Israel swears in newly elected parliament in surreal event

Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 March 2020

Israel swears in newly elected parliament in surreal event

  • After Netanyahu and Gantz were sworn in, they were ushered out of the hall and the lawmakers were brought in three-by-three for brief swearing-in ceremonies

JERUSALEM: Israel swore in its newly elected parliament on Monday in a surreal ceremony.
Instead of the typical festive gathering of parliament’s 120, the new lawmakers took the oath of office in groups of three over 40 staggered rounds, in keeping with a Health Ministry ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin presided over the unusual event after the Israeli Knesset, or Parliament, was thoroughly sprayed with disinfectant.
The president, flanked by the Knesset speaker and secretary, opened the first session of parliament before an empty chamber save for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz. They sat several rows apart and made little eye contact.
Rivlin called for unity and compromise from the two leaders, saying the Israeli people “are in need of rest, we are in need of healing” after three parliamentary elections in under a year.

HIGHLIGHT

The president opened the first session of parliament before an empty chamber save for PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz.

After Netanyahu and Gantz were sworn in, they were ushered out of the hall and the lawmakers were brought in three-by-three for brief swearing-in ceremonies.
The event, coming two weeks after national elections, will give the country a new legislature. But Israel still seems a long way from establishing a stable government.
Rivlin on Monday formally designated Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, the task of forming a coalition after the retired military chief secured a slim majority of recommendations from incoming lawmakers.
Gantz promised to “do whatever it takes to form within as few days as possible a national, patriotic and broad government.”
But beyond a joint desire to oust the longtime prime minister, Gantz’s bloc of supporters has little in common. It is deeply divided along ideological lines and appears unlikely to band together for an alternative government that could replace Netanyahu, who faces serious legal troubles as he prepares to go on trial to face corruption charges.
Gantz’s Blue and White party submitted three bills to parliament on Monday that seek to oust Netanyahu from office.


US blasts Houthis over ‘ticking time bomb’ tanker in Red Sea

Updated 10 August 2020

US blasts Houthis over ‘ticking time bomb’ tanker in Red Sea

  • Iran-backed militias renege on agreement to allow UN inspectors aboard stricken vessel holding 1.4 million barrels of oil

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The US blasted Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen on Sunday for reneging on a deal to allow UN teams to board a rusting oil storage vessel that threatens an environmental disaster in the Red Sea.

The FSO Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. It fell into Houthi hands in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around the port city of Hodeidah.

The Houthis briefly bowed to pressure last month and agreed to allow a team of UN engineers to visit the ship, before changing their minds and restating their previous demands for the revenue from the oil. As the vessel’s condition deteriorates there are fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out.

“The Houthis have failed to follow through on their agreement to allow a UN team on to the Safer,” the White House National Security Council said on Sunday.

“They are courting environmental and humanitarian disaster by obstructing and delaying. For the good of Yemen and the region, the Houthis must allow the UN aboard the Safer.”

A recent water leak into the tanker’s engine prompted warnings of a major disaster.

“The time has come for a resolute response for an outcome,” the Yemen Embassy in Washington said on Sunday. 

“There cannot be more delays or deliberations. UN inspectors must immediately access and assess the Safer oil tanker even without Houthi permission.”

The UK echoed its concerns. “There is another floating disaster off the Yemeni coast with potentially as massive an ecological footprint as the shockwave that engulfed Beirut,” former Middle East minister Alistair Burt said. “The politics preventing safe evacuation of the oil must stop immediately.”