Israel is getting what is likely to be the most right-wing government in its history. The designated re-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu already agrees in principle with the extreme right-wing Religious Zionist Party and two deeply religious parties.
Now President Izchak Herzog has added another ten days: the chairman of the right-wing conservative Likud party now has that much time to forge his extreme alliance. There is concern that the new government will shake Israeli democracy to its foundations.
The camp around Netanyahu, who at the age of 73 has been prime minister for longer than anyone in Israel before, secured 64 of 120 seats in parliament in the snap elections on November 1. This means that "Bibi," as they call him here, can return to power after a year and a half on the opposition benches in the Knesset.
Beware of ultra-right influence
Politics professor Jonathan Rynhold expects his new government to make fundamental changes in state institutions - such as the way judges are appointed. In addition, laws would probably be passed "that would allow politicians to hold offices even though they are corrupt". Rynhold literally: "They will weaken the institutions that guarantee democracy and the rule of law." He also expects that "ultra-right representatives will penetrate government institutions that have always served as a moderating, democratic and liberal foundation".
Netanyahu's allies also want to introduce a so-called "overcome clause". This would allow Parliament to enforce laws with a majority of 61 MPs, even if the Supreme Court classifies them as illegal. The alliance would have MPs enough. But then Israel would "no longer be a democracy," warns the head of the Bar Association, Avi Chimi.
Netanyahu himself once spoke out against restricting the judicial system because without the separation of powers there is no functioning democracy. Under the impression of the investigations and the corruption process that has been ongoing against him since 2020, he changed his attitude. Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionist Party wants to remove the crimes of infidelity and fraud from the law - which could also result in the case against Netanyahu being overturned.
Smotrich is to take over the Treasury. The 42-year-old has been campaigning for Israeli settlers in the occupied territories for years and is strictly against the establishment of a Palestinian state. As part of the previous agreements, he is to be given far-reaching powers that will facilitate settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Are the police falling into the wrong hands?
The most controversial figure in the new power structure, however, is Itamar Ben-Gvir. His party Ozma Jehudit (Jewish Force) had joined the alliance around the Religious Zionist Party for the election. The 46-year-old, who was convicted of supporting a Jewish terrorist organization, is set to become Minister of National Security. "The police are controlled by someone who was considered too extreme to serve in the army," warns political scientist Rynhold.
Ben-Gvir could be trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Should Jews also be allowed to pray in the complex, anger among Muslims and a further escalation in relations with the Palestinians and Jordan can be expected. "The situation in the West Bank is very explosive, also because of the corrupt Palestinian Authority," says Rynhold. "Extremists on both sides would be happy about a further escalation."
Jaakov Katz, editor-in-chief of the conservative Jerusalem Post, recently called Ben-Gvir a "huge threat to the state of Israel." He is a racist towards Palestinians, "like the combination of a white supremacist in the United States and a fascist in Europe."
An agreement with Avi Maoz of the Noam party, also part of the Smotrich alliance, also caused a stir. He appeared in the election campaign with homophobic slogans and goals. In the future he is to be responsible for external programs at schools, which triggered protests from headmasters and municipalities. Maoz also announced the abolition of the Gay Pride march in Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu is visibly trying to smooth things over. The 73-year-old insists on setting his new government's agenda himself. He presents himself as statesmanlike and liberal. However, Rynhold sees long-term support for Israel in the US Democratic Party at risk. "With a government with so many extremists, something that could cause harm could easily happen."