JERUSALEM — Israel’s new government was sworn in on Thursday, returning Benjamin Netanyahu to power at the head of a right-wing and religiously conservative administration that represents a significant challenge for the country on the world stage.
Mr. Netanyahu’s governing coalition will likely test Israel’s ties and standing with the United States and Europe, amid fears that his coalition partners will undermine the country’s liberal democracy and its stability. Mr. Netanyahu spoke to those concerns in a speech in Parliament before a vote of confidence and the swearing-in ceremony for his ministers.
“There is a broad consensus among us about most of the challenges we face, though certainly not about all of them,” he said. “I hear the constant lamentations of the opposition about ‘the country being over’ and ‘the end of democracy’. Members of the opposition, losing in elections is not the end of democracy — it is the essence of democracy.”
The makeup of Mr. Netanyahu’s government and the policies it has pledged to pursue have raised concerns about increased tensions with Palestinians, the undermining of the country’s judicial independence and fears about the rolling back of protections for the L.G.B.T.Q. community and other sectors of society.
Mr. Netanyahu’s return as prime minister for a sixth time comes at a critical moment for Israel as it faces fundamental challenges: Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear weapons; growing international criticism stemming from the yearslong hiatus in peace talks with the Palestinians; and a global tide of antisemitism.
The coalition has been clear in its manifesto — hammered out in different agreements with the various parties as key ministries were handed out — about what it intends to do.
It has declared the Jewish people’s “exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel” and pledged to bolster Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank — an explicit abandonment of the internationally recognized formula for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The new administration is also pressing for a contentious overhaul of the judiciary that Mr. Netanyahu, who is currently on trial on corruption charges, and his supporters say will restore the proper balance between the branches of government. Critics say the move would curb the power and influence of the independent judiciary, damaging Israel’s democratic system and leaving minorities more vulnerable in a country that lacks a formal constitution.