Netanyahu announces new government with sweeping powers to far-right allies



TEL AVIV — Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu announced the formation of the most far-right government in the country’s history Wednesday night, marking the return of its longest-serving leader and granting an unprecedented portion of power to his far-right and ultra-Orthodox allies who have vowed to make sweeping changes in the country.

Netanyahu swept to power in the Nov. 1 elections, the fifth to be held in less than four years after an elongated political stalemate arose as a result of questions around the fitness of Netanyahu, who is embroiled in a corruption trial, to serve as Israel’s leader.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party has in recent years been the largest in Israeli politics, and was able to clinch 64 out of 120 Knesset seats in the recent round of elections due to the support of ultra-Orthodox and newly united far-right parties.

But his extremist, ideologically driven allies have made demands that have held up coalition negotiations, and forced Netanyahu to request an extension to his four-week mandate to form a government.

On Dec. 9, Herzog granted Netanyahu a 10-day extension, with the caveat that the new government must respect the rights of minorities and that it “must preserve the powerful bond with the Jewish Diaspora.”

Netanyahu’s ultranationalist, ultra Orthodox political allies have announced plans to change the Law of Return, a 1950 law that guarantees citizenship for all Jews, from any country in the world, who can prove to have at least one Jewish grandparent and which is widely seen as a fundamental legislative framework through which Israel supports the diversity of the world Jewish community.

Other radical far-right coalition members have called to legitimize Israeli settlements in the West Bank in a way that operationally, if not legally, sets the stage for Israeli annexation of that disputed territory, and would signal the end of any prospects for a two-state solution, in which a Palestinian state would exist alongside Israel.

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict trudges on, members have also advocated changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, the flash point holy site in Jerusalem’s Old City that has for decades been central to both the Israeli and Palestinian battles for sovereignty.

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