An important chapter in Israel’s history is about to end. The era of Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, 71, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, is set to end after 12 consecutive years – or 15 if you add the period he was also prime minister in the 1990s.
How this plot will end, however, few dare to predict. Will the coming months or years be dominated by new names in Israeli politics or will Netanyahu return to center stage soon?
If all goes as planned, Parliament will approve this Sunday (13) the formation of a coalition without the conservative Likud party, of which Bibi is a member, which would represent the end of the knot that led Israel to four more elections. two years and an unprecedented political stalemate in the country.
Friday (11), just hours before Shabbat – Jewish Saturday, which begins Friday afternoon -, the eight parties that make up the coalition, led by rightist Naftali Bennett, 49, and centrist Yair Lapid, 57 announced their agreements in principle, paving the way for the vote.
But the change will be so booming that some will only believe it when they see it, not least because Netanyahu has spent the last few days trying to undermine the vote. Blue and White Center Party leader Benny Gantz, for example, has pledged the post of prime minister if he gives up supporting the coalition. Gantz, who gave in to a similar temptation last year and joined a government in which he was constantly ignored, refused.
And what will really change in the post-Bibi era? What will politics look like on controversial issues such as peace negotiations with the Palestinians, relations with the Arab world, the military enlistment of the ultra-Orthodox, the easing of conversions to Judaism, and the rights of the LGBTQ + community?
The answer is guessable, as Netanyahu has been trampled by a union of forces from a broad political spectrum – from the nationalist right to the radical left, including the center and the Arab minority.
Tired of political instability and the Prime Minister’s insatiable ego, which stifles the emergence of new leadership, these forces united with one clear goal: to eliminate “King Bibi” and end the reign of the Prime Minister. populism in the shadow of corruption – Netanyahu is on trial in three bribery cases.
Other than that, it will likely be a fragile and uncertain government, one that will run on eggshells all the time not to collapse – which Bibi certainly hopes will try to return to power in a possible new election.
The new government provides for the rotation of two prime ministers, who would serve for 18 months each. The first is ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett, leader of the newly formed Yamina Party (right), with just 7 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. With a background as a successful tech entrepreneur, Bennett is a staunch supporter of Israel’s West Bank settlements and control of East Jerusalem and is seen even further to the right than the Likud on the political spectrum.
The second is former TV presenter Yair Lapid, founder of Yesh Atid (There is a Future), a party created in 2003 to represent Israel’s secular middle class and defend progressive flags. It was Lapid – who will serve as chancellor until the end of Bennett’s tenure as prime minister – who shaped the coalition, an alliance based on many concessions to attract 8 of the 13 parties that make up the current parliament. .
Three of them are on the right: Yamina de Bennett, New Hope, of Likud dissident Gideon Saar, and Israel Nossa Casa, of Russian minority representative Avigdor Lieberman. Two are central: Yesh Atid, from Lapid, and the moderate Blue and White, from Gantz, former head of the Armed Forces. Two others, from the left: the traditional Labor Party, of the feminist leader Merav Michaeli, and the Meretz, of Nitzan Horowitz, defender of the Palestinian cause and the LGBT community.
To complete the patchwork, an Arab minority party: the conservative Islamic Ra’am. With her, the coalition will have 62 parliamentarians, the minimum number necessary to govern. It will be the first time that an Israeli Arab minority, responsible for 21% of the population, will formally be part of a government. Until today, most Arab parliamentarians pretended to identify with the Palestinians so as not to be part of the leadership of a country that many of them do not consider legitimate.
But Mansour Abbas, leader of Ra’am, thinks the opposite. For him, the Arab minority should stop focusing only on Palestinian issues, also defending issues that have to do with the daily life of Arab Israelis. One of its banners, for example, is the recognition of Bedouin villages in southern Israel, which live outside government benefits as they are considered illegal.
Despite the optimism of those who wanted to see Netanyahu out of command, there are many doubts. For Professor Gideon Rahat of the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the new government will not address the controversial issues, leaving deep differences outside the coalition.
One of the unanimously approved proposals is a project that limits the prime minister’s tenure to eight years, preventing the creation of new Bibis in the future. Other pacts include reducing the number of ministries and decriminalizing medical marijuana, as well as specific issues such as building hospitals and a university on the outskirts and offering help to businesses. tourism.
In one of the only topics on which West Bank settlement issues appear, there is a proposal for investments in public transport for settlers. The intention is not to offend any member of the alliance in order to maintain the government for at least three years. Therefore, issues such as negotiating peace with the Palestinians would not be resolved anytime soon, and the strategy would be to push complex issues with the guts, into some sort of post-Netanyahu transitional government.
For Dimitri Diliani, Palestinian political activist and spokesperson for Avenir, a dissident Fatah faction, the new government is only an exchange of six for half a dozen: “This Israeli government was not born between the pro-peace and anti-peace camps. Both are anti-peace. Both are in favor of settlements and against the two-state solution. Therefore, they will maintain the obedience, not the cooperation, of the Palestinian Authority. “
The activist, on the other hand, points to a positive point: if Bennett wants to expand the settlements, the left-wing parties will not agree. “But it will be a short-term government, which will not survive because of the many contradictions it faces. This is why the Palestinians do not pay much attention.
Indeed, many of the political agendas of the new coalition do not fit into the political puzzle. How do Bennett, who advocates annexation of the West Bank, get along with secular progressive Merav Michaeli, who advocates the creation of a Palestinian state? How will cleric Bennett and conservatives Gideon Saar and Mansour Abbas dialogue with Horowitz, Lapid and Lieberman, who represent the secular middle class and have in common such banners as the exemption of the ultra-Orthodox from military conscription?
And finally, how will all the Jewish parties get along with Ra’am if a new wave of violence erupts between Israel and the Islamic group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip?
Another question is what Netanyahu will do in opposition. The first sign of how he will act will be sent on Monday (14), if he does not attend the handover ceremony, like what former US President Donald Trump did, with whom he was an ally. If that happens, it will be clear that the future former prime minister will attack the legitimacy of the coalition. The aggressive rhetoric, which has already started, could lead to physical assaults on members of the new coalition by Bibi loyalists. Many warn of this danger in a country where there has already been a political assassination: that of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
All these questions will be answered in time. And the first, if the new government is approved, it will have a solution this Sunday. On April 11, 1990, Shimon Peres, then leader of the Labor Party, woke up to the belief that he would be announced as Prime Minister after forming a coalition.
But he was surprised by a political maneuver by then-Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir, who managed to convince two ultra-Orthodox lawmakers not to attend the vote. The result: the new government never got started, then Shamir was able to form a government.
The affair, known as the “stinky farce”, still hangs over the new coalitions today.