Jerusalem
The Sunday Review
 — 

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog asked Benjamin Netanyahu to form a new government on Sunday, allowing the former prime minister to secure the country’s top job for a record sixth time and extend his record as the nation’s longest-serving leader.

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 parliament or Knesset members after the president concluded a political consultation with them.

“Israel’s citizens require a stable and functioning government,” He said these remarks in comments after the closed-door meeting. “A government that serves all citizens of Israel, both those who supported and voted for it and those who opposed its establishment; a government that works on behalf of and for the sake of all shades of the Israeli mosaic, from 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 of all of the people of Israel,” said Netanyahu, speaking alongside Herzog. “We are brothers and we will live together side by side.”

Israelis voted November 1st for the fifth time after four years, to break the political impasse in the country.

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 Netanyahu isn’t in for an easy ride: he is now likely to lead an ever-polarized country and possibly one of the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history.

During negotiations, he will need to split ministries among his coalition partners in order to negotiate over policies.

Here is where the fun begins. The five factions allied with Netanyahu’s Likud have a four-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, and failure to give any one of them what they want could provoke them to bring the coalition down.

The demands of the ultra-Orthodox parties are clear to Netanyahu: larger budgets for religious schools and the right to not teach their children secular subjects like math and English.

His new extremist right-wing allies will likely be the real challengers. The impressive performance of the Religious Zionism/Jewish Power List, which now has 14 seats, helped Netanyahu to the top. Its leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, who has a conviction for inciting anti-Arab racism and supporting terrorism, has demanded to be made Public Security Minister, in charge of Israel’s police.

Ben Gvir’s partner is Bezalel Smotrich, who has described himself as a “proud homophobe.” He said that Israel should be run in accordance with Jewish law. He has spoken of reducing the power of the Supreme Court, and striking out the crime of breach of trust – which just so happens to be part of the indictments against Netanyahu in his ongoing corruption trials. Netanyahu has denied all charges for a long time. If Smotrich wins the Justice Ministry he covets, he may be able to make these things happen, ending Netanyahu’s legal worries.

But these are not his main concerns. Having joined forces with the extreme right wing, the sixth reign of Netanyahu may end up further alienating the half of Israel that didn’t vote for the bloc of parties backing him.

In the event that Netanyahu can reach a consensus by December 11, the Knesset Speaker would call a confidence motion within seven days. If all goes according to plan his government will be in office.