Netanyahu is Gone, but Little Will Change for Israel – Liberal Article
Israel finally has a new government. After 12 years mired in corruption and fraud, and endless months of political turmoil following the March election, Netanyahu is out at last. Replacing him is a broad anti-Netanyahu coalition led by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett. Globally, many hope that this new government will overturn a decade lost to Netanyahu, his crimes, and his bellicose and racist policies.
But do not hold your breath. Far from being Israel’s political resuscitators, three big factors could stall real attempts to reform Israel. An indecisive government now beckons. Netanyahu’s legacy may sadly remain relatively unscathed.
The Coalition Itself
This new coalition government is an incohesive mess. Ranging from environmentalists and social democrats to pro-settlement Capitalists, it was tricky to reach an agreement to begin with. How they will maintain unity once in power is anybody’s guess. Any meaningful attempt at policy change will likely be ruined at the door by political infighting.
For example, take the Kaminitz law, which attempts to fight illegal construction. Amendment 116, as it is known, has overwhelmingly targeted Arab-Israelis living in the majority of unplanned towns. As a result, left-wing and Arab-interest parties, particularly Ra’am, have called for its annihilation. However, many on the right of the coalition, such as Gideon Sa’ar’s ‘New Hope’ party – a breakaway from Likud, wish to uphold it. An impasse is inevitable. There are even more fundamental concerns though. Most importantly, Naftali Bennet.
Let’s return to the results of the March 2021 elections. Netanyahu’s Likud party came out with the most votes, but not a majority – an impossibility in Israeli politics! To rule, a government needs a majority in the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament), but the President can choose which party forms it. Initially, it fell to Netanyahu. Yet, the extremist ‘Religious Zionists’ party refused to be in a coalition with Ra’am due to the latter’s Arab ethnicity, giving Netanyahu no path to government. Poetic justice at its finest.
It then fell to Lapid and his centrist ‘Yesh Atid’ party to form this government. He began talks with the Kingmaker, Naftali Bennett. Leading the ‘Yamina’ (literally, ‘rightwards’) party, Bennett was uncommitted to either side and would be a crucial ally. Talks were going well. Until the outbreak of violence between Israel and Palestine.
In a complete reversal, Bennett joined with Netanyahu for reasons of ‘national security’. Yet, with Lapid given another chance, and with the (open) conflict ebbing, Bennett left Netanyahu and once again joined Lapid. It is clear that Bennett’s commitments are conditional, to say the least. A dangerous affair, given he is serving as Prime Minister for the first term.
Netanyahu is not going to silently fade away though. After so long in power, he will not go down easily. In fact, there are strong odds that he could pull down the Lapid-Bennett coalition entirely.
The first fear is that he could attempt a Trump-style coup. Netanyahu has continuously challenged the legality of this coalition, using the same rhetorical tirades as Trump did. He also has the widespread support of the extreme religious right. Unlike Trump though, Netanyahu is a political mastermind standing on murkier ground. Whereas Trump categorically lost his re-election on every front, Netanyahu was only one step away from power. I highly doubt he will ignore this near miss.
In the meantime, Netanyahu will stall Lapid’s coalition for as long as possible. His party will meticulously scrutinize all 7 agreements and pressure the coalition’s right-wingers to defect. One of Bennett’s own has already left!
Netanyahu is holding the reins of power very tightly. Bennett’s and Lapid’s political naivety could work against them.
The Arab-Israeli Question
For the first time in Israeli history, an Arab party has official power. Led by Mansour Abbas, Ra’am’s admission into the coalition offers potential for reform.
Israel’s Arab population is undisputedly treated like second-class citizens. Despite having some rights, they face systematic discrimination in all walks of life. The Nation-State Law of 2018 cemented this subjugation. That is not to even mention the millions of Palestinians who lie completely disenfranchised and voiceless whilst occupied. The mechanisms of Apartheid are apparent across the country.
Abbas aims to change this. Many Arab citizens laud his desires to change the situation from within. However, many others are dismayed. Members of the ‘Joint List’ group, which has recently had a monopoly on the Arab vote, refuse to support a coalition with Bennett at its head. After all, Bennett is just as pro-Settlement (and dare I say, as racist) as Netanyahu. So are many anti-Netanyahu members of the Knesset, especially after the ethnic riots. Discord around issues of Arab rights could tear this new coalition apart.
Room for Hope?
After all I’ve said, is there a chance of change? Real systematic reform is highly unlikely. Not only is the coalition deeply divided politically and ideologically, but it has strong pro-Netanyahu enemies working against it.
The new coalition’s use lies elsewhere. There are three steps it can take for effective change now. It must convict Netanyahu for corruption, hollowing out Likud in the process. It must set term limits to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic election cycle which Israel has barely escaped. Lastly, it must hold one final election. With Likud devoid of its main attraction and the right-wing divided, a decisive pro-reform, pro-Arab government could have the potential to arise.
Written by Chief Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
Netanyahu is gone but Bennett and Lapid are more of the same – A Labour Response
Frank has written an insightful article that manages to provide a comprehensive yet concise summary of the political situation in Israel. I agree that systematic reform is highly unlikely, if not impossible. However, I struggle to share his optimism regarding the potential rise of a pro-Arab government.
The coalition covers a wide area of the political spectrum, ranging from right to left-wing parties. Nonetheless, the politics of the two leaders of the coalition, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, suggests that they will only enforce the status quo when it comes to the Arab-Israeli question.
Lapid, the centrist of the two, condemned the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement as “Hamas financed”. Furthermore, in relation to a peace process with Palestinians, he reaffirms demands that Jerusalem remains undivided under Israeli rule, refusal of the right to return and that Israel has the right to enter Palestine in the name of security. Bennett on the other hand, is leader of the far-right Yamina Party, and is vehemently pro-settlement and against a Palestinian peace agreement.
Unfortunately, I don’t see reform regarding the peace process occurring through the Israeli government. Just like in South Africa, outside pressure is needed.
International pressure from activist groups such as the BDS movement and most importantly the U.S. and UK governments among others is the only way complete and effective change will be made to Israel’s oppression of Palestine.
Written by Senior Labour Writer, Zoë Olsen-Groome
A fragile coalition that takes a step in the right direction… only time will tell if it is a meaningful one – A Conservative Response
Frank does a fantastic job of summarising the situation. Zoë herself has added a really good response to the situation. The only thing I think needs greater explanation is the most major problem, Naftali Bennett. A former ally of Netanyahu, he and Netanyahu are very similar. An extreme nationalist, Frank is right to point out his pro-settlement agenda.
Firstly, who is Naftali Bennett? A former commando and protegee to Netanyahu, Bennett left the Likud after falling out with his former mentor. He moved around several right-wing parties, before returning with Yamina. With only seven seats, they have become the deciding factor between who rules, or ‘king-maker’ as Frank fittingly put it. He is passionately anti-Palestine, as he also showed in a bizarre social media video in 2014.
Bennett being the new PM leaves me worried about two points in particular. He is firstly meant to step down as PM to let Yair Lapid take over in 2021. If this coalition actually lasts this long, which will be an impressive feat, I question if Bennett would allow this to happen. The fact this is also a condition makes me wonder about his motives.
Secondly, his nationalistic and military background also brings concerns. He is meant to work with Abbas, leader of Ra’am, to perhaps fix the broken country, but I could never see this happening. That is the biggest concern, and I am glad Frank notes it as one. Either Ra’am will simply be forced to follow the coalitions will in order to stay in power, or it will be taken to try and add pro-Arabian policies, in which a stalemate will occur and the fall of the coalition.
Written by Publisher, Max Anderson
Politics was a completely taboo subject for me as a young boy. Having lived almost all my life in Brunei and Qatar – two very strict, theocratic autocracies – I was cautious to keep my opinions well-guarded. The smallest negative remark about either country’s governance, for example, would’ve meant deportation for my family and I. Any non-approved political activity, no matter how naïve, had to be kept a secret. It was best not to question at all.
I am currently in my second year of reading Politics at the University of Exeter. My first interaction with politics was at the tender age of four years old.
I have just graduated with a History degree from the University of Exeter and am about to start my Masters there in Conflict, Security, and Development. I will also be taking on the roles of Welfare Officer in the Politics Society and Vice-President for Coppafeel’s Exeter Uni Boob Team.