Updated: Sep 18, 2021
After four inconclusive elections and a failed government in two years, the Israeli Parliament, Knesset, has voted to bring into power, a very delicate eight-party coalition as its new government. This vote has made possible the ousting of the longest-serving Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu from his position and sending his party into opposition after twelve years of holding office.
At the very heart of Israeli legislation, sits the Knesset. The 120 member Parliament is elected once in four years, under the system of proportional representation. In order to gain a seat in the Knesset, a party needs over 3.25% votes. This makes it virtually impossible for a single party to obtain the majority of seats and often leads to what can be called ‘weak’ coalition governments.
A clear manifestation of this assumption is the four failed elections that Israel has seen over the course of the past two years. The current government was expected to have been established in April 2019, however, due to Netanyahu’s Likud party being unable to form a government, snap elections took place in September 2019. The outcome was the same and the Knesset dissolved itself. This has left the parliament in a tremendously cluttered situation, with not so much as an official budget being presented since 2019.
For a brief moment after the third elections in March 2020, Netanyahu and the then speaker of the Knesset, Benny Gantz reached an agreement.
However, it is alleged that Netanyahu was unwilling to give up this power, thus leading to disagreements between him and Gantz, ultimately leading to the dissolution of the government, once again.
THE DELICATE COALITION
In light of yet another inconclusive election in March 2021, President Reuven Rivlin gave Netanyahu the first mandate to form a coalition which officially expired on 4th May 2021. Netanyahu was unsuccessful in his endeavour to form a government despite attempting to reach agreements involving rotation agreements for the prime ministership with allies and rivals alike.
Meanwhile, with the agenda to defenestrate Netanyahu, the leader of Yesh Atid, a centrist party - Yair Lapid, and the leader of Yamina, an extreme right-wing party, Naftali Bennet got into an agreement to form a government with six other parties. The coalition consists of parties from all over the spectrum - three right-wing, two centrist, two left-wing along with an Arab party.
The massive gulf between the ideologies of the members of the coalition is overshadowed by their agenda to keep Netanyahu out of office.
Netanyahu and Bennet were once allies and even share hawkish views about the Middle East conflict, however, the two have shared tense relations over the past few years. Even though Naftali Bennet’s Yamina party won only seven seats in the Knesset, he maneuvered his way into the Prime Minister’s office by associating himself with, yet refusing to commit to Netanyahu and eventually teaming up with Yesh Atid.
The ‘change bloc’, like Netanyahu’s failed government, will also see two Prime Ministers in the same term. Bennet intends to hand over the reins to the architect of the coalition, i.e. Lapid, in 2023. For this move, he has been branded a traitor, alleging that he has defrauded voters. Netanyahu and his supporters argue that by joining hands with left-wing parties, Bennet has hijacked votes from the right and transferred them to the left.
In spite of Netanyahu’s efforts to turn people against Bennet and Lapid, on 13th June 2021, the Knesset voted in favour of the ‘change bloc’ as the new government by a razor-thin margin. With ultranationalist Naftali Bennet in the Prime Minister’s office, backed by a moderate coalition, Benjamin Netanyahu’s vow to bring the government down doesn’t seem like a herculean task.
WHAT LIES AHEAD?
Bennet is strongly in support of the annexation of Palestinian territories, however, despite him holding the position of PM, it is unlikely that he will aggressively act on this due to the nature of his coalition. This also implies that the possibility of concessions to Palestinians is also off the table. The ‘change bloc’ government will be taking up a modest agenda without tackling any hot button issues.
At the moment, the first challenge that lies ahead for this government is the preparation of a budget.
The Knesset could yet again dissolve itself if even one party backs out of the coalition. With the range of ideologies existing in the government, there is only so long a government built on the single desire to oust Netanyahu can walk on eggshells.
hindustantimes.com. (2021, June 11). Explained: What to expect from Israel’s next govt under Bennett in aftermath of Gaza violence. Hindustan Times. https://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/explained-what-to-expect-from-israel-s-new-govt-under-bennett-101623417776141.html
What’s in the coalition agreements Yesh Atid signed with ‘change bloc’ partners. (2021, June 11). The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/whats-inside-coalition-agreements-yesh-atid-signed-with-change-bloc-partners/
A. (2021, June 14). Israel’s Netanyahu ousted as “change” coalition forms new govt. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/benjamin-netanyahus-long-rule-ends-as-israels-parliament-approves-new-coalition/article34807346.ece
Krauss | Ap, J. (2021, June 14). EXPLAINER: Who is Naftali Bennett, Israel’s new leader? Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/explainer-who-is-naftali-bennett-israels-incoming-pm/2021/06/13/a07102c6-cc7a-11eb-a224-bd59bd22197c_story.html