Netanyahu’s hardline government prepares to take office

JERUSALEM (AP) — Benjamin Netanyahu was due to return to office on Thursday as the head of the most religious and ultranationalist government in Israel’s history, vowing to implement policies that could cause national and regional unrest and alienate people. the country’s closest allies.

Netanyahu’s new government has pledged to prioritize settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, provide massive grants to its ultra-Orthodox allies and push for sweeping reform of the justice system that could endanger the country’s democratic institutions.

Netanyahu is the country’s longest-serving prime minister, having served in office from 2009 to 2021 and a stint in the 1990s. He was ousted from office last year after four deadlocked elections by an eight-party coalition only united in their opposition to his regime while he was on trial for corruption.

This coalition dissolved in June and Netanyahu and his ultra-nationalist and ultra-Orthodox allies secured a parliamentary majority in November elections.

“I hear the constant cries from the opposition about the end of the country and of democracy,” Netanyahu said after taking the podium in parliament ahead of the official government swearing-in on Thursday afternoon. His speech was repeatedly interrupted by heckling and mockery from opposition leaders, who sometimes chanted “weak”.

“Members of the opposition: losing in elections is not the end of democracy, it is the essence of democracy,” he said.

Netanyahu leads a government made up of a hardline religious ultranationalist party dominated by West Bank settlers, two ultra-Orthodox parties and his nationalist Likud party.

Its allies are pushing for dramatic changes that could alienate large swaths of the Israeli public, increase the risk of conflict with the Palestinians and put Israel on a collision course with some of its closest supporters, including the United States and the community. American Jew.

Netanyahu’s government released its platform, which declared that “the Jewish people have exclusive and indisputable rights” to all of Israel and the Palestinian territories and will advance settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. This includes the legalization of dozens of savage outposts and a commitment to annex the entire territory, a step that would attract strong international opposition by destroying any remaining hopes of a Palestinian state and fueling calls that Israel is an apartheid state if millions of Palestinians are not granted. citizenship.

Previous Netanyahu administrations have been staunch supporters of Israel’s settlement enterprise in the West Bank, and this should only be accelerated under the new government.

Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 along with the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem – territory the Palestinians seek for a future state. Israel has built dozens of Jewish settlements that house around 500,000 Israelis who live alongside around 2.5 million Palestinians.

Most of the international community views Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal and an obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. The United States has already warned the new government against any move that could further undermine hopes for an independent Palestinian state.

The new government has also raised concerns about the encroachment on minority and LGBTQ rights.

Outside the parliament, several thousand demonstrators waved Israeli and Pride flags and chanted “we don’t want fascists in the Knesset.” Another protest was expected in Tel Aviv later in the day.

Earlier this week, two members of the Religious Zionism party said they would propose an amendment to the country’s anti-discrimination law that would allow businesses and doctors to discriminate against the LGBTQ community on the basis of religious faith.

The remarks, along with the ruling coalition’s broadly anti-LGBTQ stance, have raised fears within the LGBTQ community that the new Netanyahu administration will remove their limited rights. Netanyahu has tried to allay those worries by pledging not to harm LGBTQ rights.

Yair Lapid, the outgoing prime minister who will now take over the title of leader of the opposition, told parliament he was handing over to the new government “a country in excellent shape, with a strong economy, with improved defensive capabilities and a strong deterrence, with one of the best international rankings of all time.

“Try not to destroy it. We will be back soon,” Lapid said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *