Israel: Netanyahu given more time to form a government

President Herzog allows prime minister designate an extra 10 days to complete coalition deal

President Yitzhak Herzog has granted prime minster designate Binyamin Netanyahu an additional 10 days to form a government.

Mr Netanyahu had submitted a request to Mr Herzog on Thursday asking for a two-week extension of his mandate which would have expired on Sunday.

“When you expressed your willingness to form the government, you said that you would form a government that would work for the entire nation. This is a complex time in Israeli society; disputes over fundamental issues threaten to tear society apart and fuel gratuitous violence and hatred,” Mr Herzog said, expressing the hope that the coalition will maintain “dignified and responsible discourse between the executive, legislative and judicial branches”.

After winning the election on November 1st and receiving the backing of parties representing 64 of the 120 Knesset parliament members, Mr Netanyahu declared his intention to form a government within a couple of weeks. However, the negotiations between his Likud and the two ultra-Orthodox parties and the far-right Religious Zionism party (a makeshift alliance of three separate rightist parties) have been anything but smooth.


Despite the relative homogenous make-up of the new coalition, the parties are having a hard time agreeing on ideological matters.

One example is the so-called override clause which will give the Knesset the right to overrule a supreme court decision, a move that will shift the balance of power from the judiciary to the legislature. Another issue is the demand by the ultra-Orthodox parties for a law that would exempt yeshiva seminary students from military conscription.

Another ideological issue is the desire of many in the incoming coalition to apply Israeli sovereignty over parts of the West Bank. Mr Netanyahu would rather keep this sensitive issue out of the coalition agreements, fearing a backlash from the international community, including Sunni Arab states which have normalised relations with Israel in recent years.

Outgoing prime minister Yair Lapid harshly criticised Mr Netanyahu over the negotiations, calling him “weak” and capitulating to “blackmail” by his allies.

Mr Lapid said the government Netanyahu is forming, which involves coalition deals and aligning himself with ultra-Orthodox, far-right, anti-Arab and anti-LGBT lawmakers is “crazy.” He said there was “no other way to describe what is happening,” adding that “Likud has become a minor partner in its own government.”

He cited as an example the appointment of Avi Maoz, leader of the anti-LGBT Noam party, to oversee the database enrichment programmes that are offered to schools.

To satisfy the insatiable appetite of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition partners for portfolios, the incoming government will comprise 30 ministers. Existing ministries such as education and defence have had sections taken away to form new portfolios.

Far-right ministers will control the day-to-day activities for both Jewish settlers and large parts of the Palestinian population in the occupied West Bank.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, the controversial leader of the Otzma Yehudit Jewish Strength party, who the army refused to enlist because of his extremist views, will be in charge of the police.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem