The successive reappointments of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister could suggest a certain consensus in Israeli society around his leadership. The twelve years spent in this post, however, masked the fact that the population was deeply divided on this permanence.
In Israel’s multiparty parliamentarism, the fragmentation of the opposition made it impossible to form a broad front strong enough to replace it. But after four elections in a short period of time, the controversy over his continued mandate has finally overtaken other issues polarizing the country – left against right, cleric against secular, Jews against non-Jews.
The new coalition is made up of parties with very different ideological shades, and the diversity of agendas makes it difficult to predict its trajectory, in addition to leaving doubt about its survival in the first crisis. In any case, if he resists, reforms are expected, especially in domestic policy.
Maintaining the status quo was one of Netanyahu’s hallmarks, especially with regard to the relationship between religion and the state and the conflict with the Palestinians. Rather than seeking greater integration of the Arab Christian and Muslim minority, which represents around 20% of the population, Bibi, as it is called, saw it as a threat. The prime minister was one of the main supporters of the Basic Law which, in 2018, defined Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people.” In addition, he had to give in to constant pressure from the ultra-Orthodox parties that formed the basis of his government.
In foreign policy, Netanyahu did what he could to bring the Palestinian issue out of the center of public debate and replace the threat posed by Iran. The strategy was crowned last year with agreements to normalize diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries – Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan. The resolution of the Palestinian problem, previously demanded by these countries as a condition for recognition of the State of Israel, seemed to take a back seat to a common regional enemy and other special national interests.
The intensity of the wave of violence of the past few weeks and the reactions that followed, however, reveal that unresolved historical questions still resurface – and with even greater force.
Thus, the new government of Israel, now with Democrat Joe Biden as US president, will have to face not only the resumption of negotiations on the nuclear deal with Iran, but also the return of the importance of the Palestinian question on the global agenda and with a frayed internal social fabric, in particular because of the fragile balance in the relations between religious and secular and between Jews and non-Jews.
With Avigdor Liberman (Israel Our House), Gideon Saar (New Hope) and Naftali Bennett (Yamina), there is not much hope of moving forward in negotiations with the Palestinians. On the other hand, the departure of ultra-Orthodox religious parties and the entry of legends from the center, the left and the Arabs can have a significant impact on the lives of Israelis, especially those of minority groups who have stayed behind. ‘a decade without representation at the highest ministerial level. .
The new government broke the first paradigm by including the Islamic party in it. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to unlock other avenues to resolve the structural problems facing Israeli society.