Netanyahu asks for extension to form government

After lengthy negotiations between Likud members and members of the coalition parties, it appears that Netanyahu will not be able to form a government before the expiration date of the mandate given to him. He has thus asked President Isaac Herzog for an extension. Netanyahu is seeking to quickly overcome obstacles with his coalition partners, including expediting the approval a law which will allow Shas leader Aryeh Deri to be appointed minister.

By Wednesday morning, Nov. 30, it seems that almost all agreements have been reached within Netanyahu’s upcoming coalition. Agreements have been signed with the Jewish Power party led by Kahanist MK Itamar Ben-Gvir and MK Avi Maoz’s far-right, ultra-Orthodox Noam party. There are agreements in principle with Shas and no delays are expected with the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party.

Netanyahu, who announced his desire to appoint a permanent speaker of the Knesset and forgo a temporary appointment, will have to announce a candidate from the Likud this week, with three primary candidates under consideration namely, Yoav Kish, Ofir Akunis, and Amir Ohana. Netanyahu will want to appoint a chairman early in order to prevent delays in legislation in the Knesset, allowing him to quickly push through laws intended to help secure his new administration.

Netanyahu wants to appoint Shas chairman Aryeh Deri, who was convicted of tax offenses last year as Minister of the Interior and Health. Netanyahu is seeking to enact a law that will allow his appointment. Deri is furious that the Speaker of the Knesset has not yet been replaced, despite the designated coalition having 64 seats in the Knesset (out of 120). According to reports, the meeting between Netanyahu and Deri was “tense.”

UTJ believes that the Likud is procrastinating in negotiations with them. On Monday, Nov. 28, it sent a message to Netanyahu stating that it would not support the replacement of the Knesset speaker until significant progress is made in the negotiations and agreements are reached on fundamental issues (such as mandatory conscription for the ultra-Orthodox) and division of duties. The party is outraged that a large part of the powers regarding Jerusalem affairs will likely fall to the hands of one of the members of Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party.

In the negotiations with Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism list – of which Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power is a member – several problems arose. Although both sides agree on the policy of war, oppression, and settlement expansion, Smotrich’s demands go deep into the issue of settlements and overstep the boundaries of the treasury portfolio he is requesting. There is concern that powers will be transferred from the Ministry of Defense to the Treasury, which has raised a lot of objections from Netanyahu’s allies in Likud, who fear being left with crumbs.

Agreement between Jewish Power and Likud: extension of powers to fascists

Likud and Jewish Power met at the beginning of the week to conclude an annex of positions in the next government. This brings them one step closer to the signing of the full agreement which will include budgets, essential issues, and basic guidelines. The annex to the agreement joins previous agreements reached in the past week, according to which a number of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank will be regulated, the proposed “Protection Law” will be enacted which will impose a 10-year prison sentence for protection racket. Among the more concerning summaries reached is allowing Ben-Gvir to build an army for himself in the form of a “wide-ranging national guard” and an expanded law that will allow the shooting of gun thieves from army bases.

According to the summary, Jewish Power will receive the Ministry of Internal Security with extensive powers and control over the Green Police (part of the Environmental Protection Ministry) which harasses Bedouins in unrecognized villages in the Negev by demolishing their homes, spraying herbicide on their fields, and confiscating their livestock grazing on government land. Ben-Gvir will have control of the Land Authority and the Border Patrol special forces in the Occupied West Bank. The Ministry of Internal Security will be renamed the “Ministry of National Security.”

In addition, Jewish Power managed to extract from the Likud a concession on the expansion of the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee, which will be budgeted at two billion shekels per year. Ben-Gvir will also have over regulation of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. According to the agreement, the government will allocate a budget of approximately NIS 180 million annually for the infrastructure of these settlements, which includes electricity, water, sewage, and roads.

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