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Israel’s Netanyahu tapped to form government

Israel’s president has officially tapped former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government, ushering the long-serving leader back to power after a one-year hiatus.

Netanyahu on Sunday played down concerns by Israeli liberals and some of the country’s international allies that Israel was “entering a dark tunnel” with his expected government.

“We will do everything to make this, with God’s help, a stable government, a successful government, a responsible government, a dedicated government that will work for the benefit of all residents of the state of Israel, without exception,” he said.

Elections earlier this month indicated a clear win for Netanyahu and ended the short-lived government that had ousted him last year after his 12 consecutive years in power.

The 73-year-old is currently on trial on charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving media moguls and wealthy associates.

Five things to know about Netanyahu’s electoral comeback

Ultra-Orthodox and ultranationalist allies 

Netanyahu returns to power after five elections in less than four years. He was toppled last year by a coalition of eight parties that united over their distaste for Netanyahu but ultimately collapsed over infighting. Netanyahu served as opposition leader during that time.

He is expected to emerge from negotiations with a stable majority coalition of 64 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

His most prominent partner is Itamar Ben-Gvir, an extremist lawmaker who wants to expel Palestinian lawmakers. He has been repeatedly convicted for charges of incitement and supporting an Israeli terror group.

He is the top candidate of the far-right Religious Zionism party, which earned 14 seats in the polls, making it a key ally for Netanyahu.

Religious Zionism’s leader, Bezalel Smotrich, a Jewish settler living in the occupied West Bank who supports annexing parts of the Palestinian territory, is vying for the defence ministry, the main enforcer of Israel’s open-ended occupation of the West Bank.

Both of those expected appointments have sparked concerns among Israel’s allies abroad, including the US, over the government’s hard-right shift, which could have wide-ranging implications on the Palestinians and the region.

READ MORE: US slams Israel’s Ben-Gvir for celebrating ‘legacy of terror group’

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