After more than a decade as head of Israel, the country’s longest-serving prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, 71, has resigned. On Sunday (13), Parliament approved the name of ultra-right Naftali Bennett as successor by 60 votes in favor and 50 against – the House has 120 seats and one member abstained.
The new prime minister is supported by a coalition of eight parties, ranging from the radical left to the nationalist right. It is the first time in history that an Arab party (the conservative Ra’am) will officially form part of the government.
This bloc was formed in an attempt to end the two-year political crisis, a period in which four elections were held – all of which ended without any group securing a majority in parliament, allowing Netanyahu to remain in power on an interim basis.
Friday (11), he tried a last maneuver to stay in government. He offered the post of prime minister to then defense minister Benny Gantz, a member of the new coalition, who in turn would appoint him deputy prime minister. The proposal was quickly rejected.
Now that they have finally succeeded in overthrowing Netanyahu, it will be up to the leaders of the new government to find a common denominator to rule the country and fill the void left by the former prime minister – a personalist figure who has concentrated power, according to the political scientist Gideon Rahat, professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and researcher at the IDI (Institute of Israel Democracy). “In short, it’s as if we were moving from a monarchical regime to an oligarchic regime,” he says.
This Sunday (13), before the vote, Naftali Bennett posted on Twitter a photo of him praying with a tefillin (Jewish amulet), accompanied by the words: “May the Lord bless you and keep you; May the Lord make his face shine upon you and grant you his grace; May the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace “
Since taking office in 1996 – he left in 1999 and returned to power ten years later, hanging on until today – the man known by the nickname Bibi has monopolized the attention of the government. country, making each election a standoff. supporters and detractors.
This polarization, in fact, is the biggest mark Netanyahu leaves on Israeli society, also says political scientist Yaacov Yadgar of the University of Oxford.
“In that regard, he looks like Donald Trump. He has been elevated to a higher level of good and evil by his followers, just take a look at social networks, ”explains the professor, who specializes in studies on Israel. Besides the former US president, Netanyahu was also close to Brazilian Jair Bolsonaro, who is now losing another international ally.
For Rahat, this social shock was encouraged by the former prime minister while he was in office and helped to worsen the level of democracy in the country. An IDI survey last year found that 53.5% of the population believed democracy was in danger in Israel.
According to the professor, this happened because Netanyahu has spent the last decade attacking all institutions that criticized or limited his power, such as the independent press, the opposition and the courts, especially the Supreme Court. “I hope that will change, that we will now have a government that respects liberal democracy,” he said.
In the case of justice, the situation is even more delicate because Bibi is accused of a series of crimes, including corruption, bribes and fraud. If he is convicted, he even risks being arrested, which would prevent him from continuing in politics to try to regain command of the country.
Even with these accusations, Bibi remains a popular politician at home, in large part because of his economic success. In 2009, before he took office as prime minister, Israel had an unemployment rate of 9.4 percent and a GDP per capita of $ 27,730, according to data from the International Monetary Fund. With a series of financial system reforms and free market measures, he is now stepping down with an unemployment rate of 5% and a GDP per capita of US $ 47,600.
Another asset is the success of the vaccination campaign against Covid-19. The country has the highest proportion of fully immune people on the planet – 57% of residents, according to the Our World in Data website – and has already started a large reopening.
On the foreign affairs side, the now former prime minister also signed recent agreements that established diplomatic relations between Israel and five Arab countries – Bahrain, Oman, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco. Prior to that, the only governments in the region that recognized the country were Egypt and Jordan.
“I would say that Netanyahu would like history to remember these three aspects,” said Yadgar of Oxford.
In addition, another problem that occupied most of their governments was the conflict with the Palestinians. Whether as prime minister or in opposition, Netanyahu has always had a speech in which he made Israel’s security a priority and opposed peace talks – especially with the Islamist group Hamas. , which controls the Gaza Strip.
During his reign, clashes between the IDF and the group were common, including a war in 2014 that left thousands dead and last month’s conflict, which lasted for 11 days. These actions even generated allegations of human rights violations against Netanyahu.
But the expectation in the region is that the change of government will not lead to a change in policy towards the neighbors, said Daniel Levy, chairman of the Middle East Project think tank and a former government adviser to Israeli authorities. “While this new coalition is a very important thing for the Israelis, the Palestinians ignore the problem,” he said.
Analysts say the new government will have serious difficulty moving forward on any issue, given the different internal views, especially on more controversial issues, such as the Gaza issue, the separation of state and government. religion – the Orthodox parties largely support Netanyahu, not part of the new bloc – and relations with Iran, the biggest adversary on the international stage today.
The new prime minister will also have to adapt to Joe Biden’s tenure in the White House. The new US president has come under pressure from the far left wing of his Democratic Party to take a tougher tone against Israel, especially when it comes to allegations of human rights violations.
Coincidentally, Israel’s new prime minister is the son of American immigrants, which could ease relations with Washington, historically the country’s greatest ally. On the other hand, Bennett has come to be known as one of the great defenders of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, precisely one of the most delicate points in the relationship.
Moreover, it is not possible to determine the influence that he will really have in the new government. Indeed, although he holds the main seat, his party, the far-right Yamina, has only six MPs. Bennett was only chosen to be prime minister because it was the only way the opposition could get him to abandon Netanyahu and join the government.
He is not the only former ally of Bibi to have changed sides: of the eight parties that make up the coalition, five are led by former ministers Netanyahu. The list includes, among others, the new Chancellor, Yair Lapid, who leads Yesh Atid, the largest party in the new ruling bloc (with 17 seats).
The agreement reached between the coalition even provides that in two years Bennett should assume the Ministry of the Interior and hand over the post of Prime Minister to Lapid. With all of this, it’s hard to imagine the new government moving forward on any agenda beyond maintaining the status quo, Levy says. “It’s an incredibly heterogeneous coalition that disagrees on almost everything except to eliminate Netanyahu. Now that he’s out, the fun begins.
opposition leaders in israel
Naphtali Bennett, 49
The leader of far-right legend Yamina, is expected to be the new prime minister. Son of American immigrants, he entered politics in 2006 when he joined Likud, in Netanyahu, where he remained until 2008. In 2012, he was elected to command of the Home Jewish Party, renamed Yamina in 2018. .
Yair Lapid, 57
The opposition leader at the head of the biggest party in the bloc, centrist Yesh Atid, is expected to become prime minister after Bennett’s two-year term. A former presenter of one of the country’s main news broadcasts, he began his political life in 2012, when he founded the party he leads today.