Israeli president invites Netanyahu to form government

Israeli president invites Netanyahu to form government
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Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Sunday asked Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government, giving the former prime minister the country’s top job for a record sixth time and extending his record as leader the oldest in the country.

Netanyahu, who served as prime minister for 12 years before stepping down in 2021, was recommended by party leaders representing more than half of Israel’s 120 members of parliament or Knesset after the president reached a political consultation with them.

“Israeli citizens need 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 benefit of all shades of the Israeli mosaic, of all communities, sectors, faiths, religions, ways of life, beliefs and values, and treats them all with sensitivity and responsibility.

“Please God, this will be a stable, successful and responsible government of 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 seats in the Knesset, 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 on the right track: he is now likely to lead a still polarized country and perhaps one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history.

During the negotiations, he will have to distribute the ministries between his coalition partners and haggle over the 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 failing to give any of them what they want could tempt them to bring down the coalition.

As for the ultra-Orthodox parties, their demands are uncontroversial when it comes to Netanyahu: bigger budgets for religious schools and the right not to teach their children secular subjects like math and science. English.

The real confrontations are likely to come with his new far-right allies. Netanyahu came to power thanks to a stunning performance by the Religious Zionism/Jewish Power slate, which with 14 seats is now the third-largest group in the Knesset. Its leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, convicted of incitement to anti-Arab racism and support for terrorism, has asked to be appointed Minister of Public Security, in charge of the Israeli police.

Ben Gvir’s partner is Bezalel Smotrich, who has described himself as a “proud homophobe”. He said Israel should be run according to Jewish law. He talked about reducing the power of the Supreme Court and striking out the crime of breach of trust – which just so happens to be part of the indictments against Netanyahu in his ongoing corruption trials. Netanyahu has long denied all charges. If Smotrich wins the Justice Department he covets, he may be able to make these things happen, ending Netanyahu’s legal worries.

Yet that may be the least of his concerns. Having joined forces with those of the far right, Netanyahu’s sixth reign could end up further alienating the half of Israel that did not vote for the bloc of parties supporting him.

Assuming Netanyahu can reach a coalition agreement by the December 11 deadline, the Knesset speaker will call a confidence vote within seven days. If all goes as planned, his government will then take office.


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