Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given a mandate on Sunday to form a new government, paving the way for his comeback at the helm of what is expected to be the most right-wing government in the country’s history.
After a period of unprecedented political deadlock that forced five elections in less than four years, polls on Nov. 1 showed Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right allies a clear majority in the 120-seat parliament.
“I have decided to assign to you, Benjamin Netanyahu, the task of forming a government,” President Isaac Herzog told him at a ceremony in Jerusalem.
The 73-year-old Benjamin Netanyahu accepted the mandate and pledged to serve all Israelis, “those who voted for us and those who did not vote — it’s my responsibility.”
The veteran rightist, who is fighting corruption charges in court, has at least 28 days to build a coalition with his allies — two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, an emerging far-right alliance called Religious Zionism.
President Herzog noted Netanyahu’s ongoing trial and said, “Of course I am not aware of the fact that Mr. Netanyahu has legal proceedings pending in the Jerusalem Court, and I am not trivializing this at all.”
But he noted that recent precedent has made it clear that Netanyahu can serve as prime minister while fighting the charges.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s next moves will be closely watched as discomfort grows in some quarters over his policies and the goals of his controversial government partners.
The new government is widely expected to implement sweeping judicial reforms, a long-held priority of the Israeli right. That could include a so-called “waiver clause” that gives parliament the right to overturn the Supreme Court when it declares legislation illegal.
Netanyahu’s government could also take full control of the appointment of Supreme Court justices, a role currently held by a panel of lawmakers, incumbent judges and lawyers.
“It’s hard for me to exaggerate the harm and danger” of the proposed reforms, said Suzie Navot, a constitutional law professor at the Israel Democracy Institute think tank.
‘Very sensitive questions’
Benjamin Netanyahu can request a two-week extension to his initial mandate, but is expected to announce a coalition agreement fairly soon, given the broad ideological unity within the incoming government.
Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, co-leaders of the religious Zionist bloc, have publicly demanded control of two key ministries: public security and defense.
Ben-Gvir, an agitator known for his anti-Arab rhetoric and incendiary calls for Israel to annex the entire West Bank, has repeatedly called for security forces to use more force in countering Palestinian unrest.
Violence between Israel and the Palestinians has increased dramatically this year.
The past few months have been the deadliest period in years in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to the United Nations, with almost daily army strikes and an increase in clashes and attacks on Israeli troops.
Netanyahu’s previous terms saw the small remnant of the Middle East peace process collapse in a wave of expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
President Herzog, whose role is largely symbolic, is said to have tried to convince outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his defense secretary Benny Gantz to form a unity cabinet with Mr Netanyahu to prevent Ben-Gvir from joining the government. would act.
The presidency publicly denied the claims.
But Mr. Herzog told Ben-Gvir this week that he had received “questions from Israeli citizens and world leaders…very sensitive questions about human rights”.
“There is a certain image of you and your party that, and I will say it in all honesty, seems disturbing in many ways,” he added.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)
Featured video of the day
Cobra rescued from fridge in Tamil Nadu village