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Netanyahu's hard-line new government takes office in Israel

The most religious and hard-line government in Israel's history has been sworn in.

Benjamin Netanyahu returns as prime minister, after his Likud party formed a coalition with ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies.

There is domestic and international concern it will inflame the conflict with the Palestinians, damage the judiciary and restrict minority rights.

Mr Netanyahu has promised to pursue peace and safeguard civil rights.

Addressing a special session of the Knesset (parliament) in Jerusalem, he stated that his administration would "restore governance, peace and personal security to the citizens of Israel".

"I hear the opposition's constant laments about 'the end of the state', 'the end of democracy', members of the opposition, losing the elections is not the end of democracy - this is the essence of democracy."

Mr Netanyahu was heckled by his opponents, some of whom chanted "weak".

They suggest he has been forced to sign deals with hard-line parties because more liberal ones refuse to sit in government with him while he is on trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing.

Several hundred protesters meanwhile gathered outside, waving Israeli flags, rainbow flags bearing the Star of David, and signs reading "shame", "danger" and "down with racism".


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