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Israel’s Netanyahu says a deal has been reached with far-right to form a government

Benjamin Netanyahu’s deal sees him return to power as head of the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history.

Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu said he has reached an agreement to form a new government with hard-line far-right and religious political partners, which will see him return to power as head of the most right-wing coalition in Israel’s history.

Following his victory in the Nov. 1 election, Netanyahu won a mandate to form a government backed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and a far-right bloc that ran under the alliance of Religious Zionism.

A deadline for concluding the coalition talks was set for Wednesday midnight.

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Minutes before midnight, Netanyahu informed Israeli President Isaac Herzog by phone that he “had been able to establish a government,” according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

It was not immediately clear when the new government would be sworn in. Netanyahu told Herzog that he intended to do it “as soon as possible.”

“I have succeeded in (forming a government),” he said on Twitter. A spokesman for Herzog confirmed that he had received the statement.

Netanyahu, who is fighting corruption charges in court, had already served as Israel’s prime minister longer than anyone in the country’s history, including a stint from 1996-1999 and a 12-year term from 2009 to 2021. .

Among his most controversial moves to form his coalition was a promise to give an expanded security ministry to the leader of the ultranationalist Jewish Power party, Itamar Ben Gvir, who has a long history of using inflammatory rhetoric against Palestinians.

The government roles that Netanyahu has promised to hardliners like Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich of the far-right Religious Zionism party have shocked Palestinians and liberal Israelis.

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Ben-Gvir and Smotrich oppose a Palestinian state and support the extension of Israeli control over the occupied West Bank.

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Itamar Ben Gvir
Jewish Power party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir (left) following the announcement of exit polls in Israel’s November 2022 general election [File: Corinna Kern/Reuters]

Ben-Gvir is expected to serve as security minister with authority over the police, while Smotrich’s Israeli settler party will have control over planning in the occupied West Bank, giving him sweeping powers over Palestinian lives and opening the door to an expansion of illegality. Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

Ben-Gvir also wants more control over the police with legislation that would give him direct authority over policy matters normally decided by the police commissioner.

Another coalition partner, Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, is running to become finance minister, despite a conviction for tax fraud. He would take over the ministry for two years under a shared agreement with Smotrich, who would serve for the first two years of the government’s term.

Also in the coalition is Avi Maoz, head of a small religious anti-LGBTQ faction, which has been placed in control of parts of Israel’s national education system and appointed a deputy minister in charge of “Jewish identity.”

The new government, which Netanyahu is reportedly due to present within a week, will take office after a year that has seen the worst levels of violence in the occupied West Bank in more than 10 years with more than 150 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces. and about 20 Israelis. delicate.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from West Jerusalem, said that Netanyahu’s associates have, until now, been on the fringes of Israel’s political spectrum and that the Palestinians appear to be preparing for the worst.

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“No one expects this government to follow any path toward peace,” McBride said.

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