On Nov. 1, Israelis went to the polls to elect a new Knesset for the fifth time in under four years, in yet another attempt to break the country’s political deadlock. All the preceding polls resulted in either indecisive outcomes or else coalition governments that proved too fragile to last. This time around, however, the effort appears to have been successful, with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and three other parties considered to be natural partners in his bloc securing a 64-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Even though right-wing governments—including under Netanyahu—are common in Israel, the new Israeli government is anticipated to be different in scope than its predecessors in light of the strength of the ultra-nationalist and Jewish supremacist parties in Netanyahu’s camp. The expected inclusion in particular of the Otzma Yehudit, or Jewish Strength, party and its leader Itamar Ben-Gvir—a former devotee of the banned Israeli terrorist group Kach who has been convicted of support for terrorism and racist incitement—will present a challenge to the U.S., both in terms of how to deal with some of the new Israeli government’s more unsavory figures and how to manage a slew of aggressive policies it is expected to implement.
Netanyahu is a familiar figure to U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders, having served as Israel’s prime minister in the late 1990s and for another uninterrupted 12 years between 2009 and 2021. While the bulk of Israeli foreign policy under his new government is not going to represent a drastic break from his previous terms—or even from the past year and a half during which Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid occupied the prime minister’s office—there will be new elements that create tensions with Washington.