Israel’s new government is the highest ever

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FOR THE For the sixth time in his long career, 73-year-old Binyamin Netanyahu was sworn in as Israel’s prime minister on December 29. But the cabinet that joined him on the front bench of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is like any other Israeli government that came before it.

Among the new ministers who congratulated each other on the formation of the government was a former member of a group denounced for advocating terrorism who will become Israel’s new national security minister ; a minister of finance who believes that following God’s commandments is the most important thing for economic policy; and a justice minister who plans to remove the power of Israel’s Supreme Court, long considered a cornerstone of liberal intellectual independence.

It took five election campaigns in four years for Mr. Netanyahu, widely known as Bibi, to finally secure a strong majority in the Knesset. After an election on November 1, he managed to do so thanks to a coalition agreement with far-right nationalist and ultra-religious parties. He has spent much of the past few weeks desperately trying to convince the Israeli public, as well as Israel’s American supporters, that he will not give full force to the coalition partners. new to change the nature of Israeli democracy.

This can be difficult. Mr. Netanyahu has not only given his hardline partners control over areas of the Israeli government, but he has also committed himself as part of his coalition agreements to changes in legislation that includes a clause to allow the Knesset to override Supreme Court decisions. It is also to amend Israel’s anti-discrimination law so that individuals and private companies can refuse services to customers whose religion or sexual orientation offends them.

Mr. Netanyahu’s previous governments were more moderate in writing and policies. They included centrist and sometimes left-wing parties that gave him room to move, allowing him to stop some of the more radical demands of his partners on the side. right

But this time the centrist parties, which were at the heart of the outgoing government under Yair Lapid, have refused in principle to serve under a prime minister who has been accused of corruption and bribery, and who is still on trial in a court in Jerusalem. . In fact, in the very week that Mr Netanyahu returned to office, prosecution witnesses refused to testify about the regulatory favors he allegedly gave to certain Israeli media owners in exchange for favorable coverage.

It is not clear how Mr. Netanyahu plans to handle his personal legal headache. His deputies have already begun calling for the attorney general, who in Israel is a civil servant, to be fired. Mr. Netanyahu’s allies believe that a stronger successor could revisit the charges against him. Another possibility put forward by Mr. Netanyahu’s friends is that the fraud department he faces could be decriminalized.

Even before it was formed, the new government had already used its majority in the Knesset to appoint a cabinet member who would have previously been barred due to previous criminal convictions. Days before Mr Netanyahu’s team was sworn in, a law was passed to allow Aryeh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, the coalition’s second largest, to be sworn in as interior minister. and health despite his conviction earlier this year. for tax fraud. Mr Netanyahu’s critics fear this will set a precedent for the new prime minister in his bid to stave off his own problems in court.

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