Called to head a new far-right government, Netanyahu promises unity for Israel

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JERUSALEM — Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday received an official mandate to form a new government and pledged to seek national consensus after an election in which the Jewish far right surged, sparking controversy. concern at home and abroad.

Tasking Netanyahu with forming the next coalition, President Isaac Herzog noted that Israel’s longest-serving prime minister received enough endorsements from like-minded parties to win 64 of the parliament’s 120 seats.

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It puts conservative Netanyahu on the path to one of the most stable governments in years, after an 18-month hiatus in which he was replaced by a rare but fragile alliance of centrist, liberal, nationalist and Arab politicians. .

“I intend to work to expand the area of ​​consensus between us,” Netanyahu said in televised remarks at Herzog’s residence, adding that he would represent all Israelis “without exception.”

He claimed there was already widespread agreement on Israel’s Jewish identity but that individual freedoms should also be respected – an apparent allusion to its 21% Arab minority as well as secularists.

Reiterating two of his long-held beliefs, he pledged to pursue liberal reforms to reduce the cost of living and said: “We must act decisively against Iran’s belligerence and, above all, thwart its efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, which have designs directed against our existence.

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After forging normalization with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco in 2020, Netanyahu said he would now work on “other peace agreements, peace through strength, peace in return for peace, with other Arab countries – and thus, to a large extent, an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

He added: “I didn’t say the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but in my opinion, it is the preliminary stage that would also bring this outcome.”

US-sponsored talks on establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel stalled in 2014.

The new government appears to be the most right-wing in Israel’s history, encompassing the ultra-nationalist party of Religious Zionism whose leaders oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state, want the annexation of the occupied West Bank and were anti-LGBT in the past.

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One of them, Itamar Ben-Gvir, was convicted in 2007 of racist incitement against Arabs and support for terrorism. He says he is now reformed but still calls for a harsh crackdown on those he considers terrorists or traitors.

Rejecting what he called “incitement to fear” about the health of Israeli democracy, Netanyahu said the country would continue to be a “beacon” for the region.

More mainstream parties boycotted Netanyahu’s Likud over his corruption trial, in which he denied any wrongdoing. Herzog noted Netanyahu’s trial, but said it posed no legal obstacles to his new post as prime minister.

Netanyahu has 28 days to conclude a coalition, with a possible 14-day extension. But he looks likely to finalize the talks this week, having launched them semi-officially just after the November 1 election. (Writing by Dan Williams; editing by James Mackenzie and Elaine Hardcastle)



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