Netanyahu announces a new government with sweeping powers for far-right allies

Commentary

TEL AVIV – Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu announced the formation of the most far-right government in the country’s history on Wednesday night, marking the imminent return of its longest-serving leader and granting an unprecedented share of power to his allies. far-right and ultra-orthodox. , who have pledged to make far-reaching legislative changes in the country.

Netanyahu said the new coalition, which includes ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious parties that were once fringe, would serve “all citizens of Israel.” He has said that his goal is to swear in the new government next week.

Most of the deals, made after a month and a half of marathon negotiations between Netanyahu and his six coalition partners, have not been finalized. But the new government has already aroused concern among Israelis and members of the international community over bills that seek to prioritize Israel’s Jewishness over its democratic one.

The US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, has refused to comment in the Israeli media on the issue of working with far-right members of the government. But he said he would work with Netanyahu, who promised that his “hands are on the wheel,” Nides said in an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz.

The Religious Zionist bloc, made up of formerly fringe far-right parties and which propelled Netanyahu back to power, has called for canceling the Jerusalem gay pride parade, increasing funding for Israel’s ultra-Orthodox minority, hollowing out the judicial system and legitimize Israel. settlements in the occupied West Bank in order to operationally, if not legally, set the stage for Israel annexation of that disputed territory. The move would mark the end of prospects for a two-state solution, in which a Palestinian state would exist alongside Israel.

Firebrand politician and West Bank settler Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was convicted of incitement and racism and banned from serving in the Israeli army due to his activism in extremist organizations, will be the national security minister. The rebranded and expanded portfolio will allow it to exercise unprecedented control over the Israeli police and forces operating in the occupied West Bank.

His Jewish Power party may also receive representative power on the committee in charge of appointing judges, according to Israeli media. He is also among the advocates of a bill that would allow parliamentary partners to overturn decisions made by the Supreme Court, which often rules in favor of human rights and against settlement expansion in the West Bank. The court has also long been seen as the last liberal bastion standing in a country that has swung sharply to the right in the past two decades.

“Without judicial review and independent legal advice, we are left with only the principle of majority rule; a democracy in name but not in essence,” Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara warned at a conference in Haifa last week, referring to bills the new government plans to enact.

Netanyahu came to power in the November 1 election, the fifth held in less than four years. His victory ended a longstanding political stalemate that arose from questions about his fitness as a leader as he remains embroiled in an ongoing corruption trial.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has been the largest in Israeli politics in recent years, winning 64 of the 120 Knesset seats in the recent round of elections with the support of ultra-Orthodox and religious far-rights. recently joined. Zionism bloc.

His extremist and ideologically driven allies have made demands that have delayed coalition negotiations, and forced Netanyahu to request a four-week extension of his term to form a government.

On December 9, Israeli President Isaac Herzog granted Netanyahu a 10-day extension, warning that the new government must respect minority rights and “must preserve the powerful link with the Jewish diaspora.”

Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist and 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 they have at least one Jewish grandparent. The law is widely seen as a fundamental legislative framework through which Israel supports the diversity of the Jewish diaspora.

The formation of the new government also coincides with an escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. conflict, which has reached the deadliest level for Israelis and Palestinians in years. Coalition members have advocated changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, the holy flashpoint in Jerusalem’s Old City that for decades has been central to both Israeli and Palestinian battles for sovereignty, and giving more freedom Israeli soldiers in the West Bank, which critics warn could further inflame tensions.

Minutes after the government’s formation was announced, at least one Palestinian was killed in a clash with the Israeli army, which had escorted Jewish worshipers to a sensitive religious site in Nablus, a city in the occupied West Bank.

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