Netanyahu sworn in as Israeli prime minister

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn into office Thursday, taking the helm of the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu took the oath of office moments after parliament passed a vote of confidence in his new government. His return marks his sixth term in office, continuing his more than decade-long dominance over Israeli politics.

His new government has pledged to prioritize settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, extend subsidies to his ultra-Orthodox allies and push for sweeping reform of the judicial system. 

Netanyahu is the country's longest-serving prime minister, having held office from 2009 until 2021 and a stint in the 1990s. He was ousted from office last year after four deadlocked elections by a coalition of eight parties solely united in their opposition to his rule.

Despite his political comeback, he remains on trial for charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in three corruption cases. He denies all charges against him, saying he is the victim of a witch hunt orchestrated by hostile media, police and prosecutors.

The diverse yet fragile coalition that toppled Netanyahu collapsed in June, and Netanyahu and his ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies secured a clear parliamentary majority in November's election.

“I hear the constant cries of the opposition about the end of the country and democracy," said Netanyahu after taking the podium in parliament ahead of the government's formal swearing-in on Thursday afternoon. 

"Opposition members: to lose in elections is not the end of democracy, this is the essence of democracy,” he said.

Netanyahu's government platform says that “the Jewish people have exclusive and indisputable rights” over the entirety of Israel and the Palestinian territories and promises to advance settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. Netanyahu's previous administrations have been strong proponents of Israel's West Bank settlement.

Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — territories the Palestinians seek for a future state. Israel has constructed dozens of Jewish settlements that are home to around 500,000 Israelis who live alongside around 2.5 million Palestinians.

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