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Israel’s Netanyahu says a new government has been formed

Israeli President Herzog Gives Netanyahu the Mandate to Form a New Government at the Presidential Palace (November 14, 2022)
Israeli President Herzog Gives Netanyahu the Mandate to Form a New Government at the Presidential Palace (November 14, 2022)

Israel’s designated prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced on Wednesday (December 21) evening that he had successfully formed a new coalition, putting him back in power and becoming the head of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu made the announcement by calling President Isaac Herzog minutes before the midnight deadline. His Likud party released a short video of the conversation between the two men and a recording of the speech.

Netanyahu said, “I want to announce to you that thanks to the amazing public support we received in the elections, I have successfully formed a government that will take care of all Israeli citizens.”

Netanyahu had weeks of surprisingly difficult negotiations with his partners. His partners still need to finalize their power-sharing agreement with the Likud party. But Netanyahu said he would complete the process “probably as soon as next week.” The date of the new government’s swearing-in has not been immediately announced.

Even if he succeeds, Netanyahu still faces tough challenges. His coalition, mostly far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners, is pushing for drastic changes that could lose much of Israel’s public support, increase the risk of conflict with Palestinians, and put Israel on a path of conflict with its closest supporters, including the United States and Jewish-American communities.

Netanyahu has struck deals with some of the most controversial figures in Israeli politics.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, once convicted of racial incitement and supporting terrorism, was appointed to his new post as security minister to head the national police force.

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His running mate, Bezalel Smotrich, is a settlement leader in the West Bank and believes Israel should annex the occupied area. He plans to be in charge of the construction of settlements in the West Bank and serve as Minister of Finance.

Another ally, Avi. Avi Maoz is the leader of a small religious anti-LGBTQ coalition. He was appointed to control parts of Israel’s national education system. Maoz spoke out against the popular liberal Jewish sect in the United States and was appointed deputy minister for “Jewish identity.”

Netanyahu and his allies won 64 of the 120 seats in parliament in the November 1 elections and vowed to form a coalition as soon as possible. But it turned out to be more complicated than expected, in part because his ultra-orthodox and far-right partners demanded firm assurances of their sphere of power.

Before the government takes office, Netanyahu will try to pass a series of legislation that would expand Ben-Guerville’s authority to lead the police and create a new ministerial post that would give Smotrić the powers previously held by the defense minister in the West Bank.

Parliament will also try to pass legislation that would allow veteran politician Aryeh Deri, who once served a sentence for corruption and a suspended sentence for another tax conviction earlier this year, to serve as a government minister while on probation.

Ultra-orthodox people have also sought to increase subsidies for their autonomous education system, which has been heavily criticized for focusing on religious studies but not providing students with few employable skills.

Likud lawmakers have been vying for the few remaining government posts after Netanyahu handed over many important posts to his coalition partners.

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Netanyahu, who is on trial on corruption charges, is eager to return to politics after a year and a half in the opposition. He and his partners expect to pass a series of legislation that would shake up Israel’s justice system and possibly remove any charges Netanyahu faces.

Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, having served for 15 years before being ousted last year. He called himself a victim of overzealous police, prosecutors, and judges. But critics say those plans, including a proposal that would allow parliament to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision, would destroy Israel’s democratic system of checks and balances.

(This article is based on an Associated Press report)

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