Israel swears in new govt led by hardliner Naftali Bennett, ending Netanyahu’s 12-year rule

News Network
June 14, 2021

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Tel Aviv, June 14: Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as Israeli prime minister has come to an end, as the country’s parliament on Sunday approved a new coalition government led by right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennett.

Bennett, the head of an ultranationalist party that controls six seats in the 120-seat Knesset, was sworn in as prime minister after the parliament backed the new coalition government by a razor-thin margin of 60 votes to 59.

Bennett will lead an unlikely alliance of left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties, as well as a party that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel, who account for 21 percent of the country’s population. The parties have little in common apart from a desire to unseat Netanyahu.

Under a rotational agreement, Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years, after which he will be replaced by centrist leader Yair Lapid, the chief architect of the new government.

They plan largely to avoid sweeping moves on issues such as policy towards Palestinians in the occupied territories while they focus on domestic reforms. But with little to no prospect of resuming any sort of fair peace negotiations, many Palestinians are unmoved by the change of administration, saying Bennett will likely pursue the same right-wing agenda as Netanyahu.

Senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara, described the event as a “family feud”, saying that there are no ideological differences between the old and new prime minister.

“They are basically all belonging to the same right-wing Zionist family,” Bishara said, referring to Netanyahu and Bennett.

The differences between them have been personal, vindictive,” he said.

End of an era

Netanyahu, who served for 12 years as prime minister, sat silently during the vote on Sunday. After the new government was approved, he stood up to leave the chamber, before turning around and shaking Bennett’s hand. A dejected Netanyahu, wearing a black medical mask, then briefly sat in the opposition leader’s chair before walking out.

Netanyahu, the most dominant Israeli politician of his generation, failed to form a government after Israel’s March 23 election, its fourth in two years.

The 71-year-old is loved by his hard-core supporters and loathed by critics. His ongoing corruption trial, on charges he denies, has only deepened the chasm.

He remains the head of the largest party in parliament and is expected to vigorously oppose the new government. If just one faction bolts, it could lose its majority and would be at risk of collapse, giving Netanyahu an opening to return to power.

His opponents have long reviled what they see as Netanyahu’s divisive rhetoric, underhanded political tactics and subjection of state interests to his political survival.

The country’s deep divisions were on vivid display earlier on Sunday as Bennett, a former settler leader and hard-right religious nationalist who has called for the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank, addressed parliament ahead of the vote.

He was repeatedly interrupted and loudly heckled by supporters of Netanyahu, several of whom were escorted out of the chamber.

More anti-Iran rhetoric

Bennett’s speech mostly dwelled on domestic issues, but he expressed opposition to efforts by the United States to revive Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

“Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons,” Bennett said, vowing to maintain Netanyahu’s confrontational policy. “Israel will not be a party to the agreement and will continue to preserve full freedom of action.”

Bennett nevertheless thanked President Joe Biden and the US for its decades of support for Israel.

Netanyahu, speaking after him, promised to return to power and predicted the incoming government would be weak on Iran and give in to US demands to make concessions to the Palestinians.

“If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country in our way,” he said.

Both Netanyahu and Bennett’s remarks did not mention the plight of millions of Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. 

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News Network
July 31,2021

Shillong, July 31: Senior BJP leader and minister in the Meghalaya government Sanbor Shullai encouraged the people of the state to eat more beef than chicken, mutton and fish, dispelling the apprehension that his party was against it.

Shullai, who was sworn in as a cabinet minister last week, said everybody was free to eat whatever they want in a democratic country.

"I encourage the people to eat more beef than chicken, mutton or fish. By encouraging people to eat more beef, the perception that BJP will impose a ban on cow slaughter will be dispelled," he told reporters on Friday.

Shullai, who is the Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Minister, also assured that he would speak to Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to ensure that cattle transportation to Meghalaya was not affected by the new cow legislation in the neighbouring state.

On the vexed boundary dispute between Meghalaya and Assam, the three-term legislator said it was high time the state utilise its police force to protect the border and its people.

"If the people of Assam keep on harassing our people in the border area, time has come not only to talk and drink tea... We have to react, we have to act on the spot itself," he said.

He, however, clarified that he was not pro-violence.

"We should have the spirit to protect our people, we have to utilise our force -- the police should go to the front to talk with the Assam Police."

Lauding the Mizoram Police for "standing up to protect" its land and people, the BJP minister criticised the Meghalaya Police who are always "seen at the backfoot" when it comes to protecting border residents.

"We have seen from time to time -- the police are behind and the civilians are at the fore-front. The higher-ups should give orders that police should be in the front to protect the people," he said.

"If enemies come to your house, attack you and your wife and children, you also have to attack in self defense. The same thing should be done at our borders... If your enemy comes to your house to steal or rob your house, you have to protect yourself, whether it is legal or illegal, you have to protect," Shullai asserted.

He said the issue of border dispute has been pending for a long and needs to be resolved at the earliest.

"Many political parties have given commitments in their manifestos that if they come to power they will resolve the issue -- but it's more than 50 years, no party could resolve it. So, we have to do a post-mortem of the problem here," he said.

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News Network
July 25,2021

Lucknow, July 25: The BJP was left red-faced when one of its own legislators sought to dismiss the NDA government's claim that no deaths were caused by shortage of oxygen in the country.

Shyam Prakash, BJP MLA from Gopamau seat in Uttar Pradesh's Hardoi district, said that hundreds had died owing to the shortage of oxygen when the second wave of Covid-19 was ravaging the country.

''Hundreds died owing to oxygen shortage....no one feels the pain and anguish of MLA Raj Kumar Agarwal and lakhs others,'' Shyam Prakash wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday.

Agarwal, who was also a BJP MLA from Hardoi, lost his son to Covid-19 a few months back. Agarwal had then alleged that the hospital where his son was admitted ran out of oxygen, which led to his son's death. He had also lodged a complaint with the police in that regard.

Union Minister of State for Health Dr Bharti Praveen Pawar had a few days back said in a written reply in the Parliament that no deaths due to shortage of oxygen had been specifically reported by the states and UTs.

The statement triggered sharp reactions from the opposition parties.

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News Network
July 21,2021

New Delhi, July 21: The Covid-19 death toll in Maharashtra catapulted by a record 3,656 on Tuesday as the state revised the toll figures as part of the reconciliation process on the Covid portal. 

India's 3,998 daily deaths on Wednesday were largely attributed to this updard revision. The country also saw over 42,000 new Covid cases.

Maharashtra reported 147 single-day deaths on Tuesday and 3,509 old deaths were added to the day's toll, pushing the total number of deaths to 1,30,753. 

Similarly, during the day 6,910 fresh cases were reported and 2,479 cases were added, pushing the progressive total to 62,29,596. 

The total active cases in the state now stand at 94,593. 

According to the  Public Health Department, the reconciliation of the positive Covid cases and deaths has been completed up to July 10 and July 12, respectively. 

“Due to updation of previous cases and deaths by the concerned districts, the positive case tally of the state has increased by 2,479 while there is an increase of 3,509 deaths in the state's cumulative tally,” the Public Health Department said.

During updation of cases and deaths due to de-duplication and change as per residential address of cases, there is either addition or deletion of cases and deaths in some of the districts.

During the day, 7,510 patients were discharged taking the progressive total of recovered patients to 60,00,911. The recovery rate in the state is 96.33 per cent, while the case fatality rate in the state is 2.09 per cent.

Among the 4,58,46,165 laboratory samples collected so far, 62,29,596 have tested positive (13.59 per cent) for Covid-19 until date.

Currently, 5,60,354 people are in home quarantine and 3,977 people are in institutional quarantine.

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