JERUSALEM (AP) — After five elections that have paralyzed Israeli politics for nearly four years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally returned to power with the government he has long coveted: a parliamentary majority of religious and far-right lawmakers who share his hard-line views toward the Palestinians and hostility toward Israel’s legal system.

Jul 14 2024

JERUSALEM (AP) — After five elections that have paralyzed Israeli politics for nearly four years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally returned to power with the government he has long coveted: a parliamentary majority of religious and far-right lawmakers who share his hard-line views toward the Palestinians and hostility toward Israel’s legal system.

Yet Netanyahu’s joy may be short-lived. Putting together his coalition proved to be surprisingly complicated, requiring nearly two months of painstaking negotiations and a series of legal maneuvers just to allow his partners to take office. Among them: newly created Cabinet positions with widespread authority over security and a law allowing a politician on probation for a criminal conviction to be a government minister.

Along the way, he was forced to make generous concessions to allies that include commitments to expanding West Bank settlements, proposals to allow discrimination against against LGBTQ people and boosting subsidies for ultra-Orthodox men to study instead of work. If these plans are carried out, they will alienate large portions of the Israeli public, raise the chances of conflict with the Palestinians, upset Israel’s powerful security establishment and put Israel on a collision course with some of its closest allies, including the U.S. government and the American Jewish community. Even members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party are grumbling. Netanyahu has sought to play down concerns, saying that he will set policy — little comfort for his many critics who have bristled at his hard-line policies toward the Palestinians. His ultranationalist partners will also have great leverage over him because they have promised to promote legislation that could dismiss criminal charges against him. They are sure to test his limits.

Here is a closer look at some of the challenges awaiting the new government:

THE UNITED STATES

The Biden administration has expressed unease over the more extreme politicians in the new government, but said it will judge it by policies, not personalities. Early indications do not bode well. A day before taking office, Netanyahu’s government said West Bank settlement expansion would be a top priority. It wants to legalize dozens of wildcat outposts and says that it plans to annex the occupied territory at an unspecified time. The U.S. opposes settlements as obstacles to peace. It also considers steps that marginalize the Palestinians, LGBTQ people and other minority groups as detrimental. Netanyahu has vowed to protect minority rights. But if his coalition moves forward, there could be a crisis in relations with Israel’s closest ally. Leaders of the American Jewish community have also expressed concern over the incoming government and members’ hostility toward the liberal streams of Judaism popular in the U.S. Given American Jews’ predominantly liberal political views, these misgivings could have a ripple effect  in Washington and further widen a partisan divide over support for Israel.


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