June 4, 2021

Israel’s New Coalition

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents pushed Thursday for a quick parliament vote to formally end his lengthy rule, hoping to head off any last-minute attempts to derail their newly announced coalition government. The latest political maneuvering began just hours after opposition leader Yair Lapid and his main coalition partner, Naftali Bennett, declared they had reached a deal to form a new government

“The coalition consists of eight parties from across the political spectrum with little in common except the shared goal of toppling Netanyahu after his record-setting 12 years in power. The alliance includes hard-liners previously allied with Netanyahu, as well as center-left parties and even an Arab faction — a first in Israeli politics.” AP News

Both sides agree that the new government is unlikely to significantly change Israeli policies:

“If Netanyahu is anxious about his future, he needn’t worry about his political legacy. His signature achievements as prime minister — the rightward lurch of domestic politics, the hobbling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the normalization of relations with Arab countries — will not be challenged by the Lapid-Bennett combine…

“Lapid and Bennett are not far apart in their assessment of the threat to Israel from Iran and its catspaws, especially Hamas in Gaza and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. They have each served in Netanyahu-led cabinets, and both men supported Netanyahu’s use of force last month, not only in retaliation against rocket attacks by Hamas, but also against Israeli-Arab protesters…

“There is some sunlight between the two on how Israel ought to deal with the Palestinians… [But] The unlikely partners are already signaling that they will not make major policy changes… Lapid and Bennett may share a loathing for the man they intend to replace, but his legacy is safe in their hands.”
Bobby Ghosh, Bloomberg

“A Bennett-Lapid premiership will not really change Netanyahu's strategy toward the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. Hamas's lack of interest in serious peace negotiations and the political weakness of the Palestinian Authority means that any such peace effort would have little prospect of success anyway…

“Beyond this, Lapid would be likely to push for a more conciliatory stance on sensitive issues surrounding the sovereignty of Jerusalem and the construction of new settlements in the West Bank. However, Bennett will oppose such compromises unless they involve more valuable concessions from the Arab world, the broader international community, and/or the Biden administration. As for Iran's nuclear program, which is seen by the Israeli security establishment as a threat to the nation's very existence and the looming means of a second Holocaust, both leaders can be expected to continue the current policy.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Both sides also note the fragility of the new government, but express hope that it will allow Israel to move forward:

“The new government, if it can survive the week, will certainly be the most ideologically disparate one in Israel’s history, and may be the most unlikely governing coalition anywhere in the world… The eight parties that would make up the government include the far-left and the far-right, two-staters and annexationists. The coalition would be led by Israel’s first yarmulke-wearing Orthodox Jewish prime minister, and would be the first to include a Reform rabbi, an openly gay party leader (Nitzan Horowitz of Meretz), and an Islamist… The fact that such an unholy mutant of a government could even be a possibility is a testament to just how polarizing Netanyahu has become

“A government that exists solely for the purpose of removing one man from government seems unlikely to be one that makes any historic changes, but it was still necessary. As long as Israel lurched from inconclusive election to inconclusive election and the dominant political issue of the country was the Bibi psychodrama, any sort of long-term planning, much less political risk-taking, was impossible. The new government may not last long, but it would at least allow the country to think more than a week ahead.”
Joshua Keating, Slate

“Even if Bibi is successful in collapsing the new government [after it takes power], a new election may prove particularly challenging. First, he will not be running as prime minister, which is a more difficult position to be in, especially considering the distraction caused by his ongoing corruption trial. Second, he is in a difficult position in his own party, with many MPs — mostly backbenchers — recognizing that Bibi’s behavior has turned voters away from Likud. As a result, they may take action to oust him as party leader before a fifth election…

If Bibi goes, this could be good news for Israel. A government formed of parties representing different ideologies and a wide range of views and factions may be unstable, but it may also be able to mend the many rifts in Israeli civil society. Leaders of the parties have declared they will prioritize working together to heal deep divisions — between left and right, Jews and Muslims, Orthodox and secular, and Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. For many Israelis, this will be a new dawn: flawed, uncertain, but bringing much-needed hope for a positive change after 12 years of Bibi and a long-standing political stalemate.”
Limor Simhony Philpott, Spectator USA

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