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Netanyahu Officially Takes the Reins as Prime Minister of Israel’s Most Hardline Government Ever

On Thursday, by a 63-54 vote, the Israeli Knesset approved Benjamin Netanyahu to be the prime minister of the country’s 37th government. Netanyahu’s government is the most right-wing, hardline government in Israel’s history. And yet, the new speaker of the Knesset is the first openly gay MK (Member of the Knesset). This will be Netanyahu’s third time at the helm of Israel’s government, with 15 years so far in the top position—making him the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu’s right-wing and ultra-Orthodox coalition has vowed to consider annexation of the West Bank, bring sweeping Orthodox reforms to services provided by the state, and diminish the authority of the High Court.

The returning prime minister told the Knesset (and the country) that his top priorities are shutting down Iran’s nuclear program (a goal he has had in previous terms), developing the state’s infrastructure, and restoring security and governance within the country (a reference to the recent rise in terrorist activities within Israel).

Netanyahu’s government has 31 ministerial roles, with many previous administration posts being subdivided. Only five of the ministers are women. And many in Netanyahu’s own party were left out of the cabinet, which sparked unusual criticism from those who were once Netanyahu allies. Netanyahu was under intense pressure from his new hard right partners and according to many, Bibi gave away too much.

The Times of Israel has a headline quoting Likud leader David Bitan: “Likud stalwart Bitan says Netanyahu ‘lost it’ in negotiations, blasts far-right MKs.”

In a seemingly contradictory move (but hey, it’s politics!), the ultra-conservative new government (plus other members of the Knesset) voted in Amir Ohana (with Likud, Netanyahu’s party) to be the speaker of the Knesset. Ohana is very open about his homosexuality, and many members of the religious and far-right parties oppose the LGBTQ lifestyle and rights. However, all but one (who was overseas at the time) of the coalition members voted Ohana in.

“I pledge to do my best to be worthy of the trust you put in me,” Ohana told fellow Knesset members.

Typically, there is a lengthy meeting, followed by a ceremony and photo-op during the passing of the baton from the outgoing prime minister to the new one. Not this time.

Maybe it was because Netanyahu has done this rodeo a few times…who knows? But for whatever reason, Yair Lapid and Benjamin Netanyahu met for a short 45-minute transition meeting (“here are the keys to the residency, etc.”) Thursday and then skipped the fanfare and tradition. I think both men had other things on their minds.

Lapid, who is now the opposition leader, left Netanyahu a note in the PM’s office saying “Lapid 2024.”