Netanyahu’s far-right Israeli government sworn in amid resistance


JERUSALEM — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday inaugurated the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, launching a divisive chapter of national politics that pits newly influential ultrareligious and ultranationalist leaders against an opposition that warns that democracy is in jeopardy.

The new government returns Netanyahu – Israel’s longest-serving leader who is embroiled in a corruption trial – to power for the third time, after a year and a half absence. His coalition, which controls 64 of the Knesset’s 120 seats, has been touted as a return to stability after years of political crisis. But it is anchored by Religious Zionism, a bloc of once fringe far-right parties that have promised to transform the country in their image.

They are already pursuing plans to restrict minority rights, change the system of checks and balances, gut Israel’s justice system, exert influence over the military and security forces, and allow harsher treatment of Palestinians in Israel and elsewhere. the occupied territories.

“It’s not the end of democracy, it’s the essence of democracy!” Netanyahu said during the inauguration at the Knesset on Thursday, greeted by intermittent cheers from his supporters and boos from other members, who shouted “You are a disgrace! before being escorted out of the room by security. Outside the building, hundreds of people gathered to demonstrate against the new government, holding up posters with slogans such as “crime minister” and “BIBLical disaster,” a play on Netanyahu’s nickname, Bibi.

“Try very hard not to mess it up; we’ll be right back,” said Yair Lapid, the outgoing prime minister whose ruling coalition included an Arab-Islamist party for the first time in Israel’s history. Netanyahu refused to hold the traditional handover ceremony with Lapid.

The inauguration event followed marathon last-minute negotiations to allocate ministries after Netanyahu pledged many of the most influential portfolios to religious Zionist parties. The result is a government that represents a relatively narrow constituency but is among the most bloated in history and replete with rotational agreements.

Eli Cohen, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, will serve as foreign minister on a rotational basis with fellow Likud member Israel Katz. Aryeh Deri, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, and Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the religious Zionism bloc, are expected to rotate as finance minister. And Netanyahu has tapped former Israeli envoy to the United States, Ron Dermer, widely seen as his preferred successor, as minister of the Office of Strategic Affairs.

Since winning the November 1 election, Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed that he would curb far-right factions whose policies risk jeopardizing Israel’s democratic institutions. A legislative proposal would give far-right members of the ruling coalition unprecedented power to appoint judges and overturn Supreme Court decisions. The new administration can also bring about change through inaction: with only four women, compared to nine in the outgoing coalition, the government has announced that it will not adopt an international agreement aimed at preventing violence against women. women.

Although Netanyahu has said he will protect minorities, he has already signed an agreement overturning an anti-discrimination law, allowing hospitals, hotels and other businesses to deny services to the LGBTQ community and others based on religious beliefs. “As long as there are enough other doctors who can provide a service, it is forbidden to force a doctor to give treatment that contradicts his religious position,” said Orit Struck, a religious Zionism politician who will lead the new Ministry of National Missions. .

In recent days, Netanyahu has also helped pass legislation allowing politicians with previous criminal convictions to take office, including Deri, a close ally convicted of tax evasion, and Itamar Ben Gvir, the leader of the ruling party. Jew who was convicted of supporting a terrorist group and racist incitement.

Ben Gvir is set to head a renamed and vastly expanded National Security Ministry – giving him control of the police, including forces that operate in the occupied West Bank, where near-daily, often deadly Israeli raids on Palestinians have inflamed an already fragile state of security.

2022 has been the deadliest year for West Bank Palestinians in nearly two decades

Netanyahu’s partners could also pass legislation that would derail or even cancel his corruption trial.

In response, protests grew across the country. Sheba Medical Center, along with several other Israeli hospitals, said in an Instagram video on Monday: “We are treating everyone. Figures in the justice system and owners of tech companies and other businesses have warned they will stop working with government agencies if the law is changed to allow discrimination.

“We believe and hope that among our clients and the companies and service providers we work with, there are certain fundamental values, and that through collaborations and the unification of forces, we can preserve an egalitarian, tolerant and respectful society. in the state. of Israel,” reads a letter from 21 leading Israeli law firms published on Tuesday.

The Biden administration has expressed concern about the new government and has worked to find workarounds to avoid dealing directly with some of its members, according to Israeli media. In a rare meeting on Wednesday, President Isaac Herzog told Ben Gvir it was his responsibility to calm the “stormy winds” his government has unleashed among millions of people in Israel and the international Jewish community.

But many fear that religious Zionism cannot be managed.

In recent weeks, the Israeli news site Ynet published two “blacklists” compiled in 2019 and updated this year by the anti-LGBTQ and anti-Arab party of religious Zionist Avi Maoz. A list includes the names, sexual orientations, photos and other identifying details of prominent LGBTQ journalists, feminist scholars and liberal figures in the public education system.

A second list names dozens of justice system officials, academics and even interns who attended a civil society workshop that Maoz describes as part of a “deep state, shadow government.” He says the group’s lessons on integrating Arab citizens and fighting racism are part of a “radical left” plot.

The report sent shockwaves through Israel, but Netanyahu did not issue condemnation.

“It’s a particularly slippery and dangerous slope,” Adir Yanko, a gay Israeli journalist listed by the party, wrote on Ynet. “What is starting in the gay community could spread to other groups who currently feel very safe. … Turning a blind eye is not an option.

Author: niso

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