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Israel’s new government is the most right-wing government ever

for On December 29, Benjamin Netanyahu, 73, was sworn in as Israel’s prime minister for the sixth time in his long career. But the cabinet that sits with him in the front bench of the Knesset is unlike any other Israeli government before it.

Among new ministers who congratulated each other on government inauguration, a former member of an organization denounced as advocating terrorism, becomes Israel’s new minister of national security; believes obedience to God’s commandments is key to economic policy a finance minister; and a justice minister who plans to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court, long seen as a bastion of free-thinking independence.

Mr Netanyahu, better known as Mr Bibi, campaigned five times over a four-year period, culminating in an outright majority in the Knesset. He managed to do so after the November 1 election thanks to a coalition deal with far-right nationalist and ultra-religious parties. He has spent much of the past few weeks trying desperately to convince the Israeli public, as well as Israel’s American supporters, that he will not give his new coalition partners complete control over the nature of Israel’s democracy.

This can be difficult. Not only has Mr Netanyahu given his hardline partners control of large swathes of the Israeli government, but as part of his coalition deal he has also promised to change legislation that includes provisions that would allow the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court rulings. He is also preparing to amend Israel’s anti-discrimination laws so that individuals and private companies can deny services to clients whose beliefs or sexual orientation offend them.

Mr Netanyahu’s previous government was more moderate in composition and policies. They include centrist and sometimes left parties, giving him leeway to resist some of the more radical demands of his right-wing partners.

But this time, the centrist party at the heart of Yair Lapid’s outgoing government is refusing in principle to vote in a court case against a man indicted for corruption and bribery who is still on trial in a Jerusalem court. The prime minister was in office. Indeed, the very week that Mr. Netanyahu returned to office, witnesses for the prosecution testified about the regulatory benefits he allegedly gave certain Israeli media owners in exchange for favorable coverage.

It was unclear how Mr. Netanyahu planned to approach his personal legal woes. His surrogates have begun calling for the firing of the attorney general, who is a civil servant in Israel. Allies of Mr Netanyahu believe a more compliant successor could revisit the allegations against him. Another possibility, raised by friends of Mr Netanyahu, is that the type of fraud he faces could be decriminalized.

Even before the inauguration, the new government had used its majority in the Knesset to appoint a cabinet member who would have been barred because of previous criminal convictions. Days before Mr Netanyahu’s team was sworn in, a law was passed allowing the ultra-Orthodox Shas party leader Ariye Deli to be sworn in as interior and health minister despite his conviction earlier this year. for tax fraud. Critics of Mr Netanyahu fear it will set a precedent for the new prime minister to get out of his own troubles in court.

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