With the announcement of forming a government, Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ended the month-long political uncertainty in his country. Netanyahu announced that he has been able to form the next government that would “work for the good of all Israeli citizens”, minutes before the midnight deadline.Netanyahu, 73, informed President Isaac Herzog late on Wednesday paving the way for the swearing-in no later than January 2, or even earlier.
In November, President Herzog officially invited Netanyahu to form the new government. He has won the backing of 64 Members of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, in a phone call to Herzog said that he was ready to form the next government “thanks to the enormous public support we received in the last elections” that would “work for the good of all Israeli citizens”.
He made the call a few minutes before the end of a ten-day extension given by the President following the 28 days initial period the Prime Minister-designate received at being tasked to form the government.The new government will have the support of 64 members in the 120-member Knesset (parliament), all drawn from the right wing consisting of Netanyahu’s Likud party supported by the ultra-orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ) and the far-right Otzma Yehudit, Religious Zionism and Noam.
Netanyahu first made the announcement of his success in a terse tweet, “I got it”, and then later also put a post of his telephonic message to the Israeli President. Knesset speaker Yariv Levin is now expected to inform the lawmakers that a new government has been formed which should be sworn-in in no more than seven days following the announcement. With the Hanukkah holidays in Israel, the Knesset will convene only on December 26, which would mean that the swearing-in of the government must happen no later than January 2.
Despite a clear mandate for the right wing to form the next government under Netanyahu in November 1 elections, the negotiations between the coalition partners came down to the wire, with the hardliner Otzma Yehudit party saying an hour before the deadline that it was still locked in negotiations with Netanyahu’s Likud and it “wasn’t clear” if the two sides would reach an agreement.
The parties included in the government had run in the elections with a clear understanding that the Likud party Chairman, Netanyahu, would lead the next government if they were to get a majority, but they drove a hard bargain in reaching coalition agreements. Securing far-reaching policy and appointment concessions that will drive judicial reform, may change security service command structures, retroactively legalise and expand settlements, introduce far-right influence in secular education, and expand religious influence over state and social institutions.
Critics have raised concerns that the expected changes could impact the fundamental character of Israel’s polity leading to changes that could harm Israel’s internal cohesion, risk putting its delicate ties with the world Jewry in jeopardy, and also put the country at the receiving end of international condemnation due to its hardline position on the long-standing acceptance of a two-state solution to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
The new government where the right-wing Likud party comprises the left flank of the coalition is a major shift from the previous one which for the first time in Israel’s history had not only parties drawn from the Left, Right and Centre, but also enjoyed the support of an Arab party.
Some political analysts believe that the “Jewish and democratic” conception of Israel’s polity is likely to come under severe challenge with the nature of changes proposed in the coalition agreements of the shaping government. Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party won 32 seats in the Knesset while outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid got 24 seats.