June 15, 2021

Israel’s New Coalition

“Israel’s parliament on Sunday narrowly approved a new coalition government, ending the historic 12-year rule of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu… Naftali Bennett, a former ally of Netanyahu turned rival, became prime minister after the 60-59 vote… The driving force behind the coalition is Yair Lapid, a political centrist who will become prime minister in two years in a rotation agreement with Bennett.” AP News

Here’s our most recent coverage of Israel’s new coalition. The Flip Side

Many on both sides do not expect major policy changes from the new government:

“While the March parliamentary election in Israel has excluded Netanyahu from the new coalition, it has also produced the most right-wing Israeli parliament ever… Previous efforts at besting Netanyahu at the ballot box came from parties Israelis consider ‘center-left,’ and they all failed. Only when challengers came from the right were they able to take enough votes from him to create a coalition without him. In other words, enough voters were willing to defect from Netanyahu but only if they could stay under the right-wing umbrella

“So even if Netanyahu exits the political stage, Netanyahuism continues to dominate Israeli politics. Most of the factional leaders serving in the new government are Netanyahu proteges. Bennett himself used to work for Netanyahu… this is a government that will maintain Netanyahu’s policies without Netanyahu’s face on it. Thus, for Palestinians, this government, which they cannot vote for but that rules them nonetheless, will bring no meaningful change.”
Yousef Munayyer, Washington Post

“Netanyahu promised, ‘I’ll be back!’ In truth, he might never leave — or at least his policies might not. His rightward policies have been popular in Israel, especially on national security. It’s Netanyahu himself that’s been the biggest problem, not so much among voters but among former political allies. He ran out of people to put trust in any partnership, which is why this very disparate group of parties got together in the first place. With Bennett in the lead, we can expect to see mainly a continuity of those policies — and a collapse if Bennett and/or Lapid diverge too much from them.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“Battling inequality is difficult in all democracies; in Israel it can seem impossible because Jewish parties have refused to invite Arab parties to join their coalition governments. In Israel's coalition system, small Ultra-Orthodox parties, by contrast, have repeatedly joined coalitions in order to secure government spending on education, housing, and welfare. The voter turnout among Ultra-Orthodox, unsurprisingly, is the highest in the country…

“[Meanwhile] Between 1996 and 2006, Arab participation in national elections dropped from 79% to 56%. They remained locked out of power and influence through the Netanyahu years; their belief in Israeli democracy has continued to erode…

“This is why [Islamist party leader Mansour] Abbas is such a revolutionary. If the coalition survives the relentless attacks by Netanyahu -- he has vowed to topple the ‘fraud government’ -- it will pour billions of dollars into the Arab sector… By the next election cycle, this means Arabs are likely to respond in precisely the same way the Ultra-Orthodox always have -- by voting… [Abbas] could be the first of many Arab power brokers in a drastically more democratic Jewish state.”
Anthony David, CNN

“There are some immediate items that this government must accomplish. First, they must pass a state budget, something that Israel has gone without since March of 2018. How to prioritize the budget issues will be the first tremendous problem, with the various political leanings inside the coalition, but there are items that everyone can agree on, like some family subsidies and basic operations that are needed to keep the ministries functioning…

“Then there is the not small issue of democratic speech, the complete corruption of the airwaves and the media in general under Netanyahu, who not only sought to purchase the press (as one of his trials is now investigating) but also took on the Trumpian phraseology of blaming the media for everything not in his favor…

“Recently, during the Gazan war, several mainstream TV reporters had to get security details thanks to this incitement. Another issue that will at least be considered is how to take away some of the privilege and autonomy of the ultra-Orthodox leadership in its very real challenge to the authority of the secular state.”
Jo-Ann Mort, American Prospect

“For all of Netanyahu’s dismissal of the new coalition, it was formed as a direct result of his governance. Under a government that delegitimized any form of dissent, traditional concepts of left and right have become somewhat meaningless. Lapid himself hinted at these changing political terms when I interviewed him back in 2018…

“When I pointed out the apparent paradox between his growing popularity in Israel and the country’s right-leaning turn, he did not see a contradiction. ‘When people ask about my party, I say that we’re a national-liberal party,’ he said. ‘That defines us much more than left, right, or center.’ He went on, adding, ‘The real political fight is between populists and responsible leaders.’… The new government is most likely to diverge from Netanyahu’s by attempting to re-instill trust in Israel’s leading institutions.”
Ruth Margalit, New Yorker

From the Right

“[The new government] holds lessons for other Western democracies gripped by partisanship and paralysis. Nearly all members of the new coalition had to sacrifice a point of political or moral principle, break ranks with some of their own constituents and get branded as traitors to their respective movements in order to make this coalition possible. They are ideological turncoats, at least to those who think of ideological purity as a virtue…

“Being willing to abandon a ferocious conviction for the sake of a pragmatic compromise used to be considered a virtue in democracy. Ideological treason can also be a form of civic patriotism. In what’s supposed to be one of the free world’s most factionalized, tribalized, internally divided countries — Jews, Arabs, secular, national-religious, ultra-Orthodox, Mizrahi, Russian, Druze and so on — an Israeli government is giving civic nationalism a go. It may or may not work. But like so much else in Israel, it deserves more respect than it is likely to get.”
Bret Stephens, New York Times

“The Israeli political saga also highlights the importance of political certainty. Israel had four inconclusive elections since 2019, and the new government might also be short-lived. That’s due to Israel’s system of proportional representation. Instead of competing to represent one geographic district after partisan primaries, Israeli politicians stand for parties that are elected at-large. Because parties can get into the Knesset with as little as 3.25% of the vote, 13 are currently represented…

“That might sound more democratic because voters have more choices and parties win seats in exact proportion to the number of votes. But the result is that the government can stand or fall on backroom deals among the country’s many party chiefs… Electoral systems need to balance perceived fairness with finality. Israel’s two years of paralyzing uncertainty over its political leadership ought to be a warning to those who would fundamentally alter the tried-and-true American two-party system.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Netanyahu’s decades of public service left Israel a vastly more prosperous, vastly more secure, vastly more respected state. Derided as a destabilizer and a warmonger, he left Israel, the entire region, and the world both more stable and more peaceful…

“Israel’s relations with almost every major nation on Earth are better than ever in history… Most impressive, though, is what once would have seemed impossible: peace accords with Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates, and the informal cooperation with Saudi Arabia and Jordan, among other Arab or Muslim nations. The whole world is safer because of it…

“By now, though, even those of us who publicly have admired him for decades must admit that Netanyahu’s character is far from pristine. Bedeviled and almost felled by influence-peddling allegations that his allies portrayed as pure smears as long as 25 years ago, Netanyahu should have learned from that experience to reform both appearances and reality as he returned to power in 2009 and thereafter. Instead, he danced at the edges of propriety.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

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