Israel is swearing in a new hard-line government on Thursday
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Israel is swearing in a new government today. It's expected to be the most right-wing government in Israel's history, including some far-right figures. Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told NPR that he will be telling the more extreme figures what to do.
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PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: They are joining me. I'm not joining them. I'll have two hands firmly on the steering wheel. I won't let anybody do anything to LGBT or to deny our Arab citizens their rights or anything like that, just won't happen. And the test of time will prove that.
INSKEEP: But the new prime minister has committed to dramatic changes in government. And one idea would allow his parliamentary majority to vote down the rulings of Israel's supreme court. NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Tel Aviv. Hey there, Daniel.
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: How would that plan work?
ESTRIN: The plan is, you know, if the supreme court decides a law is unconstitutional, if it decides a law doesn't protect human rights or civil rights, the parliament would be able to come back and say, sorry, supreme court, you no longer have the final say. The context here, Steve, is that the incoming right-wing government in Israel accuses the supreme court of being too liberal, too protective of Palestinian rights. They want to redefine Israel's system of checks and balances. And so we're going to be seeing this government try to concentrate power with the governing majority. We're going to see more dominance of ultra-Orthodox Jewish leadership as well.
So we're going to see plans - their plans are to give more public funding to religious schools that don't teach kids math and subjects that are supposed to prepare you for a modern economy. I think one big question in this new government's plan, Steve, is how much change we're going to see in the occupied West Bank. Netanyahu himself will want to avoid an international crisis and to maintain the status quo. But he is giving sweeping powers to government ministers who do want a major change to the status quo. Essentially, they want de facto annexation of the West Bank.
INSKEEP: OK. So maybe he's not endorsing everything that the more extreme figures in his government would want, but he wants big changes. How does that connect with the personnel he's bringing into government?
ESTRIN: You know, the makeup of this government, we are looking at far-right Jewish ultranationalists. We're talking about a national security minister who has a terrorism conviction for his anti-Arab activism. We have other far-right ministers, ultra-religious. These are all politicians who are farther to the right than Netanyahu is himself. But they are ideologues who will have a lot of leverage over Netanyahu. Remember, he depends on them for his government.
INSKEEP: Now, this is the coalition that just won the election. Netanyahu's party didn't get a majority, but he assembled a majority coalition. Is the Israeli public on board with these changes?
ESTRIN: You know, Steve, most Israelis are actually not on board with some of these policy proposals. If you look at a recent poll, a large majority of Israelis opposes every one of some of these major proposals, including those changes to the supreme court I was talking about. We've heard an outcry in Israel from high-tech entrepreneurs, from army veterans. In parliament today, Netanyahu was booed by the opposition. He said, stop claiming that this is the end of democracy. But, you know, we've seen mixed messages, especially on LGBTQ issues. A rocky start, Steve, even before Day 1 of this government.
INSKEEP: NPR's Daniel Estrin is in Tel Aviv. Daniel, always appreciate your insights. Thanks so much.
ESTRIN: You're welcome.
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