Netanyahu hits first crisis over cabinet line-up

Israel's new Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, broke all records last night by presenting his government to parliament only 18 days after his election was confirmed.

The 120-seat parliament approved his Likud-led coalition of right-wingers, rabbis, settlers and former generals by 62 votes to 50.

However, Mr Netanyahu walked straight into a cabinet crisis when two of his Likud party heavyweights, the former defence minister, Ariel Sharon, and the former foreign minister, David Levy, were absent from the initial cabinet list and boycotted the session of the Knesset.

Mr Netanyahu headed off a last-minute coalition crisis by creating a cabinet post for Mr Sharon, a right-wing former general, and by appointing Mr Levy as Foreign Minister.

Although Mr Sharon boycotted the swearing in session in the Knesset, political commentators expected that he would join the government. Mr Levy returned to the post he held in the last Likud administration.

Once he was denied the defence ministry, Mr Sharon demanded finance, another china shop which Mr Netanyahu was determined to exclude him from. The job went to the former justice minister, Dan Meridor.

But Mr Netanyahu has created the post of National Infrastructure Minister, which is expected to go to Mr Sharon, the architect of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the driving force behind settlement in the 1980's and early 1990's.

Mr Sharon's inclusion in the 18-member cabinet would raise Arab hackles and displease Washington, which frowns on Jewish settlements.

Mr Levy earlier threw MPs into disarray when he refused to accept the post of Foreign Minister until the Prime Minister allocated Mr Sharon a senior portfolio.

Mr Sharon's original omission from the top cabinet ranks ("unthinkable", in Mr Levy's words) was clumsy and ungracious as it was the burly old warrior who persuaded Mr Levy and another right-wing maverick, Rafael Eitan, to withdraw from the prime ministerial race, leaving Mr Netanyahu a clear run against the Labour Party's candidate, Shimon Peres. Mr Sharon also brokered the deal that won the Likud candidate the crucial votes of the ultra- Orthodox.

Building a coalition of six right-wing, religious, ethnic and centrist parties has proved a crash course in the realities of Israeli politics for the 46-year-old Mr Netanyahu who had never been more than a deputy minister. The coalition parties, including his own Likud, all have their separate aspirations, interests and constituencies.

Mr Netanyahu chose Yitzhak Mordechai, another former general, as Defence Minister. The stolid and popular Mr Mordechai is a political novice. Unlike Mr Sharon, he can be relied on not to make waves.

In his inaugural speech last night, Mr Netanyahu pledged to continue the search for peace with Israel's neighbours. He appealed to the leaders of Syria, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia to negotiate without conditions. But the new government's manifesto was condemned by the Palestinians and the Syrians. Mahmoud Abbas, the chief Palestinian negotiator in talks on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza, said Mr Netanyahu's positions "contradict the spirit of peace." They were, he said, "uncompromising and stubborn".

The Netanyahu government said it undertook to "negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, with the intent of reaching a permanent arrangement, on the condition that the Palestinians fulfil all their commitments fully." This gives Mr Netanyahu an escape hatch if he does not like the way the negotiations are leading, as neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have fulfilled all their commitments.

But, Mr Netanyahu rules out a Palestinian state, or a Jordanian-Palestinian federation. He is offering the Palestinians only "an arrangement whereby they will be able to conduct their lives freely within the framework of self-government".

The new government also rejects a "right of return of Arab populations to any part of the Land of Israel west of the Jordan river". This condemnshundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees outside the West Bank and Gaza to permanent exile. On Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu asserts that the city will "remain forever under Israel's sovereignty".

The guidelines make no mention of Hebron, the last West Bank town under Israeli occupation, which Israel was supposed to evacuate in March. However, they talk of strengthening and retaining Jewish settlements on the West Bank.

On the Syrian front, the incoming Government says it "views the Golan Heights as essential to the security of the state and its water resources". It adds: "Retaining Israeli sovereignty over the Golan will be the basis for an arrangement with Syria."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions