Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Sunday asked Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government, allowing the former prime minister to win the country’s top job for a record sixth time and extend his record as longest-serving leader of the country
Netanyahu, who served 12 years as prime minister 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 concluded a political consultation with them .
“The citizens of Israel need a stable and functioning government,” he said in remarks after the closed-door meeting with Netanyahu. “A government that serves all citizens of Israel, both those who supported and voted for it and those who opposed its creation; a government that works on behalf of and for the good of all shades of the Israeli mosaic, of all communities, sectors, faiths, religions, lifestyles, beliefs and values, and that treats them all with sensitivity and responsibility.”
“Please, God, it will be a stable, successful and responsible government for all the people of Israel,” Netanyahu said, speaking alongside Herzog. “We are brothers and we will live together.”
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 will have 28 days to form a coalition government, with the possibility of a two-week extension.
But it’s not easy for Netanyahu: he is now likely to lead a perennially polarized country and possibly one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history.
During the negotiations, he will have to divide ministries among his coalition partners and haggle over policies.
This is where things get interesting. The five factions allied with Netanyahu’s Likud have a four-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, and not giving any of them what they want could cause the coalition to collapse.
As far as the ultra-Orthodox parties are concerned, their demands are not controversial as far as Netanyahu is concerned: bigger budgets for religious schools and the right not to teach their children secular subjects like math and English.
The real confrontations are likely to come with their new far-right allies. Netanyahu came to power thanks to an impressive performance by the Religious Zionism/Jewish Power list, which, with 14 seats, is now the third largest grouping in the Knesset. Its leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, who has a conviction for inciting anti-Arab racism and supporting terrorism, demanded to be appointed Minister of Public Security, in charge of Israel’s police.
Ben Gvir’s partner is Bezalel Smotrich, who described himself as a “proud homophobe.” He said Israel should be run according to Jewish law. He talked about reducing the power of the Supreme Court and removing 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 charges. If Smotrich wins the Justice Ministry he covets, he can make these things happen, ending Netanyahu’s legal worries.
However, these may be the least of your worries. Having joined forces with the far right, Netanyahu’s sixth reign may end up further alienating the half of Israel who did not vote for the bloc of parties that support him.
Assuming Netanyahu can reach a coalition agreement before the December 11 deadline, the Knesset speaker will call a vote of confidence within seven days. If all goes according to plan, then your government will take over.