Israel: Netanyahu expected to announce new coalition ahead of midnight deadline
Israel’s prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to announce on Wednesday that he has formed a coalition government as the midnight deadline fast approaches for him to secure enough votes to become the country’s next leader.
The 73-year-old is likely to inform President Isaac Herzog about whether he has the 61-plus seats needed to swear in a new government in the 120-seat Knesset by the end of December 21.
Sources close to Netanyahu said the ex-premier aims to see his new coalition government, including far-right parties, sworn in before the new year, with the ceremony ideally taking place on Wednesday or Thursday next week, Haaretz reported.
"The goal of moving up the date before the deadline is symbolic, so as not to wait until the new year for the swearing-in ceremony," the sources were quoted as saying.
Netanyahu's Likud party, which clinched the largest-share of any party with 32 seats in the November elections, has already received a 10-day extension from the Israeli president to finalise a coalition.
They could ask for an additional four days, but reports say this is unlikely.
After Netanyahu has informed Herzog and Knesset speaker Yariv Levin about the coalition, he then has up to seven days to hold the swearing-in ceremony. Given that the Knesset will not convene until next Monday due to the holidays, the seven-day clock is likely to start on 26 December.
Likud and far-right allies have already pushed through a number of controversial bills in the Knesset as they negotiate over who will control which ministry in the new coalition.
This includes the "Derby bill," which would amend the basic law of government to mean that only people who serve prison time are barred from becoming a minister. This would enable Shas leader Arye Dery to be appointed as a cabinet minister, despite being convicted and sentenced to a suspended prison term.
There is also the so-called "Ben-Gvir bill," which would see far-right National Security Minister-designate Itamar Ben-Gvir assume the powers of police chief.
Ben-Gvir is known for defending Israeli terrorists, adopting slogans of hate against Arabs and Palestinians, and leading settler marches through Palestinian neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem.
Netanyahu’s soon-to-be-confirmed coalition is set to be Israel’s most right-wing government in its history.