Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political maneuvers over the past two years have prompted many analysts to tear their hair. In my case, it led me to the error, not once but twice. Two years ago and four elections ago, I Wrote that ‘the end [was] Close to Netanyahu”, but I was wrong. And after Netanyahu seemed to have won his fourth consecutive election a month later, I was wrong again when I was announce He is the ultimate winner (in my defense, Netanyahu himself made the same mistake). Now, with four elections in two years, four criminal investigations, three indictments, and one ongoing trial, it looks like I may never be wrong about Benjamin Netanyahu again.
The long-running political crisis in Israel may now come to an end, with the emergence of a new, very broad non-Netanyahu coalition, from the far right to the far left, this week. If Netanyahu fails to isolate the dissidents from the new coalition’s right wing, this will indeed be a major moment in Israeli political history. But politics may be surprisingly stable.
Who is in this alliance?
The new government will be a government of national unity with parties from the right, center and hard left, notably the Islamist Ra’em Party. The coalition will be led by two men, each with a veto: Naftali Bennett, of the Yamina party, and Yair Lapid, the outgoing leader of the opposition who heads the centrist Yesh Atid party. Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years, with Lapid as foreign minister and “alternate prime minister.” If the alliance continues, Lapid will then become prime minister. But the two will not perform alone. With eight parties, most with a handful of parliamentary seats, this would be a very “flat” coalition, with only 61 of 120 seats, so any component party could bring it down.
Bennett was an aide to Netanyahu in the mid-2000s after a successful career in technology, elite military service, and leadership of the Yesha Council, a body representing Israeli settlers in the West Bank (and he lives in Israel itself). Bennett is the son of American parents, who immigrated from San Francisco and later became modern Orthodox. Bennett does not easily fit into pre-existing categories. He is very hawkish on the Palestinian issue, but unlike some of his colleagues on the far right in Israeli politics, he is really liberal on some other issues. As he will explain, he himself has never been politically cut off from Jewish-Arab tensions in Israel, even while partying for years (until very recently) with Petzalel Smotrich, who regularly trades in this type of politics. Yair Ettinger, then a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, discussed Bennett’s rise amid these competing religious doctrines in the Report We published in 2016: “As a clever politician… quick to capitalize on the blurred boundaries of religion, Naftali Bennett aspires to lead the national camp waving the flag of non-sectoral patriotism, embracing a broader Jewish audience. With the national flag hoisted high, Bennett keeps another religious flag, to his side, but his message is general and toned down.”
Bennett presents himself as a no-nonsense, straight-forward shooter, committed to effective governance. As a capable entrepreneur, he gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he was Secretary of Defense, with an active crisis response and a willingness to adopt rapidly evolving scientific guidance – even in the event of a crisis ostensibly outside his country. specialization. He would have entered the prime minister’s office determined to follow this approach – a fast-paced manager, not an ideological theorist. However, he may find that as Prime Minister, his ideology, ideology, and members of his party will not be forgotten.
Assuming he takes office (not yet agreed), Bennett will try to judge “secular” issues and less controversial issues in general as well because he’ll have no choice. He will lead a bloc of only 6 seats (5% of the Knesset) and will have bridges burnt with his own base of entering into a coalition with the center and the left. Bennett will necessarily share power, in ways that Netanyahu has not shared with others, most notably Lapid.
Lapid is very different from Bennett. He is also of the upper middle class, but represents the quintessential Israeli centrist, which speaks of “moderation” not as a hypothetical choice but as an ideological position. He is secular – Ibn A A disturbing secular Israeli politician – But he also hopes to go beyond that label towards a more Israeli position. Once ridiculed by the left for lacking any clear positions, he has now emerged as the successful leader of the anti-Netanyahu camp, and the mastermind of this unlikely new coalition. By taking a back seat to ousting Netanyahu, Bennett has challenged his longstanding reputation as driven by vanity, in favor of principled leadership.
Who is not in the coalition? Haredi (or “ultra-Orthodox”). In 2013, Lapid forced Netanyahu to include Bennett in his government and banish the Haredim, with an economic policy that was too difficult for the Haredim. Finance Minister will be Avigdor Lieberman, who carried the mantle of Lapid against the ultra-Orthodox and even exceeded it. This will be only the third government in the past 40 years that excludes ultra-Orthodox parties, which in recent years have become less independent to rent-seekers and more religious to Netanyahu and the right. Now that they are out in the open, and crucial subsidies to their constituents are under threat, they may be pushed to sympathize with Netanyahu’s Likud party even more.
Does replacing Netanyahu mean that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians will change?
The new coalition members agree on almost anything regarding the Palestinian issue. Bennett has consistently and vehemently opposed a two-state solution on ideological and security grounds. Bennett was the main contemporary driver of the idea of annexing Area C in the West Bank, which was Netanyahu and then-US ambassador David Friedman. push hard last year. Bennett called it, without irony, the Stability Plan, which he said the summary At Brookings in 2013 and again in 2017 Piece He authored for the British publication Fathom. Lapid is not a leftist on the Palestinian issue, but he is very different from Bennett. He told me, “Here I differ from the Israeli right and the Israeli left.” Interview During the February 2021 Brookings Conference on the Middle East and the New US Administration, “I differ from … in my determination to try to have these two states, one next to the other. Israel is very strong and a demilitarized Palestinian state. I differ from … the left because I I unfortunately do not think that this will be the end of the conflict… I believe that in my life there will be no end to the conflict unfortunately.” In this dimension, Lapid will be familiar territory for the Biden administration, as well as Benny Gantz, who will go on as defense minister in the new government (if he passes a vote of confidence in the Knesset in the next 10 days).
In other words, the new government hopes to “freeze” any major moves on the Palestinian issue for the time being because it cannot agree on any of them – this would include annexation of territory by Israel and also any withdrawal of territory. Of course, the Palestinians themselves, or the dynamics on the ground, may “lift the freeze” almost immediately (the Supreme Court will soon rule on the evacuation of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem, A key factor in violence last month.)
What will change?
As Secretary of State, Lapid has also been pursuing a very different approach to American Democrats than that taken by Netanyahu. “I will do a much better job of ensuring that Israel … returns to a bipartisan issue in the United States,” Tell I. But his efforts will come at a time when some progressive Democrats are moving beyond rhetorical issues with Israel. In essence, Prime Minister Bennett’s views may be Secretary of State Lapid’s biggest diplomatic problem.
More than anything else, the new government will try to be like this: a functioning government, with respect to domestic issues first, to return to some governance. It will approve its first budget since 2019. It will invest in domestic programs and focus its energy on the myriad issues that affect the lives of Israelis from all walks of life, even if they occupy fewer titles abroad. After years of political turmoil, Israelis may see a little “calm” as long as it lasts.
Israel will also have a minister in charge of the police, Omar Bar-Lev of the Labor Party, who is both serious and well-meaning, an excellent change given the potential for further unrest in Jerusalem. We can expect less vitriol from the Cabinet toward state institutions such as the judiciary and less willful division toward minorities.
If the Netanyahu era comes to an end (at least for now), it will be, in other words, a great moment in Israel’s history, even if foreign policy itself hasn’t changed much at all.