Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, looks set to return to power, with partial election results suggesting he and his allies have won a clear majority of Knesset seats.
Those allies include the far-right Religious Zionism/Jewish Power bloc, which appears to have more than doubled the number of seats it holds – and which could make the next government the most right-wing in Israel’s history.
Netanyahu’s other two likely coalition partners are the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party and the religious Sephardic Shas party, both of which have long histories of governing. Both traditionally sought support from their own communities and worked to maintain control of Israel’s religious establishment.
But this would be the first time that Zionist/Jewish religious power leaders could have control of government ministries.
The leaders of Religious Zionism/Jewish Power get much of their support from the settler movement – Jews who live mainly in the West Bank and believe that Jews should control the occupied territories.
Having them in positions of power, such as defense or public security ministries, could make Israeli-Palestinian relations even worse than they are now.
Journalist Anshel Pfeffer, who has written a biography of Netanyahu, suggested ahead of the vote that bringing Religious Zionism/Jewish Power into the government could mean expanding settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.
But that could be the price of joining Netanyahu’s coalition, he said.
“Maybe some settlements in the West Bank, which in the past were abandoned by Israel, will be rebuilt, reoccupied?” said Pfeffer. “And maybe more steps towards some sort of annexation in the West Bank?”
The party leaders are the settlers themselves: Itamar Ben Gvir , convicted of inciting anti-Arab racism and supporting terrorism; and Bezalel Smotrich who once told Arab members of the Israeli parliament that they were “here by mistake because [o 1º primeiro-ministro de Israel David] Ben Gurion didn’t finish the job and kicked him out in 1948.”
It was when Israel became a state and when many Palestinian families fled or were driven from their homes in the land that became Israel.
Ben Gvir was seen last month pulling out a gun during clashes with rocks in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, telling Israeli police to shoot Arabs if they threw rocks.
He opened a so-called “office” – actually a small tent – in a patch of scrubland in Sheikh Jarrah last year to assert the Jewish presence in the East Jerusalem neighborhood. This is the area of focus where attempts to evict Palestinian families by Jewish groups claiming land have become rallying cries and symbols for the Palestinian cause.
Clashes shortly after he pitched the tent were among the triggers for an 11-day war between Palestinian militants in Gaza and the Israel Defense Forces last year.
A trained lawyer, Ben Gvir has defended settler cases all the way to Israel’s Supreme Court.
Your ally Bezalel Smotrich can be just as combative.
He argued, for example, that people shouldn’t beat around the bush when they hate someone.
“The most natural instinct, the most normal instinct of a normal man who loves those who love him and hates those who hate him, is not to turn the other cheek,” he said to defend a bill he co-sponsored to deny the Israel’s entry to supporters of Israel’s boycotts.
When Smotrich speaks of men loving men who love them, he doesn’t mean it in a sexual sense.
Smotrich described himself as a “proud homophobe” and, as a young man, helped organize an anti-Pride Parade called the Beast Parade, comparing homosexuality to bestiality.
He later told Israeli newspaper Haaretz through a spokesperson that he regretted doing so.
But in September, he said that LGBTQ people deserved no more “recognition” than people who broke traffic laws.
“I want to run a red light and I want recognition,” he joked on an Israeli talk show, Haaretz reported.
Smotrich is proposing drastic changes to Israel’s legal system and code, including withdrawing the state’s ability to charge a public official with fraud and breach of trust.
Netanyahu faces exactly that charge in an ongoing corruption trial.
Asked about the Smotrich proposal by Fareed Zakaria of CNN , Netanyahu hesitated and said, “I would not do anything to affect me. I think my trial is unfolding the way it is.”
The responsible man?
Current projections show that Netanyahu’s Likud party will be the largest of the likely coalition, likely in command of about 32 seats, and the man Israelis call “Bibi” says that means he will be in the driver’s seat.
He told Zakaria last month that even if he partnered with extremist parties, they would not set policy.
“I’ve had partners like that in the past, and they haven’t changed one iota of my policies. I decide politics with my party, which is by far the biggest party in the country. And we are a center-right party and a responsible party, but we are not going to adopt norms for the government that we don’t agree with,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu has yet to return to the prime minister’s office, although the signs look very good for him.
The votes are still being tallied, and the result will not be final until each is counted. At that point, election officials will be able to allocate seats to each party that wins more than 3.25% of the national vote.
Next, President Isaac Herzog will give a mandate to form a government to the politician he believes is best able to build a coalition.
This process was torturous in the four elections since April 2019 that preceded this one. But if the latest projections are correct, Netanyahu should have a clear path to majority rule — and the power to shift Israel significantly to the right.
Source: CNN Brasil
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