On Thursday, Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power as he was sworn in as prime minister of Israel.
Netanyahu had already served more years as Israel’s prime minister than any man in history. He was first elected in 1996, at age 46 the youngest person to ever serve as prime minister, after having served from 1984-1988 as Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations. He served as prime minister from 1996-1999, then served as Finance Minister from 2003-2005, where he was laser-focused on turning the Jewish state toward capitalism as he reduced tax rates significantly. During his tenure, the debt-to-GDP ratio dropped to one of the lowest in the world, and foreign investment reached record highs. Netanyahu embarked on his longest term as prime minister in 2009, serving for 12 years, an unprecedented length of time.
“This new government is determined to restore governance, peace, and personal security to the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu said on Thursday when he was sworn in. He addressed critics in Israel and abroad who have attacked his coalition for including staunch nationalists including Bezalal Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, saying, “I hear the opposition’s constant laments about ‘the end of the state’ and even ‘the end of democracy.’”
He said bluntly, “Members of the opposition, losing the elections is not the end of democracy — it is the essence of democracy. A democratic regime is tested first of all by the willingness of the losing side to accept the majority’s decision. In an orderly democracy, the rules of the game are respected.”
“We saw it just now in a different context, in the World Cup final, when French fans were disappointed like you, but they accepted the result. They even applauded the Argentina team. I know you won’t applaud, but I do expect you to respect the voters’ decision and cease rebelling against the elected government,” he pointed out.
Netanyahu recited the traditional blessing Jews say to thank God for enabling them to reach a particular milestone: “Blessed are You, O Lord, our God, King of the world, that we have lived and survived and reached this time.”
In September, the Biden administration signaled that it wanted to blunt any rightward turn by Israel in the event that Netanyahu returned to power, singling out one potential ally of the former prime minister as “a huge problem for us.”
A Biden administration official said the White House would be “troubled by the possibility” that Member of Knesset Itamar Ben Gvir, a hardline conservative and the head of the Right-wing party Otzma Yehudit, might become a minister in the future Israeli government, according to Israel HaYom.
“It would be a huge problem for us,” the official said. “This is not someone we want to see as part of the government. Netanyahu is very smart and experienced and understands the consequences of such a development. This has not been discussed with him yet, because – as mentioned – we are at an early stage. But there is no doubt that he understands.”
Others appeared to bristle at the suggestion the Jewish state’s sovereign control over elections and politics could be subject to outside influence.
“My goal is to work for the benefit of a Jewish, democratic, nationalist and Zionist country,” said Brigadier General Tzvika Fogel, who is secular but had joined Gvir’s party. “I want to see sovereignty imposed, governance strengthened, and settlements expanded. We have to strengthen our hold on the land against the view of the left-wing parties who don’t see the Land of Israel as of primary importance.”