Berliner Tageblatt - Netanyahu poised to announce Israel government

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Netanyahu poised to announce Israel government
Netanyahu poised to announce Israel government / Photo: © AFP/File

Netanyahu poised to announce Israel government

Veteran Israeli hawk Benjamin Netanyahu was expected to announce Wednesday that he has formed a new government with his far-right allies, but could seek a brief extension for his fraught coalition talks.

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Following his November 1 election win, Netanyahu secured a mandate to form a government backed by two ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and an extreme-right Zionist bloc.

The prospective government, expected to be the most right-wing in Israeli history, would replace the ideologically disparate coalition led by centrist Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Some political analysts had forecast that Netanyahu, 73, would be able to announce a new government quickly -- given the ideological common ground between his right-wing Likud party and its partners.

But the talks have dragged on, with Netanyahu compelled to juggle demands for senior cabinet posts, some of which he has been compelled to grant.

Among his most controversial moves have been promising the national security ministry to the head of the Jewish Power party, Itamar Ben Gvir, who has a long history of using incendiary rhetoric against Arabs.

President Isaac Herzog initially gave Netanyahu until December 11 to agree a government. Ahead of that deadline, Netanyahu asked for two more weeks, the maximum allowed.

Herzog gave Netanyahu, who has served as premier for longer than anyone in Israeli history, 10 more days, which expire at midnight (2200 GMT).

Netanyahu could ask for four additional days, with Herzog having discretion over whether to grant more time.

- Unfinished business -

Most Israeli media have predicted that Netanyahu will announce an agreement on a new government ahead of the deadline, even if much remains unresolved.

The head of ultra-Orthodox party Shas, Aryeh Deri, is a key player in the new parliament who has been promised the interior and health portfolios.

But, according to Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, Deri cannot serve in cabinet due to past convictions for tax offences.

Parliament is expected to pass legislation to remove that obstacle, but has yet to do so even though Netanyahu and his allies control 64 of its 120 seats.

More sensitive are measures that would give Ben Gvir control over the border police, which assists the army in annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Ben Gvir has been widely accused of inflaming tensions and has repeatedly urged Israeli security personnel to use more force when countering Palestinian unrest.

The attorney general has issued a stark condemnation of the prospective government's legislative agenda.

She said some of the measures threatened to turn Israel into a "democracy in name, but not in essence".

"The politicisation of law enforcement will deal a serious blow to the most fundamental principles of the rule of law, that is to say equality, the absence of arbitrariness and impartiality," she said, adding that the proposed legislation could lead to "profound" changes and required further thought.

Netanyahu is also juggling cabinet demands from within his own Likud, by far the largest party in parliament.

Leading Israeli newspaper Maariv said that remained a major outstanding challenge as the deadline looms.

"There are more demands for important portfolios than available jobs," the paper said in a commentary Wednesday.