Israeli President Isaac Herzog asked Benjamin Netanyahu a form a new government on Sunday, allowing the former prime minister to secure the country’s top job for the sixth time and extend his record as the country’s longest-serving leader.
Netanyahu, who served for 12 years as prime minister before losing office in 2021, was recommended by party leaders representing more than half of the 120 members of Israel’s parliament, or Knesset, after the president concluded a political consultation with them.
“The citizens of Israel require a stable and functioning government,” he said in remarks after the closed-door meeting with Netanyahu. “A government that serves all the citizens of Israel, both those who supported and voted for it and those who opposed its establishment; a government that works on behalf of and for the good of all shades of the Israeli mosaic, of all communities, sectors, creeds, religions, lifestyles, beliefs and values, and that treats them all with sensitivity and responsibility.”
“Please, God, it will be a stable, successful and responsible government for all the people of Israel,” Netanyahu said, speaking alongside Herzog. “We are brothers and we will live together side by side.”
Israelis voted on November 1 for the fifth time in four years to break the political deadlock in the country.
Netanyahu’s Likud party has the most Knesset seats, and the former prime minister will have 28 days to form a coalition government, with the possibility of a two-week extension.
But Netanyahu is not in for an easy ride: he is now likely to lead an increasingly polarized and possibly one of the most right-wing governments in the history of Israel.
During negotiations, he will have to divide ministries among his coalition partners and haggle over policies.
This is where things get interesting. The five factions allied with Netanyahu’s Likud have a four-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, and failure to give any of them what they want could see them topple the coalition.
When it comes to the ultra-Orthodox parties, their demands are uncontroversial as far as Netanyahu is concerned: bigger budgets for religious schools and the right not to teach their children secular subjects like math and English.
The real showdowns are likely to come with his new far-right allies. Netanyahu came to power thanks to an impressive performance by the Religious Zionism/Jewish Power list, which, with 14 seats, is now the third largest group in the Knesset. Its leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, who has a conviction for inciting anti-Arab racism and supporting terrorism, has demanded to be appointed Minister of Public Security, in charge of Israel’s police.
Ben Gvir’s partner is Bezalel Smotrich, who has described himself as a “proud homophobe”. He has said that Israel must be run according to Jewish law. He has talked about reducing the power of the Supreme Court and eliminating the crime of breach of trust, which turns out to be part of the charges against Netanyahu in his ongoing corruption trials. Netanyahu has long denied all charges. If Smotrich wins the Justice Ministry he covets, it’s possible he could make these things happen, ending Netanyahu’s legal concerns.
However, these may be the least of your worries. Having joined forces with the far right, Netanyahu’s sixth reign may end up further alienating the half of Israel that did not vote for the bloc of parties that back him.
Assuming Netanyahu can reach a coalition deal before the December 11 deadline, the Knesset Speaker will call a confidence vote within seven days. If all goes according to plan, his government will take over.
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