Middle East

Israel: A new government that also causes fear

The Israeli parliament has approved the new, ultra-right government of long-time Prime Minister Netanyahu.

The opposition’s concerns are great. She fears for democracy and reacts with protest.

There are moments when even hardened politicians show feelings. Benjamin Netanyahu allowed himself such a moment before being sworn into the Knesset. Being sworn in as prime minister for the sixth time, he said he was excited.

Unusual insights into Netanyahu’s emotional life, who then very quickly went back to business as usual and presented the key issues of his new government. One thing is particularly important to him: “We must thwart Iran‘s efforts to develop nuclear bombs. They threaten us and the entire world. We must ensure that Iran does not destroy us with nuclear bombs, and the opposition, you deal with that too Negligence as something unimportant.”

There he was again: the belligerent Netanyahu challenging the opposition. But she reacted. The new opposition chanted angrily “chalash” (English: “weak”). A sign that Netanyahu’s coalition partners had set the agenda in recent weeks with their extreme demands.

Concerns about democracy

Netanyahu didn’t care. He countered: “Losing an election does not mean the end of democracy. That is the quintessence of the meaning of democracy. A democratic system is first and foremost tested by the fact that the loser accepts the election result and respects the rules of democracy.”

So far, Netanyahu’s opponents have had concerns about democracy in view of the existing coalition agreements. Her accusation: the new coalition is illiberal, homophobic, and is undermining Israeli democracy with the planned judicial reform.

Concerns that the previous Economics Minister Orna Barbivai also addressed: “People out there are afraid. People are afraid of the new government. I really hope that people don’t have to have any reason to be afraid. Unfortunately, I read the coalition agreements and I understand the concerns. Everyone is right to be afraid.”

Protests in front of the Knesset

There are also concerns outside the Knesset, where several hundred Israelis demonstrated against the new government. Above all, he – Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far right of Israeli politics – had been criticized so far. Many fear that Israel will drift more and more into a police state with it, with disadvantages for the country’s Arab population in particular.

Ben-Gvir himself, the new Minister of National Security, tried to appease in his speech: “All of us in the new government want to serve the entire population of the State of Israel. Religious, secular, rural, urban. Jews and Arabs Yes, Arabs too. They too suffer violence, crime and terror across the country. We hope to bring security back to all citizens of the State of Israel.”

“We’ll be back soon”

There were no polemics or attacks from the outgoing Prime Minister Jair Lapid. He referred to the successes of his government – and in the end gave his successor one piece of advice. “We are handing you a country in excellent condition, with a strong economy, with improved security, with a powerful military deterrent, with an international reputation that has never been so good. Try not to destroy all of this. We’ll be back soon return.”

Netanyahu’s coming to power: Back in power

Fighting, pulling strings and rioting – that was Netanyahu’s style of politics as Israeli prime minister for years. But for his new term in office he has made many concessions. What influence does he have left?

For years they simply called him “King Bibi”. After all, Benjamin Netanyahu is Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, serving from 1996 to 1999 and then again from 2009 to 2021.

But to take office again, he has to reinvent himself. First of all as a stand-up man: At a book presentation he was recently amused at how often he was declared dead politically.

The obituaries for him were not always flattering, he said. But it is still very honorable if obituaries are written for someone while they are still alive.

Likud as the most liberal force in the alliance

Fight, pull strings and riot – that was Netanyahu’s political style for decades. In the past few weeks of forming a government, however, one could observe a completely different politician: In the long weeks since the parliamentary elections on November 1, he rarely spoke up.

It became surprisingly quiet around him. Everyday political business in these weeks was characterized by the shrill tones of his new, extreme coalition partners.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud bloc makes up half of the governing coalition’s MPs in the Knesset, but the center of power seems to lie outside the Likud, which is still the most liberal force in the alliance given the national-religious, ultra-religious and far-right parties.

Netanyahu has found his new role – also because his main goal is a return to power. Apparently, others are responsible for the new government’s political projects, that’s the picture after the coalition negotiations.

Concessions on the posts

Itamar Ben-Gvir, now Minister of National Security, Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s new finance minister and also in charge of civil administration in the occupied territories, and representatives of the ultra-religious parties had many demands.

They want to advance the construction of settlements and align the economy more closely with religious laws. In addition, no electricity should be produced on the Shabbat, according to one of the proposals. Another: targeted killings of militant Palestinians.

The list was long. And “King Bibi” had to make concession after concession, especially when it came to the distribution of posts.

Netanyahu: Stand for the preservation of democracy

The relationship between his partners and the new head of government is characterized by distrust: they have seen Netanyahu’s dodges too often in recent years. That’s why it was particularly important for his partners to get the right offices in which they can also implement their policies. For example in the occupied West Bank or in questions of religious life.

In this mixed situation, “King Bibi” doesn’t seem like someone who actively shapes politics. Outwardly, he has tried to calm things down in recent weeks: he gave one of his few interviews to the US journalist Bari Weiss, because the US is the most important strategic partner. Israel is not governed by the laws of the Talmud. He stands for maintaining Israel’s democracy, his country remains a constitutional state, he said.

Fraud, infidelity and bribery

At this point, however, there are doubts. Netanyahu is apparently primarily concerned with saving his skin. He is on trial for fraud, embezzlement and bribery: This is one of the reasons why there are now plans to limit the influence of the Supreme Court.

What remains of “King Bibi” is his self-confidence. According to Netanyahu, only he can do this job. According to his understanding, he will lead the State of Israel for a long time. That fits with the opinion of large parts of the Israeli population: more than half currently see no alternative.

But to get back at the helm, he went a long way this time. And it is not the image of “King Bibi” that comes to mind, but rather that of the sorcerer’s apprentice who can no longer get rid of the spirits he has called.

Netanyahu forms right-wing religious government

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