(Photo credit: Reuters/Debbie Hill)
Numerous western leaders congratulated incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on his victory in last week’s elections, despite his alliance with extremist groups and anti-Arab politicians.
During an 8-minute phone call on 7 November, US President Joe Biden congratulated Netanyahu six days after announcing his victory in the Knesset elections.
On 3 November, the Israeli Central Elections Committee announced that Netanyahu’s bloc won 64 of the 120 Knesset seats in the elections, the fifth in less than four years.
Biden reportedly told Netanyahu during the conversation, “We are brothers; we will make history together,” according to what was reported by Israel’s Channel 13. Addressing Netanyahu, the US president added, “My commitment to Israel is unquestionable. I bless you, my friend.”
For his part, Netanyahu told Biden – according to the statement – “We will achieve more historic peace agreements; they are within reach.” “My commitment to our alliance and our relationship is stronger than ever,” the prospective Israeli prime minister added.
הנשיא ביידן התקשר ובירך אותי על הניצחון בבחירות ואמר שהברית בין ישראל לארה״ב איתנה מתמיד. הודיתי לנשיא ביידן על ידידותו האישית שחובקת 40 שנה בינינו ועל המחויבות שלו למדינת ישראל. אמרתי לו שבכוחנו להשיג הסכמי שלום נוספים וגם להתמודד עם האיום של התקופנות האיראנית.
— Benjamin Netanyahu – בנימין נתניהו (@netanyahu) November 7, 2022
Similarly, on the same day, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak congratulated Netanyahu on his election victory, saying that he looked forward to working with the former Israeli Prime Minister after his triumphant return.
“In areas like commerce, security, and technology, there is so much that our two countries are doing together, and I look forward to working with the returning Prime Minister,” Sunak said on Twitter.
On behalf of the UK, I would like to congratulate @netanyahu on his victory in the Israeli elections.
Across areas like trade, security and technology there is a huge amount our countries do together and I look forward to working with the returning Prime Minister.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) November 7, 2022
A day earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron also congratulated Netanyahu on his victory.
“I just called Benjamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory in the elections. We share the same will to strengthen the already strong ties between Israel and France,” Macron tweeted.
Je viens d'appeler Benyamin Netanyahou pour le féliciter de sa victoire aux élections. Nous partageons la même volonté de renforcer les liens déjà si forts entre Israël et la France.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) November 6, 2022
Local and international attention is drawn to the formation of the new government, as fears grow that the leaders of the Religious Zionism coalition, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, will be given essential portfolios, including internal security minister for Ben Gvir.
On Friday, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) quoted Israeli political sources saying that “Netanyahu does not want to risk giving sovereign portfolios to what it described as representatives of the extreme right, such as Itamar Ben Gvir.”
Extremist and anti-Arab political groups in Israel have been celebrating their unprecedented popularity, winning at least 10 percent of Knesset seats. Alongside Netanyahu’s far-right Likud party, these groups secured the third largest bloc in the Knesset.
Likud won 32 seats, two ultra-Orthodox religious parties obtained 18 seats, and the anti-Arab Religious Zionism alliance won 14 seats. Thus, the far-right bloc headed by Netanyahu claimed 64 seats, a decisive majority in the 120-seat parliament.