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Netayahu begins coalition-building talks

Israeli Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu is holding talks with members of the right-wing bloc that will likely form the country’s 37th government.

By Erin Viner

The presumptive incumbent Prime Minister is conducting the talks after his bloc won a 64-seat majority of the 120 seats of the Knesset in the 1 November elections.

Focus of the discussion is on ministerial appointments coveted by his expected coalition parties, as well as policies for the country’s 37th government.

Local media reported that Netanyahu will start the process among members of his own Likud party – which has been contentious in the past, followed by his allies in the right-wing/religious factions.

Likely competitors for leadership at the Justice Ministry include member of Knesset (MK) Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who previously assumed the key role in Netanyahu’s last government; as well as former Knesset Speaker MK Yariv Levin and David Amsalem– the latter of whom has made known insistence on being appointed to the senior position.

Other important cabinet nominations include the Finance Ministry. While Netanyahu has reportedly already promised the position to former Jerusalem Mayor and Likud MK Nir Barkat, former Finance Minister MK Yisrael Katz is demanding he resume his old post. “After the damage caused by Avigdor Liberman in the outgoing government, causing inflation and the rise in housing prices and the cost of living, the economy is in need of an experienced minister who can operate with the ministry’s public servants and with international partners,” he declared in a written public statement last week.  Leading Likud MK and former minister Eli Cohen is also expected to vie for the position.

Bezalel Smotrich, who leads the third-largest Religious Zionists faction, may be awarded the Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMoD). Other candidates include former Israel Security Agency (ISA, Shin Bet) Director and MK Avi Dichter and former Education Minister, IDF General (Ret.) Yoav Galant.

Either the Foreign or Transportation Ministries may go to MK Miri Regev, who previously served in the same position, and is the only woman likely to be appointed a government portfolio.

Israel’s former Ambassador to the United Nations and stalwart Likud member Danny Danon has already expressed interest in becoming Knesset Speaker.

In related developments, the Office of the President Director-General Eyal Shviki has officially informed representatives of Knesset parliamentary groups that President Isaac Herzog will begin a round of consultations with all of the factions elected to the 25th Knesset, beginning on 9 November.

With a view of promoting transparency for the citizens of Israel, “the consultation process, stipulated by law, will be broadcast live from the President’s Residence, after which President Isaac Herzog will announce the candidate to whom he will assign the task of forming a government,” said Shviki.

After receiving recommendations from the parties, President Herzog will then officially mandate the candidate most likely to succeed to begin the formation of the next government.

As in every round of consultations, a large media center will be established at the President’s Residence. Parliamentary group leaders who wish to make official statements to the media may do so immediately after their meetings with the President at the designated media center, where journalists will have all necessary technical means and positions for live broadcasts, said a statement from the President’s Office.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken personally commended Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Israel’s “free and fair elections,” said a State Department communique. He also “thanked the Prime Minister for his partnership” and “reaffirmed the strength of the US-Israel bilateral relationship,” said the statement.