Israel government swearing-in delayed a day by Pompeo visit

JERUSALEM (AFP): The swearing-in of Israel’s new unity government has been postponed by one day to Thursday due to the upcoming visit of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, officials said.

A parliament spokesman said Monday the joint administration of incumbent premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his former rival Benny Gantz would be inaugurated on Thursday instead of Wednesday.

A spokesman for Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party told AFP the delay was “because of the visit” of the US top diplomat on Wednesday.

Pompeo’s trip comes as US President Donald Trump’s administration gives its blessing to Netanyahu’s plans to annex much of the occupied West Bank, despite warnings from the Palestinians that the move will kill the prospects of a long-term peace agreement.

Israel’s new government is the result of a deal allowing Netanyahu to continue on as prime minister for another 18 months, before the former military chief Gantz takes over the post for the same period.

The proposed government had been challenged in the high court, with opponents arguing Netanyahu is ineligible due to corruption indictments he faces.

But the judges ruled there was no legal reason to prevent him from serving as prime minister.

Netanyahu has secured the participation of Gantz and his center-left allies in his coalition along with the ultra-Orthodox parties.

But the six-member right-wing Yemina has so far refused to join over what it criticizes as the emerging “left-wing” nature of the incoming government.

Pompeo’s visit will give Netanyahu another day to attempt to bring Yemina into the coalition.