The new Israeli government will use Barack Obama’s visit to Yerushalayim this week as an opportunity “to show our gratitude to the American people”, said Binyamin Netanyahu before being sworn in for a third term as prime minister on Monday.
“Obama’s visit will be an opportunity to thank him,” Netanyahu said after warning that Israel faced “enormous threats” in the region and pledging to “guarantee the future of the Jewish people by guaranteeing the future of the state of Israel, the root of our existence”.
The government was sworn in almost eight weeks after the election on 22 January, and just two days before Obama is due to arrive in Israel for his first visit as president.
Complex negotiations over the composition of the coalition resulted in a government characterised as more centrist than its predecessor. However, it is still highly resistant to concessions to the Palestinians in order to reach a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict.
The defence minister, Moshe Ya’alon, said he opposed making any gestures to the Palestinians, such as a freeze on settlement construction or the release of prisoners, to encourage a return to talks. The conflict must be “managed” rather than brought to an end by the creation of a Palestinian state, he argued.
Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Jewish Home party and another key figure in the new government, has said there must never be a Palestinian state.
Avigdor Lieberman, who is expected to return as foreign minister if he is acquitted in his forthcoming fraud trial, reiterated his view that a peace deal was impossible and that anyone who believed otherwise was “delusional”.
Other key members of the government include former TV presenter Yair Lapid, the surprise star of January’s election, as finance minister, settlers’ champion Uri Ariel as housing minister, and Tzipi Livni, leader of the six-strong centrist Hatnua party, as justice minister.
The White House has been careful to set low expectations for Obama’s three-day visit, which starts on Wednesday, during which he will be accompanied by John Kerry, the new secretary of state.
Source: THE GUARDIAN