On Thursday, December 29, the Israeli Knesset ratified a new government, marking the return of Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies to political leadership. This government, formed of many right-wing politicians and few women, has expressed its intention to expand settlements in the occupied West Bank, causing many to fear potential regression in Palestinian autonomy. As regional and international communities await to see the policies of this government in action, public statements from foreign leaders display the wide breadth of opinions on the future of Israeli foreign and domestic policy.
Netanyahu, who resumed leadership after 18 months, comprised his government of right-wing cabinet members. The Middle East Eye highlighted the faces of this new government: “Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich will be Israel’s new finance minister and responsible for governing the occupied West Bank through a new role created for him within the defence ministry…A raft of other far-right MPs from the Religious Zionism alliance have been named in key positions. Ofir Sofer becomes Aliyah and integration minister, charged with overseeing Jewish migration. Simcha Rothman chairs parliament's law and religious services committee. Orit Strock takes the new position of national missions minister.”
This new government has seen a decrease in women representation compared to the previous cabinet. The Times of Israel stated: “There are just five women in the 31-member cabinet (compared to nine women in the previous 27-minister government).”
The new government, however, has historically progressed LGBTQ+ representation in political leadership. Written in the Jerusalem Post, the Knesset approved “the new Knesset Speaker, Likud MK Amir Ohana. Ohana, who is the only openly gay Likud MK and who was Israel's first openly gay minister, thanked his family in his inaugural speech as speaker, mentioning his husband Alon by name. During his speech, Ohana stressed that the new government ‘will not harm a single child or a single family,’ in an attempt to quiet public fears over possible harm to LGBT from some of the coalition's haredi or far-right parties.”
The main point of contention from within Israel and its neighboring states, though, is the question of Palestinian representation. Netanyahu’s government, as arguably the most right-wing since the creation of Israel, has seen public support towards expanding occupation in the West Bank. Written in Al Jazeera, “Ben-Gvir secured an expanded cabinet ministry in charge of police. He has promised to focus on law and order for all citizens, but he favours freer open-fire regulations for Israeli security forces. Ben-Gvir, 46, opposes Palestinian statehood and advocates the dismantling of the interim Palestinian Authority government.”
Jordan, neighboring Israel, has cautioned the new government not to cross any ‘red lines.’ Explained in The National News, Jordanian King Abdullah II warned Israel against any potential pressure on Palestinians or undermining Jordan’s influence on Jerusalem: “‘If people want to get into a conflict with us, we are quite prepared for that,’ King Abdullah told CNN on Wednesday. ‘I always like to think, let us look at the glass half full, but we have certain red lines. If people want to push those red lines, then we will deal with that.’”
The United States, however, has expressed decades-long friendship with and support for Netanyahu and interest in continuing to work together. Written in a White House statement, President Biden stated: “I look forward to working with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been my friend for decades, to jointly address the many challenges and opportunities facing Israel and the Middle East region, including threats from Iran. The United States is working to promote a region that’s increasingly integrated, prosperous, and secure, with benefits for all of its people.”