Return of Netanyahu, head of Israel’s most right-wing government

After a break in the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power on Thursday by forming the most right-wing government in the history of Israel, which is already causing serious concern.

Winner of the legislative elections of November 1, Mr. Netanyahu presented his ministerial team to the deputies in the morning, before the holding in the afternoon of a vote of confidence won by a majority of 63 elected officials out of the 120 in Parliament and his performance of oath.

Mr. Netanyahu notably announced the appointment of former Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen as head of Foreign Affairs. The day before, he had indicated that Yoav Gallant, a former senior officer considered close to the pro-colonization movement in the occupied West Bank, was going to obtain the Defense.

The government’s mission will be « to thwart Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear arsenal », « to ensure Israel’s military superiority in the region », while « widening the circle of peace » with the Arab countries, declared Mr. Netanyahu, who must meet as of Thursday evening in Jerusalem his first ministerial cabinet.

Indicted for corruption in several cases, the leader of Likud (right) was ousted from power in June 2021 by a motley coalition before promising a return to business by allying with ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties.

His coalition notably includes Bezalel Smotrich’s « Religious Zionism » and Itamar Ben Gvir’s « Jewish Force », known for their anti-Palestinian remarks and their positions favorable to the annexation of part of the West Bank, and « Noam by Avi Maoz, openly anti-LGBTQ.

Despite the presence of this party in the government, MPs elected Amir Ohana as Speaker of Parliament, a first for an openly gay MP in this country.

Hundreds of people, including several wearing the rainbow flag or showing sympathy for the Palestinians, demonstrated Thursday outside Parliament against the new government.

« This is the darkest, most racist, worst government we could ever imagine, » said Niv, a protester at the scene.

For Amir Sasson, a 51-year-old salesman living in central Israel, “the new government must be given a chance to prove itself”. “It is certain that there are very important subjects, in particular in the field of internal security of Israel that must be improved as soon as possible,” he told AFP.

» Lust for power «

In this new government, MM. Smotrich and Ben Gvir are respectively in charge of the settlements in the West Bank and of the Israeli police, whose units also operate in this Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel.

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara recently said she fears reforms that reduce the power of judges and a « politicization of law enforcement » that « would deal a serious blow to the most fundamental principles of the rule of law « .

And Army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said he was worried about the creation of a second ministerial post, that of Mr Smotrich, within Defense itself to oversee the civilian management of the West Bank. .

For many analysts, Mr. Netanyahu has multiplied the concessions to his partners in the hope of obtaining judicial immunity or the cancellation of his trial for corruption.

« This government is the addition of Netanyahu’s political weakness, given his age and his trial, and the fact that we have a new political family, linked to the revolutionary right, which we had never seen with this strength in Israel”, explains to AFP Denis Charbit, professor of political science at the Open University of Israel.

MM. Smotrich and Ben Gvir, who above all wish to strengthen colonization in the West Bank, Palestinian territory where more than 475,000 Jewish settlers already live, « have a very strong thirst for power and they know that what they are not getting from here three months, six months, or even two years, will not take place”, adds Mr. Charbit.

» Blast » ?

In the wake of the last Hamas / Israel war in Gaza in May 2021 and recent violence in the West Bank, the most serious since the end of the Second Intifada (2000 to 2005), the fear of a military escalation with the Palestinians is well present.

“There are many red lines: Al-Aqsa, annexation [de la Cisjordanie]the status of Palestinian prisoners [en Israël]. If Ben Gvir, as minister, goes to Al-Aqsa, it will be a big red line crossed and it will lead to an explosion,” Basem Naim, a senior Hamas politician, told AFP.

Mr. Ben Gvir has already visited the esplanade of the Mosques in recent months, a holy place at the heart of Israeli-Palestinian tensions in East Jerusalem.

Under a historic status quo, non-Muslims can visit but not pray there, but a visit by a serving Israeli minister to the site would be seen as provocation among Palestinians.

« If the government acts irresponsibly, it could cause a security crisis, » said outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

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