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Netanyahu Announces New Israeli Government

FILE - Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem on Nov. 2, 2022.
FILE - Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in Jerusalem on Nov. 2, 2022.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, announced that he has succeeded in forming a coalition government with several other hardline and ultra-Orthodox parties. Several of the incoming government ministers say they want to annex large parts of the West Bank or allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, which could spark tensions with Muslims and possibly, the U.S.

It was just 20 minutes before the deadline for forming a new government late Wednesday that Netanyahu called Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

“I have managed to set up a government that will take care of all of the citizens of Israel,” a grinning Netanyahu said in a video of the phone call.

That phone call came seven weeks after Israel’s fifth election in less than four years and is set to give Israel a stable government for the first time in several years.

But it is also set to give power to several extremist members of parliament who could try to push through decisions that could strain Israel’s fractious democracy.

One of them is Itamar Ben Gvir, the head of an extremist party called Jewish Power, who is set to become Israel’s minister of internal security with responsibility over the police.

Ben Gvir, who was once indicted for incitement to violence, has called to change the status quo at a Jewish and Muslim holy site which has been a flashpoint of violence. He says Jews should be allowed to pray at the al-Aqsa Mosque. Palestinians say such a change could spark widespread riots.

Ben Gvir and others in the incoming coalition have also called for Israel to annex large areas of the West Bank, which could spark tensions with the U.S.

American policy continues to be that the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem -- all areas that Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war -- should become part of an independent Palestinian state.

Ben Gvir also supports a proposed law which would allow a parliamentary majority to override any decision by the Supreme Court. Several Israeli legal scholars say it is an anti-democratic law.

Gayil Talshir, a professor of political science at Hebrew University, says Israel has long had tensions in its image of itself as both a Jewish and a democratic state.

“Today’s government, the rising government that we see is actually going to be an extreme right wing party leading the Netanyahu coalition into a very extremist kind of government,” Talshir said. “The issue again is a new collective kind of identity struggle between Jewish and democratic but also what kind of democracy are we talking about.”The new government is set to take office as Netanyahu is on trial in several corruption cases. He says he is innocent in all of them.