Dec 21, 2022 - World

Netanyahu tells Israeli president he’s formed a new government

Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Knesset (Israeli parliament) member Aryeh Deri

Incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Knesset member Aryeh Deri on Dec. 13. Photo: Gil Cohen/AFP via Getty Images

Incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu notified President Isaac Herzog late Wednesday that he has managed to form a government after 38 days of coalition negotiations.

The big picture: The move, which came 20 minutes before his mandate to form a government was set to expire, buys him more time as he works to get controversial laws his coalition partners have demanded passed ahead of the swearing-in of new ministers, which is expected by early January.

Driving the news: Netanyahu’s plan was to have the new government in place less than a week after he received the mandate, but his coalition partners didn't trust him to make good on promises he made once the government was sworn in. Instead, they demanded detailed agreements, including the passage of certain laws, as a condition of being part of/supporting? his coalition.

  • These laws include controversial measures that have already generated public outrage and created tensions between the expected new government, attorney general, police and security establishment.

Among the measures is one that would allow Aryeh Deri, Netanyahu’s senior coalition partner and leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, to become a Cabinet minister in the government.

  • Deri was convicted 18 months ago of tax fraud — his second criminal conviction. He signed a plea bargain in which he was sentenced to one-year probation and resigned from the Knesset.
  • When Deri signed his plea deal, the prosecution and the judge made it clear that they understood he was leaving political life. But less than a year later, he ran for office again.
  • According to current Israeli law, a person who was sentenced to prison time or probation in the last seven years can’t serve as a minister. Deri demanded the law be changed so that it would apply only to people who served actual time in prison.
  • The attorney general has objected to the new measure, which could be revoked by the supreme court. The judges could also revoke Deri’s appointment as minister.
  • Such a scenario could create an unprecedented constitutional situation and accelerate the expected new government’s plans to pass a law that gives it the authority to override supreme court decisions.

Another measure Netanyahu's coalition partners have demanded is an amendment to the police decree that would give the new minister of national security unprecedented direct authority over the police. Radical right-wing politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is known for his Jewish supremacist rhetoric, is set to get the post.

  • The new amendment, if passed, would significantly hamper the status of the Israeli police as independent and apolitical. It would also give Ben-Gvir authority over police operations and criminal investigations policy.
  • The attorney general and the chief of police expressed strong objections to the amendment and claimed it is unbalanced, will politicize the police and will create uncertainty regarding the chain of command.

The third measure would allow incoming finance minister and radical right-wing politician Bezalel Smotrich to also serve as a minister in the Defense Ministry and have the authority over the military units in charge of the civilian policy in the occupied West Bank.

  • Smotrich is also known for his Jewish supremacist rhetoric.
  • The Israeli security establishment and intelligence community are against the measure and have warned of its consequences regarding the chain of command and the situation on the ground in the West Bank.

What’s next: The laws are expected to pass in the Knesset by the end of next week.

  • Netanyahu’s aides told reporters the official swearing-in of the government will take place between Christmas and the first week of January.
Go deeper