Netanyahu Announces Coalition, Will Begin Unprecedented 6th term as Prime Minister
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JERUSALEM, Israel – Just minutes before a deadline set by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu notified him by telephone Wednesday night that he had reached an agreement with five religious parties to form a coalition government.
In so doing, Netanyahu will take the helm of Israel’s ship of state for an unprecedented sixth time. Several years ago, he passed one of the country’s founders, David Ben-Gurion, as the longest-serving prime minister.
In his call to Herzog, Netanyahu said, “I wanted to inform you that, thanks to immense public support we won in the elections, I have managed to set up a government which will take care of all the citizens of Israel. And of course I intend to establish it as quickly as possible.”
Now he will embark as leader of the rightward-most coalition in more than seven decades of modern Israeli politics, as leaders from Tel Aviv to Ramallah to Brussels to Washington warn about the new government’s threat to democracy before it has begun.
Even in the waning days of Netanyahu predecessor Yair Lapid’s government, the United Nations released a flurry of anti-Israel resolutions, and the Biden administration’s Department of Justice ordered an FBI investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu-Akleh, angering Israeli political and defense leaders.
The Biden team did what it could to keep Netanyahu out of office, clearly showing support for his rival Lapid, inviting him to Washington just before the November 1st elections and brokering a natural gas deal with Lebanon in September.
Still, both US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and President Joe Biden himself have said they will work with Netanyahu, at the same time signaling their opposition to incoming National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and questioning other leaders' tough stands concerning relationships with the Palestinians.
Reaction to the coalition's formation on the streets of Jerusalem was mixed, indicating the deep divisions in the electorate. Jerusalem resident Eli Ram said, “This is a bad government, very bad, racist (government), and I don’t believe it will last more than a year, and I really hope it will not make it.”
Another resident, Akiva Yoel Ariel, had a different view. "We have a lot of hopes from the new government. We hope that this government will be a real right-wing government that will do a lot of good for the people of Israel, for the nation of Israel – build the country, build new settlements," he said.
Although Netanyahu now has a clear path to the prime minister's office, his party still must pass legislation with the religious parties to cement their agreement. The leadership froze Knesset action for several days and will resume when temporary Speaker Yariv Levin announces the new government in parliament, likely on Monday.
After that, the prime minister-in-waiting will have a week to swear in the new government. Analysts say that could happen before the end of the year.
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