he left the Prime Minister's Office. He also serves as financial strategy minister, a supervising ministerial position in the Finance Ministry.

The new government contains 30 ministers and seven deputy ministers, marking one of the largest in Israel's 61-year history. As expected, Yisrael Beiteinu party chief Avigdor Lieberman became foreign minister, and Labor party chairman Ehud Barak remains as defense minister.

Incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the parliament at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 31, 2009. Netanyahu submitted his right-leaning government to parliamentary approval on Tuesday night.

Immediately before the swear-in, the 120-seat parliament ended hours of debate and voted 69 to 45 in favor of the new government, the result of a ruling coalition the Likud party chief pieced together after five weeks of inter-partisan bargaining.

Incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 31, 2009.

In addition to Likud, the 69-seat coalition consists of three other right-wing parties, namely Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas and Jewish Home, and a single left-wing party, Labor.

"Israel is facing two immense challenges on the economic and security fronts... I did my utmost to form a unity government at this time of emergency... It is my goal to unite all of the major political forces in the country," said Netanyahu at the start of the parliamentary session.

In light of the traditional hardline stance held by Israel's right-wing parties toward the peace process with the Palestinians, the rightist dominance in the new Israeli government has triggered widespread worries that progress would be elusive in the stalemated peace negotiations.

Yet Netanyahu on Tuesday repeated his recent pledges that his government will be committed to pursuing peace not only with the Palestinians but with the whole Arab world.

In her first round of fire as new opposition leader, Kadima party chairwoman Tzipi Livni blasted Netanyahu for splurging taxpayer money on such a bloated government.

"A big and lavish cabinet is wrong at a time of economic constraints. The public will have to carry the enormous weight of a bloated cabinet," she said.


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