Swearing in of Israel's government postponed, amid unhappiness over Cabinet roles

Benjamin Netanyahu (left) and Benny Gantz are partners in a joint administration. PHOTO: AFP

TEL AVIV (BLOOMBERG) - The swearing-in of Israel's long-awaited government was postponed on Thursday (May 14) after several officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party objected to Cabinet positions he wanted to assign them, a development in keeping with the political turmoil that has plagued the country for many months.

The ceremony, which was to have installed Israel's first permanent government since December 2018, has been postponed until Sunday, according to a statement by Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz, his prospective partner in a joint administration.

Israel was to finally install a government after an unprecedented period of political dysfunction.

Under his power-sharing agreement with Gantz, Netanyahu is to maintain his grip on power as the scheduled May 24 start date of his corruption trial approaches, and rule for the next 18 months. Gantz is to take over in November 2021.

Israel's political crisis has been closely linked to Netanyahu's legal troubles, because staying in power has been his No. 1 strategy to bolster his prospects in court.

Since he first disbanded parliament 17 months ago, Israel has been through three inconclusive elections that have been a referendum on his rule while under a legal cloud.

The political gridlock has stalled action on issues as consequential as passing a 2020 budget and how to proceed on his vow to annex West Bank land the Palestinians claim for a state.

The economic and policy toll of the endless election cycle has been exacerbated by the ravages of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 16,500 Israelis, killed over 260 and clobbered the economy.

Netanyahu has been charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

The prime minister, who claims he is a victim of leftists and journalists trying to hound him out of office because of his nationalist agenda, is accused of illicitly accepting gifts and scheming to influence legislation to benefit media moguls in exchange for favourable coverage.

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