The Israeli President invites Netanyahu to form a government

The Israeli President invites Netanyahu to form a government


Jerusalem
CNN

Israeli President Isaac Herzog asked Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday to form a new government that would allow the former prime minister to secure the country’s top post for a sixth time and extend his record as the nation’s longest-serving leader.

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

“Israel’s citizens need a stable and functioning government,” he said in a remark after the closed meeting with Netanyahu. “A government that serves all citizens of Israel, both those who supported and voted for it and those who oppose its establishment; a government that works on behalf of and for the benefit of all shades of the Israeli mosaic, from all communities, sectors, faiths, religions, lifestyles, beliefs and values, and treats them all with sensitivity and responsibility.”

“Please God, it will be stable, prosperous and accountable government of the entire people of Israel,” Netanyahu said alongside Herzog. “We are brothers and we will live side by side.”

Israelis voted on November 1 for the fifth time in four years to break the country’s political deadlock.

Netanyahu’s Likud party has the most seats in the Knesset, and the former prime minister has 28 days to form a coalition government, with the possibility of a two-week extension.

But Netanyahu is not having it easy: he is now likely to lead an always polarized country and possibly one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history.

In the negotiations, he will have to split ministries among his coalition partners and haggle over policy.

This is where it gets interesting. The five factions allied to Netanyahu’s Likud have a four-seat majority in the Knesset, or 120-seat parliament, and if they don’t give any of them what they want, they could be provoked into overthrowing the coalition.

As for the ultra-Orthodox parties, Netanyahu’s demands are unchallenged: more budgets for religious schools and the right not to teach their children secular subjects like math and English.

The real showdowns will likely come with his new far-right allies. Netanyahu rode to power on the back of an impressive performance by the Religious Zionism/Jewish Power List, now the third largest grouping in the Knesset with 14 seats. Their leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, who has a criminal record for inciting anti-Arab racism and supporting terrorism, has demanded to be appointed Minister of Public Security in charge of the Israel Police Force.

Ben Gvir’s partner is Bezalel Smotrich, who describes himself as a “proud homophobe”. He said that Israel should be run according to Jewish law. He has spoken of reducing the powers of the Supreme Court and scrapping the crime of breach of trust – which happens to be part of the charges against Netanyahu in his ongoing corruption trials. Netanyahu has long denied all allegations. If Smotrich wins the Justice Department he covets, maybe he can make these things happen and end Netanyahu’s legal woes.

But that might be the least of his concerns. After aligning himself with the far right, Netanyahu’s sixth reign could result in further alienating the half of Israel that didn’t vote for the bloc of parties supporting him.

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

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