Israel has a five-year-old election and Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister of Israel could win a return.
Israel’s unlikely eight-party coalition government took the decision to dissolve, last Monday, ushering in the fifth round of elections in just four years. Benjamin Netanyahu is the Israeli opposition leader and this election demonstrates Tel Aviv’s internal vulnerabilities that may be exploited by its enemies.
After a two-year period in which only four elections were held, Israel’s unprecedented coalition government was elected to office. At the center of Israel’s political mayhem has consistently been former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and one year later not much has seemed to have changed. Israeli PM Naftali Benjamin Net, of the extreme-Right Yamina Party decided to quit and disband his government. He handed his title over to his coalition partner Yair Lepid who will be sworn into office as interim prime minister while awaiting a fresh round of elections.
What is important to understand about Israel’s political mess, is that the Israeli Knesset has always been and continues to be a deeply divided place, there has never been a single party government, only ever coalitions. Last year’s eight party coalition was perhaps the most ideologically diverse, claiming a slim 61 seat majority needed to form a government by making sizable political compromises, such as allowing an Arab party into the government for the first time in Israel’s history.
While many Israelis initially supported the coalition government, they quickly became inefficient and weak on several fronts. This was due to a dedicated opposition bloc headed by Netanyahu and the center-right Likud party, as well as because coalition parties differed so much. The last straw that broke the camel’s back came earlier this month, as the Israeli government failed to pass an emergency bill that allows illegal Israeli settlers the ability to be governed under civilian law, while the Palestinians in the same territories live under Israeli military law. Although the bill is typically renewed every five years, it is one of most simple pieces of legislation. But, due to opposition from Israel, the coalition that governed it could not get enough votes at the Knesset.
Netanyahu was calling right-wing coalition members “sellouts” from the beginning, asserting that the Left along with Islamist Raam Party conspired against an anti-right wing takeover. Even though the coalition was composed mainly of right-leaning, centrist, Islamist, and islamist parties, only two of them were left-leaning. While popular Israeli right-leaning politicians, including Justice Minister Gideon Saar and Finance Minister Avigdor Liebman, received the support of their political loyalists because they were anti-Netanyahu. The next election results could prove that these figures have committed political suicide, as they joined a government that included centrists and an Arab party.
Benjamin Netanyahu might have pulled off a huge power play if the rumours are true that Naftali Bennett, former prime minister, and others from his disbanded coalition face backlash. He and his allies could win enough seats to form an alliance government this year.
Often left out of the conversation in all of this are the Palestinians, who will not experience much of a change on the ground regardless of which government is ushered in next, but whose political representatives will seek to take advantage of Tel Aviv’s crisis. Hamas, the most popular Palestinian political party that rules the Gaza Strip, will be looking to take advantage of the Israeli political elites’ weaknesses in an attempt to either ease the blockade, or alternatively will be studying the opportune moment to strike Israel.
In the year that has passed, the Israeli ruling coalition did not maintain an unison stance regarding the Palestinian problem. An example of this was Israel’s West Bank policy, whilst Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid and defense minister Benny Gantz opted for a closer security cooperation relationship with the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank, prime minister Bennett refused to even look their way publicly.
US President Joe Biden has a scheduled Middle East visit in mid-July, during which he will also travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and has caused some speculation on a push to normalize ties between Tel Aviv and Riyadh. It is likely the purpose of the visit will not be to bring Iran’s influence into the Middle East. Joe Biden is likely to be forced to balance his visits, ignoring important policy goals, since Israel has lost its government. All this to say is that Israel now finds itself in a position of weakness because of its political uncertainty.
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