Israel’s Netanyahu, Tasked To Form Gov’t, Must Balance Parties’ Demands, Public Opinion
Israel's President Isaac Herzog (R) and Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu shake hands after the former tasked the latter with forming a new government, in Jerusalem, on Nov. 13, 2022. (Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel’s Netanyahu, Tasked To Form Gov’t, Must Balance Parties’ Demands, Public Opinion

Some of the parties’ stipulations for joining the coalition may damage the government’s relations with the international community, Diaspora Jewry, and its own citizens

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Sunday tasked former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with forming a new government. To do so, he will have to balance the different priorities and agendas among the parties, while satisfying them all, and without overly antagonizing the Israeli public or the international community.

“Ladies and gentlemen, from the consultations I held, the following picture arises: 64 members of Knesset recommended MK Binyamin Netanyahu; 28 members of Knesset recommended MK Yair Lapid; and 28 members of Knesset chose not to recommend any member of Knesset for the role of forming a government,” Herzog said in a statement.

Therefore, he continued, “in light of all considerations emanating from the law and the tradition practiced by my predecessors – in terms of the greatest support for a specific candidate among members of the Knesset, and in terms of the largest party in the Knesset, and of course in terms of the central consideration, of who is the member of Knesset who has the greatest chance of forming the next government – the result was clear, and the task of forming a government must be assigned to MK Binyamin Netanyahu.”

Israel held parliamentary elections on November 1 – its fifth such election since April 2019. Netanyahu’s Likud party and its right-wing and religious allies won 64 seats in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset. Following the publication of the official election results, each party meets with the president and can give its recommendation as to which member of Knesset should be tasked with the job of forming a new government. After consulting with the parties, the final decision is up to the president.

Netanyahu intends to wind up the negotiations to form a coalition and present Israel’s 37th government by the end of the week. However, he will face some challenges in the process.

Dr. Batia Siebzehner, a fellow at the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, told The Media Line that some parties that will be part of his coalition have conflicting perspectives.

“Each party wants different things, and in some areas, there is competition between them. He must settle all these conflicts or try to get them to a middle point where he can deal with and satisfy each one of the parties,” she said.

Dr. Ilana Shpaizman, a lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, added that in terms of the allocation of portfolios, Netanyahu has a problem with the Finance Ministry.

“He needs someone he can trust in this ministry because in order to govern, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry should see eye to eye and promote changes together,” she told The Media Line.

Shpaizman explained that Netanyahu wants to appoint Aryeh Deri, head of the ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party Shas, as the finance minister, but Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right-wing Religious Zionism party, also insists on getting the ministry.

In addition, Netanyahu must make sure some of the important portfolios will be left to his own Likud party, said Shpaizman, adding that he would like to leave the ministries of education, defense, economy, and justice in house, but at the same time, “he must also satisfy the coalition partners.”

Siebzehner said that despite the conflict of interests among parties of the future coalition, she believes they will find a way to sort out the differences since they are all interested in being part of the government. And some of them “feel that this is their best moment in history,” she said.

Shpaizman believes this government will be stable since the ideological differences between the parties are narrow, and they do not have other alternatives to be part of the government. Lastly, the Likud party, which will head the government, is very large this time, which represents a significant advantage.

As for the Israeli public, while some strongly support the government to be created, others are highly critical and fearful of policies that it is likely to promote.

After being tasked with forming a government, Netanyahu addressed this criticism. “There are many who welcome the results of the elections, but there are also those who utter prophecies of rage and scare the public about the end of democracy or the state. This is not the first time that such things have been said. They said that about Begin; they said that about me, too. It wasn’t true then and it’s not true today either,” he said in a statement.

However, said Siebzehner, “Netanyahu is also afraid of the consequences of fulfilling all of the parties’ requests.”

Shpaizman said that in terms of policy, one of the emerging challenges is the legislation that the Religious Zionism party wishes to pass changing the Law of Return, thereby canceling the Supreme Court’s ruling on Reform conversion. These acts, she believes, could cause damage to the country’s relations with Diaspora Jewry, especially in the US.

“Netanyahu is aware of it and has to make sure that the coalition agreements will not create damage,” she said.

In terms of economy, noted Siebzehner, the ultra-Orthodox parties and Religious Zionism are demanding sums directed to purposes that may not be as popular among the general Israeli population.

Also, said Shpaizman, there could be challenges in terms of religion and state, because the public seems to be more liberal than its representatives, citing views on the rights of the LGBT community.

Lastly, there may be plenty of international challenges, depending on the actions of the government, she noted.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, from the Religious Zionism alliance, may be appointed as the public security minister, which controls the police. If he acts irresponsibly toward the country’s minorities, said Shpaizman, it may cause both domestic and international antagonism towards the government.

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