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Netanyahu faces pressures on verge of returning to power

Israel’s former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is well on track to form a new government after leading his bloc to win 64 parliamentary seats, a decisive majority, in last week’s general elections.

On Sunday, Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party, began informal coalition negotiations with expected partners.

He is expected to lead a government formed with major allies — the ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism party, and the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties of Shas and UTJ. Religious Zionism, a far-right party that emerged as the third-largest faction in the parliament and helped Netanyahu seal the majority, has already shown strong interest in the public security and defence portfolios.

Analysts said, however, the ambitious far-right player could put a new government at odds with many of its allies abroad and will force Netanyahu into a lot of maneuvering.

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Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, two leaders of the far-right Religious Zionism, hold extreme anti-Arab views and are against any concessions to the Palestinians. Both are in favor of annexing territories in the West Bank which Israel occupied in the June 1967 Middle East War. 

“Netanyahu will try probably to moderate these forces,” said Gideon Rahat, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, adding that although they are an integral part of his coalition, existing division between them in key realms such as foreign policy may quickly lead to inter-coalition conflicts. 

The rise of Religious Zionism is believed to be for many reasons, including heightened tensions in Israel and the West Bank recently between the Jewish and Arab people.

Whereas Netanyahu in the past has sought to restrain, keep things calm and manage the conflicts, there will be a loud jarring sound in the government seeking to be heard, said Jonathan Rynhold, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University. In previous election campaigns, Netanyahu vowed to promote the annexation of the West Bank, but failed to deliver. This was probably due to the fear of the international backlash towards such a move, while centrist elements within his previous coalition also prevented him from moving forward. -Xinhua

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