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Israel parliament passes laws ahead of Netanyahu return

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Israel’s parliament has passed controversial legislation paving the way for the return of veteran Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister.

Following his November 1 election win, Mr Netanyahu secured a mandate to form a government backed by ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties and an extreme-right bloc.

Mr Netanyahu, 73, will present what analysts have said will be the most right-wing government in Israel’s history to parliament on Thursday.

On Tuesday, members of the Knesset passed legislation that now allows anyone convicted of offences but not given a custodial sentence to serve as a minister.

Before the law was passed, there had been uncertainty over whether Aryeh Deri, a key ally from the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, would be able to serve as he had previously pleaded guilty to tax offences.

A second law passed allows for two ministers to serve in the same office, a measure targeting the defence portfolio.

Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the extreme-right formation Religious Zionism, is to be the minister with control over civil affairs in the West Bank — a responsibility usually falling to the defence minister, who has yet to be announced.

The Knesset also voted to expand the powers of the national security minister, a portfolio set to be handed to Itamar Ben Gvir, another extreme-right figure.

The morning session also saw Netanyahu ally Yariv Levin resign as interim speaker of the Knesset, ahead of his expected appointment to a ministry.

Rules require that he had not been in the speaker’s post for 48 hours before any ministerial appointment.

Mr Netanyahu, who is fighting corruption allegations in court, has already served as premier longer than anyone in Israel, including a 1996 to 1999 stint and a record 12-year tenure from 2009 to 2021.

His incoming government has sparked fears of a military escalation in the West Bank amid the worst violence in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territory for nearly 20 years.

Late on Tuesday, outgoing Defence Minister Benny Gantz expressed “fear” over the “extremist direction” of the incoming government, which he said could harm Israel’s security.

“I think that if the government acts in an irresponsible way, it could cause a security escalation,” he told Channel 12 television

The Wall Street Journal reports that senior Israeli officials have raised concerns over coalition agreements.

Unelected officials, including Israel’s attorney-general and police chief, condemned proposed legislation that seeks to weaken the judiciary and hand politicians greater authority over law enforcement.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who holds a ceremonial role and typically refrains from speaking about specific policies, condemned anti-gay views after Mr Netanyahu’s partners planned to include legislation in a coalition deal that would permit religious-based discrimination against LGBT people.

In a rare move, the army’s chief of staff called Mr Netanyahu on Monday to caution him against legislation that would place some military branches under the direct control of one of his ultranationalist partners.

The condemnation from top officials underscores growing concerns about the incoming government, which analysts say will be Israel’s most right-wing and religious government in its history. “We’ve never seen a wave of legislation like this,” Amir Fuchs, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem-based Israel Democracy Institute told The Wall Street Journal. He said the proposed changes were “a critical blow to democracy.”     AFP

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Article source: The Australian, 28-9/12/2022

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000

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