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Benjamin Netanyahu forms new government just before deadline

By Sarah May on
 December 22, 2022

After prevailing in his bid to become his country's prime minister last month, Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday informed Israeli President Isaac Herzog that he has succeeded in putting together a coalition government following 38 days of discussions, as Axios reports.

Notably, Netanyahu's declaration came a mere 20 minutes prior to the deadline for him to make such an announcement, a fact illustrative of the difficulties and controversies that have surrounded the process.

“I've done it”

According to the Times of Israel, the leader of the Likud party has not yet finalized agreements with intended coalition partners, but his announcement has given him some additional time to make things official.

The outlet noted that the incoming prime minister's Likud faction will now sit to the left of the rest of his coalition, which is said to include members from the Religious Zionism, Otzma Yehudit, Noam, Shas, and United Torah Judaism groups.

The Times reports that Netanyahu told Herzog, “I wanted to inform you that, thanks to the 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 I of course intend to establish it as quickly as possible.”

Herzog, for his part, reportedly offered his gratitude for Netanyahu's efforts and wished him well, adding, “The obligation is to work for the entire Israeli people and public, and I hope you will all join up for this mission at this time.”

After telling Herzog that a coalition had been formed, Netanyahu took to Twitter and let the rest of the world know, writing succinctly, “I've done it.”

Contentious negotiations

Axios noted that despite his expressed wishes to have his government formed almost immediately after the election, Netanyahu encountered significant obstacles with a number of prospective coalition partners.

Reports suggested that there was a sense of mistrust among some likely partners that promises previously made by Netanyahu would not be kept once he took office.

As such, stringent conditions for participation in the coalition were laid down, including the passage of certain measures viewed as highly controversial by large segments of the country.

One such concession involves permitting the leader of the Shas party, who has a recent tax fraud conviction, to become a Cabinet minister, though doing so would run counter to the terms of his plea deal and existing law.

Other compromises made in furtherance of forming the pending coalition include amending the police decree in a manner likely to result in the appointment of a far-right politician to head the force and a shift that would facilitate the naming of Bezalel Smotrich – who has been accused by some of Jewish supremacist rhetoric – to serve as a Defense minister and to also take the reins over military units in the West Bank.

Next steps scheduled

Now that Netanyahu has announced the creation of a coalition, Israel law dictates that he will now need to inform the speaker of the Knesset, Yariv Levin, who will, in turn, make the declaration at Monday's session of the legislature, as the Times notes.

Once that step has been completed, Netanyahu will be given a period of seven days to conduct a swearing-in of his government.

As Axios indicates, aides to the incoming prime minister have said that such an event will likely occur between Christmas and the first week of the new year, and it will represent the culmination of the country's fifth election in less than four years, not to mention a stunning political comeback on the part of Netanyahu.

Defying his critics

Netanyahu's return to prominence marks a significant achievement for someone who, at 73, has served as prime minister for a whopping 15 years spread over two distinct tenures, as CNBC noted in November.

November's election outcome seemed even more improbable to some, given the fact that Netanyahu is currently on trial over claims of alleged corruption, accusations he has denied and attributed to overzealous and politically motivated prosecutors and judges. The Likud chief did, however, recently notch a victory in a defamation case against one of his predecessors in the role, Ehud Olmert, who publicly asserted that Netanyahu and his family members were mentally ill.

Despite the stinging criticism that has followed him throughout his career, political comebacks such as the one orchestrated by the longtime Israeli leader are undeniably few and far between.