It’s time to put all the differences aside and work together, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the members of his new government during their first meeting on Monday evening, shortly after they were sworn in at the Knesset.
"I'm excited. Nothing here is obvious and the responsibility is heavy," Netanyahu said at the beginning of the meeting.
"Of all the three terms for which I was elected to lead the State of Israel, I cannot remember a more challenging one in terms of the risks on one hand and the opportunities and the expectations of the citizens of Israel on the other hand."
"We can meet all challenges without exception,” said Netanyahu, “and we are cleaning the table, putting the differences aside and working together. There are great people here, both experienced as well as new ones, and we can work together only with cooperation and unity.”
"I want to thank you for your cooperation until now and from here on out," he concluded.
Just before the meeting, the Knesset approved the establishment of the government, with 68 MKs in favor and 48 against. Four MKs were either absent or abstained.
The 68 MKs are the full number of members in the plenum from Likud/Yisrael Beytenu, Bayit Yehudi, Yesh Atid, and Hatnua.
At the Knesset discussion prior to the vote, MKs from United Torah Judaism called out and interfered with a speech by Netanyahu as he introduced his new government in the Knesset.
As Netanyahu read off the names of his ministers, UTJ MKs got up and started yelling, with MK Yisrael Eichler telling Netanyahu that “Jews don't ban Jews” from the Knesset. Eichler was referring to demands by Yesh Atid that Netanyahu exclude hareidi parties as their price for joining the coalition.
The MKs then staged a walkout, returning only after Netanyahu had finished speaking and opposition leader Shelly Yechimovich, head of the Labor party, began speaking.
During her speech, Yechimovich promised that the opposition would be “tough but fair. We will be an opposition that will not give rest to the government and will not allow them to hurt those who voted for us, and for them,” she said.
With that, she said, the opposition will be “fair, respectful, issue oriented, patriotic, and one that will not fail to stand by the government and support it for all issues handled in a just and fair manner.” That included any deal Netanyahu cobbles out with the Palestinian Authority. If, she said, Netanyahu is able to reach such a deal and finds himself unable to pass it due to opposition in his government, he could count on Labor – and most of the opposition – to support it, she said.