Benjamin Netanyahu Begins Third Term as Prime Minister of Israel

Photo by Yehonatan Valtser/TPS on 26 March, 2020

Jerusalem, 29 December, 2022 (TPS) — It took 58 days, but Benjamin Netanyahu became the Prime Minister of Israel once again on Thursday afternoon after his new coalition government received the required majority of votes in the Knesset to be formed. Officially, this is Netanyahu’s sixth term of office as every government he led – even the short lived ones like from 2020 that last for only about a year – count as a full term.

The new cabinet has 31 ministers, 5 of whom are women. To put this into context, Israel once had a law limiting the government to only 18 ministers and the first government of Israel led by David Ben-Gurion had only 12 cabinet ministers.

This is also the second time that Netanyahu has “returned” to office, setting yet another record. Previously, only David Ben-Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin won reelection after leaving office, and then only once. And now Netanyahu can add to his already record run of more than 15 years – in total – in office.

The reason that it took so long to form the government had to do with the many demands from the 3 parties that make up his coalition partners. (If you included the 2 parties that are actually coalitions known as “joint lists” then there are actually 6 small parties in the coalition with Netanyahu’s Likud Party.)

Subcribe to The Jewish Link Eblast

When the government was formed and Benjamin Netanyahu took the formal oath of office he was met by a chorus of now opposition members of the Knesset who shouted “Weak, Weak, Weak,” over and over again at him. This is because the former government members have spent the past few weeks accusing Netanyahu of being a weak leader who made too many concessions to his coalition partners.

In fact, in his own address to the Knesset, the now former Prime Minister Yair Lapid told Netanyahu he was being handed a state that is “in excellent condition with a strong economy” and added, “try not to destroy it — we will be back.”

And that was not all. Lapid left a note for Netanyahu on the Prime Minister’s desk written on official stationery that simply read, “Lapid – 2024.”

The new government is also being met with protests. The LGBT community is holding a demonstration in Tel Aviv as Netanyahu is set to hold its first cabinet meeting Thursday evening. Other opponents have been demonstrating all day long in front of the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem.

The main criticism of the new Netanyahu government – and also why he is being described by the opposition as a “puppet” of his coalition partners – is tied to why it took so long for him to establish his coalition and bring it before the full Knesset for a vote.

Before he could do so, however, he was forced to make concessions to his ultra-orthodox partners that the opposition has criticized, saying they go too far and charging that the changes promised would affect Israel’s identity as a democratic state as well as its longstanding religious/secular status quo.

And Netanyahu also pushed through a series of new laws just to satisfy his coalition partners.

In Israel, laws can still be passed before a new government is formed and while the cabinet ministers of the outgoing government – including the prime minister – continue to serve as a caretaker government with limited powers. And so, the smaller parties made demands of Netanyahu before they would agree to vote for the new government to be formed and this required him to support the passage of several new laws before the government was even formed.

This is something new in Israel. It is no longer enough to have a written contract outlining the coalition agreements. The distrust among the parties has required that new laws be passed delineating exactly who has what powers before the government is even formed. For example, Yair Lapid and his predecessor enshrined in law part of their agreement – they were from 2 different parties – in 2021 that stipulated Lapid would automatically become prime minister when and if that government was dissolved and new elections formed.

The laws passed ahead of Thursday’s official swearing in included one that became known as the “Deri Law” and another known as the “Ben-Gvir” Law.

The Deri Law is named for Aryeh Deri, leader of the Sephardi ultra-orthodox Shas Party. Deri has twice been convicted of felony corruption charges and the last time was in the past year. In order to ensure that there would not be a legal challenge to Deri’s appointment as a cabinet minister the new law allows someone in Deri’s to be one. Deri is now both the Minister of the Interior and Health Minister and is slated to become the Finance Minister mid-term.

The Ben-Gvir Law created a new cabinet ministry for the leader of the right-wing Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Strength) Party Itamar Ben-Gvir. He will now be the Minister of National Security. This post was previously known as the Ministry of Internal Security, but Ben-Gvir demanded expanded powers including control over the Border Police and their operations in Judea and Samaria. While also part of the police, the Border Police have traditionally been within the purview of the Defense Ministry, but the new laws changed that.

There were also a few last minute hurdles that Benjamin Netanyahu had to cross before presenting his government for a vote as many members of his own party were disappointed in the jobs and ministries that they were offered. These include former Knesset Speaker and cabinet Minister Yuli Edelstein who will not be a minister at all and Israel Katz who wanted to be the foreign minister, but who first must serve as Energy Minister for a year.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here