News Netanyahu announces new government with broad powers over far-right allies


TEL AVIV — Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu announced the formation of the most right-wing government in the country’s history on Wednesday night, marking the return of its longest-serving leader and empowering his far-right and Unprecedented power for ultra-Orthodox allies, who have vowed to introduce far-reaching legislative reforms in the country.

Netanyahu said the new coalition, which includes once-marginal ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious parties, would serve “all Israeli citizens”. He has said he aims to be sworn in as a new government next week.

Much of the deal reached after Netanyahu and his six coalition partners after marathon negotiations for 1.5 months has yet to be finalized. But the new government has raised concerns among Israelis and members of the international community about seeking a bill that prioritizes Israel’s Jewish character over its democratic character.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides declined to comment in Israeli media on working with far-right members of the government. But he said he would work with Netanyahu, who promised he would have “hands on the steering wheel,” Nieders said in an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

The religious Zionist bloc, formed by the former fringe far-right party and pushing Netanyahu back to power, has called for canceling the Jerusalem gay pride parade, increasing funding for Israel’s ultra-Orthodox minority, hollowing out the justice system and delegitimizing Israel Build settlements in the occupied West Bank to create the conditions, operationally, if not legally, for Israel to annex the disputed territory. The move would mark the end of the prospect of a two-state solution, in which a Palestinian state would exist side by side with Israel.

Incitement politician and West Bank settler Itamar Ben-Gvir, convicted of sedition and racism and banned from serving in the Israeli army for his activities with extremist groups, will serve as state security minister. The name change and expanded portfolio will allow him to exercise unprecedented control over the Israeli police and forces operating in the occupied West Bank.

His Jewish Power party may also gain representation on the committee tasked with appointing judges, according to Israeli media reports. He is also one of the backers of a bill that would allow parliamentary partners to overturn decisions by the Supreme Court, which usually rule in favor of human rights issues and against the expansion of settlements in the West Bank. The court has also long been seen as the last bastion of liberty in a country that has swung sharply to the right over the past two decades.

“Without judicial review and independent legal opinion, we can only stick to the majority rule; at a meeting in Haifa last week, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said in Discussing the bill the new government plans to enact, it warns that it is a democracy in name but not in reality.

Netanyahu swept to power in the Nov. 1 election, the fifth in less than four years. His victory ended a long political stalemate stemming from questions about his fitness to lead while he remained embroiled in an ongoing corruption trial.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has been the largest party in Israeli politics in recent years, gaining control of the 120-member Knesset in the latest round of elections, backed by ultra-Orthodox and newly united far-right religious groups. The Zionist bloc gained 64 of the seats.

Joint talks have been hampered by demands from his extremist, ideologically driven allies, who have forced Netanyahu to demand an extension to his four-week term to form a government.

On 9 December, Israeli President Isaac Herzog granted Netanyahu a 10-day extension but warned that the new government must respect the rights of minorities and “must maintain the Strong links with the Jewish diaspora”.

Netanyahu’s ultranationalist, ultra-Orthodox political allies have announced plans to change the Law of Return, a 1950 law that guarantees citizenship to all Jews from any country in the world who can prove at least one Jewish grandparents. The law is widely seen as Israel’s fundamental legislative framework to support the diversity of the Jewish diaspora.

The formation of the new government also coincides with the escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has reached its deadliest level for Israelis and Palestinians in years. Coalition members advocate changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, a shrine in Jerusalem’s Old City that has been at the center of a struggle for sovereignty between Israel and Palestine for decades, and keeping Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, which critics warn could further intensify intense situation.

Minutes after the government was announced, at least one Palestinian was killed in clashes with Israeli troops who escorted Jewish worshipers to a sensitive religious site in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

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