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The New Arab

Israel swears in new parliament amid bitter divisions

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin mentioned Arabs, saying "there is nothing wrong in saying this" [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 April, 2019

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Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, addressing the 120 members of parliament at the swearing in ceremony, made a call for national unity after tumultuous elections.

Israel's parliament on Tuesday began swearing in members of the Knesset, the country's legislature, three weeks after a tumultuous national election, which has caused deep divisions in the country.

Forty-nine members of the new Knesset are newcomers to the parliament. 

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has tasked Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with forming the new government. He has 16 days to do so with the possibility of a 14 day extension.

Rivlin delivered a message of national unity to the 120 members of parliament ahead of the swearing in ceremony in Jerusalem on Tuesday, calling upon them "to fight for our common home where secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox, Jews and Arabs ... right and left can find themselves equal".

"Yes, they are called Arabs and there is nothing wrong in saying this," added Rivlin after saying "Arabs".

He urged them to "put down the cudgels of elections and to clean up the mess" after the "difficult election campaign" that saw Netanyahu prevail for a fourth consecutive term.

Netanyahu said in a Likud meeting Tuesday he was considering requesting a two-week extension for the formation of the new government, Haaretz reported.

The prime minister is expected to form a right-wing coalition with Kulanu, the Union of Right Wing Parties, Yisrael Beitenu and the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism.

Avigdor Lieberman of the hawkish Yisrael Beitenu party was the last to confirm his support for Netanyahu. Liberman, a far-right former defence minister, has previously called on Netanyahu to end the truce with Hamas and radically change policy towards the Gaza-based group as a condition to join any right-wing coalition.

Simultaneously, the long-serving premier faces an upcoming hearing over a battery of corruption allegations. The allegations against Netanyahu involve gifts such as pricey cigars and champagne, as well as securing positive media coverage in exchange for changes to existing regulations.

Netanyahu will most likely become Israel's longest-serving prime minister, surpassing David Ben-Gurion, the country's founding father.

Netanyahu issued a controversial pledge only three days before the election, saying he planned to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank should he win.

The Israeli ambassador to the UN said earlier this month this will not be enacted before the announcement of Trump's Middle East plan.

Secret cameras found in Palestinian polling stations on election day were blamed on Netanyahu's Likud party.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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