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Netanyahu: New government will pursue ‘broad’ consensus but defer to majority rule

In first speech to 25th Knesset, presumed prime minister rejects ‘moral preachings’ of outgoing administration, vows to ‘preserve Israeli democracy and Israel’

Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the Knesset on November 21, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In his first speech to the 25th Knesset on Monday, presumed prime minister-to-be Benjamin Netanyahu stressed the importance of majority rule, as he continues negotiations to form the next government.

“Democracy is built from the elucidation of positions, from the spark of arguments,” Netanyahu said. “If we can, we’ll reach agreements — that happens frequently. If we can’t reach an agreement, the decision is made by the will of the majority — that’s exactly the difference between democracy and other [forms of government].”

In other parts of the world, the former prime minister added, decisions are made through force, “but here, democracy is the fundamental infrastructure.”

In his speech, the Likud leader said he will attempt to reach “as broad agreements as possible, and when we need to we will make responsible and careful decisions.” His future government, he added, “will “be an expression of the mandate that we received from the people. We will preserve Israeli democracy and Israel.”

President Isaac Herzog handed Netanyahu the mandate to form the next government last week. The Likud leader is widely expected to build a 64-seat coalition joining his party with the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism factions, and the far-right Religious Zionism party.

While talks have been held up due to squabbling over ministerial jobs in recent days, the parties are all ultimately expected to come to an agreement in the coming weeks and form a fairly cohesive ideological coalition with its sights set on making major changes to the judiciary and to issues of religion and state.

Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Shas chief Aryeh Deri at the swearing-in ceremony of the 25th Knesset, at the parliament building in Jerusalem, November 15, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

One key issue that all four parties appear to agree on is the desire to pass an “override law,” which would allow the Knesset to overturn High Court rulings. The proposal has drawn sharp criticism from opposition MKs as well as legal experts.

In his speech, Netanyahu rejected criticisms from the outgoing government about the rise of the far-right and threats to Israeli civil society.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Yair Lapid warned that Israel could become “a halachic state,” one run under strict Jewish law, while Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that passing a law allowing a narrow majority of 61 MKs to overturn High Court rulings would be “acting in the name of corruption” and prevent “complete social and political equality for all of its citizens.”

Netanyahu said he does “not accept the moral preachings” of the outgoing government, accusing it of violating “every norm of proper governance” during its 18 months in power.

He criticized the government’s legislative work as well as its “weird and strange agreement with Lebanon, which wasn’t brought to the Knesset.”

The government approved and signed a maritime border deal last month with Lebanon ending a long-running dispute over some 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea, covering Israel’s Karish and Lebanon’s Qana gas fields.

During the campaign, Netanyahu vowed to “neutralize” the deal, although US and Lebanese officials indicated that they believed such talk was merely political bluster.

Then-opposition MKs greatly criticized the government for not just the terms of the deal, but for also approving it without submitting the agreement to a full Knesset vote, ultimately signing it just days before the November 1 national election.

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