A coalition of right-wing religious parties led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged victorious in the Israeli elections held on 1 November. The right-wing faction won a landslide victory in Israel’s general elections, winning 64 of the 120 parliament seats. With this, Netanyahu, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, has been set to return to power after some gap. Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party won 32 seats in parliament, while incumbent Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid got 24 seats. In a few days, Israeli President Isaac Herzog will invite Netanyahu to form the government.
Netanyahu’s troubles will increase with ultra-religious forces
This government will also include the country’s ultra-religious forces, which can increase Israel’s problems in many areas. Netanyahu’s Likud party now has 32 members in the Knesset (Israeli parliament). His ally Religious Zionist Party has 14 MPs, making it the third largest party in the Knesset. The parties with which Netanyahu contested the election are considered ultra-religious parties. In addition to the Religious Zionist Party and its extremist, the Otzma Yehudit faction, Netanyahu contested the election with the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party (11 MPs), the United Torah Judaism Party (7 MPs). Of these, the Otzma Yehudit faction is led by Itamar Ben-Gavir. This group has often been inciting violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
How Netanyahu will control Itamar Ben-Gavir
Itamar Ben-Gavir was convicted of inciting racism, obstructing the duty of a police officer and supporting the terrorist organization Kach Movement. In May 2021, he was accused by the police commissioner of fanning the flames of violence between Jews and Arabs in mixed cities such as Lod and Acre.
A cause of concern for many organizations and progressives is that the Religious Zionism Party openly calls for the enforcement of religious laws, Israeli rule over the West Bank, and the expulsion of “disloyal” Palestinian citizens from Israel. This party instigates Muslims by calling for the demolition of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This mosque is one of the holiest places in Islam. The party wants to build a Jewish temple at this site.
Signaling the beginning of the new “Intifada”
The president of the Islamist Arab Rahm Party, Mansoor Abbas, warned that if Jews were allowed to pray at the site, a war would begin. Netanyahu had announced that the two-state solution had no place on his government’s agenda. Since Netanyahu’s announcement, Palestinians have lost hope for a peaceful solution and fear that the government formed will be more aggressive and increase tensions between Israel and the Arabs. All this is creating a recipe for violent conflict among the Israelis and possibly heralding the beginning of a new “intifada” (rebellion).
Screw will get stuck on the distribution of ministerial post
It may also hinder the normalization and improvement of relations between Israel and the Gulf countries, which was achieved through the Abrahamic Agreement. Netanyahu was the longest serving prime minister in the history of Israel. But of course they may face difficulties on sharing of ministerial posts with other coalition parties, where different parties demand specific portfolios to implement their policies.
Itamar Ben-Gavir said he wanted to become the Minister of Internal Security. Through this department, Ben-Gavir wants to be in charge of the Israeli police and policies around Jerusalem’s holy sites. His political partner, Bezel Smotrich, said he wanted the Defense Ministry, which oversees Israel’s policy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza. To avoid conflict with the US administration and powerful Jewish groups in the US, Netanyahu has tried to persuade him to take another ministerial position. According to press reports, US Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee and a well-known supporter of Israel, has indicated to Netanyahu that forming a government with extremists like Ben Gawer could “severely spoil relations with Washington”. .
US lawmaker warns Netanyahu
Several American Jewish groups, such as the American Jewish Committee, the Reform Party and J Street, have expressed concern over the outcome of Israel’s election and the possible inclusion of Ben-Gavir in the government. Many European leaders welcomed Netanyahu’s return to power, while the Biden administration congratulated Netanyahu on his election victory, despite his past differences with him.
The right-wing Religious Zionism Party surprised everyone in the final results of the counting of votes. The Religious Zionism Party has emerged as the third largest party this time by winning 14 seats. The Arab-majority parties Hadash-Taal and the United Arab List each received five seats, but the detached Balad Party failed to gain 3.25 percent of the vote to enter the Knesset (parliament).
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