Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
CNN
 — 

Israel’s President Isaac Herzog announced Friday he will invite Benjamin Netanyahu to form Israel’s next government, paving the way for him to take the country’s top job for a record sixth time and extend his record as the nation’s longest-serving leader.

He stated that Herzog will officially issue Netanyahu’s mandate on Sunday. After meeting with all factions of parliament, the Knesset to discuss their preferences for prime minister, Herzog made the announcement.

In a statement released by his office, he said: “At the end of the round of consultations, 64 members of the Knesset recommended to the president the chairman of the Likud faction, MK Benjamin Netanyahu.” He added that 28 Knesset members recommended outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid. The same number of Knesset members voted not to recommend anyone.

Herzog will meet with Netanyahu at the president’s residence on Sunday to formally give him the mandate. Netanyahu will then have 28 calendar days to form a new government. However, if necessary, a 14-day extension is possible.

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

This is where things get exciting. With a four-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset, or parliament, the five factions allied with Netanyahu’s Likud are all potential kingmakers: fail to give any one of them what they want, and they could bring the coalition down.

Netanyahu is not surprised by the demands of ultra-Orthodox parties for larger budgets to support religious schools and the right to refuse to teach their children non-secular subjects like math.

The real showdowns will likely come with his new extremist right-wing friends. 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 has said Israel should be run according to 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.

These are not his only concerns. Having been forced to join 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.

International condemnation is possible if the restrictions on settlements in occupied West Bank could be relaxed. Violence between Israelis & Palestinians in West Bank could get worse; 2022 has already seen more deaths than any other year since 2015.

Then there’s the potentially explosive issue of the Jerusalem holy site known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Ḥaram al-Sharīf, or Noble sanctuary.

According to the status quo, only Muslims can pray at the compound. Ben Gvir advocated allowing Jews pray at the compound, which is their holiest.

Any change could be used by militants in Palestine to justify attacks. It would almost certainly be condemned by Israel’s new friends in the Arab world, such as Morocco, the UAE and Bahrain.

President Herzog himself summed up the issue when a hot mic caught him telling Netanyahu’s allies in the Shas party: “You’re going to have a problem with the Temple Mount. That’s a critical issue. You have a partner that the entire world is anxious about,” an apparent reference to Ben Gvir.

Herzog told another of Netanyahu’s allies, Avi Maoz of the avowedly anti-LGBT Noam faction: “There has been concern about things you have said about the LGBT community. All human beings were created in God’s image and we must respect everyone. Only one State is Israel. That pertains also to your party.”

Could a Netanyahu-led country have disputes with the United States Although Netanyahu may not have the same relationship with President Joe Biden that he had with Donald Trump, the two men seem to get along.

“We are brothers,” Biden told Netanyahu in a call after the election. “My commitment to Israel is unquestionable. Congratulations, my friend.”

Netanyahu replied: “We will bring more historic peace agreements [with the Arab world]That is possible. My commitment to our alliance and our relationship is stronger than ever.”

Netanyahu is strongly against the US re-entering the Iran nuclear agreement, but it seems unlikely at the moment. On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Israel’s reluctance to provide Kyiv with defensive weapons, Netanyahu promised President Volodymyr Zelensky to “seriously examine” the issue.

If Netanyahu is able to reach a coalition agreement before the December 11 deadline the Knesset Speaker will call for a confidence vote within seven working days. If all goes to plan, Bibi’s government will then take office, perhaps on December 18 – in time for Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights (and miracles).



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