Work together or perish, Netanyahu tells new-born Cabinet

Prime minister calls on rival coalition politicians to put disagreements behind them, names Security Cabinet

The new Cabinet posing for a photo with President Shimon Peres, March 18. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
The new Cabinet posing for a photo with President Shimon Peres, March 18. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened his first Cabinet meeting Monday night, thanking coalition members in advance for their future support, and calling on them to put past disagreements aside.

“There are excellent people here, fit people, experienced people. The only way to be successful will be to work together, which I’m sure we will do,” he said. “The citizens of Israel are expecting us to work together and to show the results.”

Netanyahu told the 20 convened ministers, arriving at his bureau an hour after being sworn in at the Knesset, that he was honored to be leading the government for the third time. He said, however, that this time was different than the last two.

“I don’t remember a period more challenging from the point of all of the dangers gathered on the one side and the opportunities on the other,” he said. “I think we have the strength to answer all the challenges.”

During the meeting, the ministers approved the creation of Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet, which will be tasked with dealing with outside threats to Israel, such as Syria and Iran.

Beside Netanyahu, the Security Cabinet will have Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Ahronovitch, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Naftali Bennett and Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan.

They also approved a timetable for a new state budget, which will presented to the Knesset in 85 days.

After the meeting, Netanyahu made a joint appearance with Shimon Peres at the President’s residence where they toasted the new government.

Netanyahu said the Cabinet meeting had been productive.

“We work in difficult times, facing challenges in the economical, social, military arenas. But we shall do so in the spirit of collaboration, as there is no other way,” he said.

Peres said the new government was well outfitted and compared it to a “fresh breeze.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Shimon Peres at the President's Residence Monday night. (Screenshot: Knesset Channel)
Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Shimon Peres at the President’s Residence Monday night. (Screenshot: Knesset Channel)

“It is a government that has both veteran members and new faces, a government that has those with experience in government work and abilities in other, varied fields,” he said. “The responsibility on your shoulders, primarily on the Prime Minister, but on the whole government, on each and every one of you is great and the entire nation is watching you.”

Though Netanyahu’s Cabinet is outfitted with political supporters from his own Likud party, it also contains a number of rival politicians with histories of bad blood with the prime minister, and some who just a few days ago were engaged in a bitter battle over coalition positions.

Earlier in the day, both Jewish Home head Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid chief Yair Lapid seemed to make overtures toward patching things up after several weeks of heated battle with Netanyahu, throwing their support behind the prime minister and saying they would work for the good of those who don’t have a place at the table, notably the ultra-Orthodox.

Before the meeting, Bennett, a political freshman, said he was excited about the challenge of becoming Israel’s trade, labor and industry minister. “We will come to a situation in which the economy works for the public and the public doesn’t work for the economy,” he said.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who spent much of the last four years lambasting Netanyahu’s policies as opposition head, said that engaging the Palestinians in diplomacy, her other task, would be “complicated.” “We’ll find a way to advance the diplomatic process and I hope we’ll do well,” she said.

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