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Israel's incoming government names new ministers

Hawkish Likud MP Yoav Gallant named as defence minister, while several far-right figures take key positions
Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends a session to elect the new speaker of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) at its Plenum Hall in Jerusalem on December 13, 2022 (AFP)
Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends a session to elect the new speaker of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) at its Plenum Hall in Jerusalem on 13 December 2022 (AFP)

Israel’s incoming government named people in more positions on Wednesday, including a hawkish new defence minister and far-right Jewish supremacists in key offices.

The coalition is set to be Israel's most right-wing administration in history, including MPs from the Likud party, far-right religious Zionist factions and ultra-Orthodox parties who together have 64 of the parliament's 120 seats.

Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Likud and Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, will head the new government coalition and return as premier.

Netanyahu appointed Likud MP and former head of the military's southern command Yoav Gallant as defence minister. Gallant was set to become the Israeli military's chief of staff in 2010 but a scandal around the construction of his home forced him to step aside and be replaced by Benny Gantz, who he is now, in turn, replacing as defence minister.

Likud's Eli Cohen and Yariv Levin have been appointed foreign and justice minister, respectively.

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Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich will be Israel’s new finance minister and responsible for governing the occupied West Bank through a new role created for him within the defence ministry.

Smotrich is a notorious racist, homophobe and Jewish ultra-nationalist. He is a staunch supporter of building illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian lands.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right leader of the Jewish Power party, becomes public security minister as expected. The agreement he signed with Netanyahu sees him take control of the border police, which is essentially an arm of the military that operates in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On Wednesday morning, Israeli President Isaac Herzog expressed "deep concern" over how the new government is perceived abroad and its commitment to a law expected to allow people to discriminate aginst Palestinian citizens and members of the LGBTQ+ community on religious grounds.

A raft of other far-right MPs from the Religious Zionism alliance have been named in key positions. Ofir Sofer becomes Aliyah and integration minister, charged with overseeing Jewish migration. Simcha Rothman chairs parliament's law and religious services committee. Orit Strock takes the new position of national missions minister. Michal Woldiger joins Smotrich in the finance ministry as a deputy minister. While Ohad Tal has been appointed chair of the national infrastructure projects and reforms committee.

Several Likud MPs have been handed roles. Haim Katz takes the tourism ministry and Yoav Kisch becomes education minister. Close Netanyahu ally Amir Ohana has been nominated as speaker of Israel's parliament, the Knesset.

More ministers are expected to be revealed throughout the day.

Notably, the government said on Wednesday: "The Jewish people have an exclusive and indisputable right to all areas of the Land of Israel.

"The government will promote and develop settlements in all parts of the Land of Israel in the Galilee, Negev, Golan, Judea and Samaria," it added, using the Israeli names for the occupied West Bank.

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