Israel Justice Minister calls on President not to extend Netanyahu government formation mandate

Gideon Sa'ar (Tomer Neuberg - Flash90)

Middle East Monitor  /  December 6, 2022

Israel’s Justice Minister has urged the country’s President not to grant an extension for newly-elected Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu’s mandate to form a new government, amid continued opposition to his government’s far-right elements.

In a tweet this morning, Gideon Sa’ar – the Israeli Justice Minister, former member of the Likud party – called on President Isaac Herzog not to grant an extension of Netanyahu’s 28-day mandate which expires next Sunday.

The Prime Minister, now in his sixth term following a year-long break, is expected to request a two-week extension if talks with the Haredi (ultra-orthodox Jewish) Shas party are not completed by the end of this week. It is Sa’ar’s intention to have Herzog leave the original deadline in place.

“The transfer of the signatures of the Netanyahu Bloc parties to replace the Speaker of the Knesset indicates that the formation of the government has already been completed,” the Justice Minister stated. “Netanyahu’s request to the President for additional days for this purpose is eye catching.”

Sa’ar speculated that the goal of his mandate extension request is “passing personal and problematic laws according to the demand of his [far-right] partners before the establishment of the government. This is not why the President was given the authority in the law to extend the deadline. The President must reject Netanyahu’s request.”

Following Netanyahu’s victory in the general election last month, he has further allied himself with extremist elements in Israeli politics, gaining the support of the far-right Religious Zionism bloc and fulfilling the promise to attain a “full right” Israeli government.

Extremist figures have since been appointed to top positions, including Otzma Yehudit [Jewish Power] leader, Itamar Ben-Gvir, as the government’s National Security Minister and Religious Zionist Party leader, Bezalel Smotrich as Finance Minister.

Many around the world have condemned or expressed concerns regarding the increasingly far-right and extremist tilt of Israel’s incoming government, including even the US condemning it and advocating for it to respect “the values of an open, democratic society”, as well as former American diplomats calling on Washington to cease arms provisions for Netanyahu’s government.

Those concerns have not only been limited to outside Israel, but have also been voiced by elements within it, even by individuals significant within the Occupation’s security apparatus. Major-General Amos Gilad, the former Head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate and a former top Defence Ministry official, for example, last month warned of a “serious catastrophe” if Smotrich was to be appointed to the post of Defence Minister, citing the support it would give to violent settlers in the West Bank.

Despite Sa’ar’s comments today, however, he is far from being a leftist figure and has been labelled as more far-right than Netanyahu himself, due to stances such as his unwavering support for settlers and opposition to the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. His criticism is seen merely as a result of his long-time opposition to and rivalry with Netanyahu, having left his Likud party last year and formed right-wing party.