Israel: Benjamin Netanyahu Set to Announce New Government this Week
i24 News – Incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce that he has formed a coalition government this week as the extension given to him by Israel’s President Isaac Herzog expires on Wednesday.
Following a rocky negotiation process that lasted for over six weeks, the leader of Likud has reportedly sealed deals with all of the allied parties, although no official signings have been announced. One of the remaining issues that has been negotiated by Netanyahu ahead of the deadline with the far-right Religious Zionism party is an amendment of the military service law for ultra-Orthodox Jews.
According to media reports, the new legislation will give an exemption from service for religious Jews studying Torah full time. Another issue that has been reportedly agreed upon between the two parties is the declaration of a new city for ultra-religious Jews within 90 days of the government’s formation.
Additional clauses regarding housing for the ultra-Orthodox community, that would cost the country’s budget over $43 million, were allegedly negotiated with the United Torah Judaism party. The party is said to be poised to receive the housing minister’s position, as well as appoint an ultra-Orthodox representative to the Israel Land Council.
Following the announcement to the president, Netanyahu must have the government approved by the Knesset plenum within a week. However, he can request another extension to December 25.
In the meantime, the coalition parties this week are set to continue voting for four bills that passed preliminary readings last week. The legislative process is expected to be finished before the new government is sworn in.
Earlier on Saturday evening, nearly 2,000 demonstrators gathered in Tel Aviv to protest against the incoming government. The event titled “Israeli democracy is in danger” was focused on the controversial laws that Netanyahu’s coalition is trying to adopt in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. In addition to bills giving far-right parties more power over West Bank and police policies, there is a law that would allow for Shas head Arye Deri to assume a ministerial position despite a past conviction for tax offenses.
Netanyahu has had an issue having to balance within his new far-right and religious coalition, appeasing his partners to stay in the coalition but also putting them in positions that they actually have skills, qualifications and expertise for. That is why it has taken him so long to be able to properly form the government. It is likely Netanyahu himself did not understand how difficult this balancing act would be.
And even though the incoming prime minister has seemed to manage that part, he also needs to think about the voters, both who did and didn’t vote for him that are growing increasingly concerned with the new government taking legislation changes too far. The interest is no longer limited to which positions will be given to which members of the coalition but how Netanyahu balances it with the public that doesn’t necessarily see this coalition as the legitimate government to begin with.