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Netanyahu takes office as Israeli PM

Netanyahu takes office as Israeli PM
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Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn in as Israeli Prime Minister after winning parliamentary approval for his right-leaning government.

In a speech introducing his cabinet, Netanyahu assured Palestinians that peace with Israel was possible. His rival, Kadima leader Tzipi Livni, looked on as she contemplated a life in opposition. Labour veteran Ehud Barak will keep his job as Defence Minister in the coalition cabinet, the largest in Israel’s political history. The appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as foreign minister is one of the most controversial. A hardline ultranationalist, his past policies towards Israeli Arabs have stoked international concern. Tensions over Gaza, the West Bank and Iran’s nuclear policy are likely to dominate the new government’s agenda, according to experts. Netanyahu made no explicit mention of a two-state solution to the Palestinian issue – a course of action likely to set him on a collision course with Washington and the EU, which both back the idea. He has said he wants to focus negotiations on shoring up the Palestinian economy in the West Bank rather than on territorial issues that have blocked progress towards a settlement.