Netanyahu’s opponents Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid draw closer
In the past 24 hours, Israel has moved closer to what could be the impeachment of its longest-serving prime minister.
Naftali Bennett, of the right-wing Yamina party, announced on Sunday evening his intention to team up with centrist Yair Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, to form what is called a unity coalition.
It would be a diverse set of parties with little in common other than the goal of toppling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been in power for more than 12 years. If successful, this would end the complex political stalemate this saw Israel hold four elections in less than two years.
Israel’s Yemina Party leader Naftali Bennett delivers a political statement to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem on May 30, 2021.
YONATAN SINDEL | AFP | Getty Images
The challenge of forming Lapid’s government is one that Netanyahu himself failed to meet before a deadline in early May. The prime minister’s failure to build a governing coalition with enough multi-party support – at least 61 seats in the Israeli parliament, in particular – meant that President Reuven Rivlin gave another politician, Lapid, the mandate of ‘to go, and with 28 additional days. deadline.
If Lapid fails, Israelis will likely have to go to the polls for the fifth time in two years.
But was Sunday’s news the nail in the coffin for Netanyahu’s post as prime minister?
Asif Shuja, senior researcher at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, said there was still time for the right-wing prime minister to convince parliamentarians to take his side before an upcoming vote of confidence.
“I think he still has a few days to use any other cards he might have up his sleeve, because after the deadline has passed he will then have some time left before the vote of confidence is done. “Shuja said. Monday, CNBC’s Dan Murphy. “Before that, if he can get some Knesset members to favor him, then he can actually form a government.”
Netanyahu, 71, who heads the right-wing Likud party, on Sunday launched a last-minute offer to offer a three-leader alliance with himself, Bennett and fellow right-wing politician Gideon Saar. His attempt to attract lawmakers offered him an alternate prime ministerial post between the three men for the remainder of their government’s term, if he managed to form a winning coalition with them.
But Saar, a former Likud lawmaker, quickly tabled the offer, writing on Twitter: “Our position and our commitment was and remains: to change Netanyahu’s regime.”
“From what I can see,” Shuja added, “there is serious opposition to his reign for another two years … it is a long reign. And a lot has changed during that time.”
Lapid has until Wednesday to seal the deal with Bennett, after which the the agreement still needs to be signed and presented to the president before it can be officially sworn in.
Given the often unpredictable nature of Israeli politics, a lot can happen by then – and any majority is likely to be slim.
Israel’s centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid delivers a statement to the press in the Knesset (Israeli parliament) in Jerusalem on May 31, 2021.
DEBBIE HILL | AFP | Getty Images
Ofer Kenig, professor of politics and researcher at the Israel Institute of Democracy, said it was “doubtful” that a government would be formed.
“And the nightmare of a fifth election is not the domain of the impossible,” he said written in an article for the institute on Sunday.
Lapid himself said on the same day that “many obstacles” remained before his diverse coalition could be accepted.
Netanyahu is currently on trial on several corruption charges, which he denies. But other than that, Shuja and other analysts point to one of the biggest concerns of many Israeli voters: security.
“Israel does not seem very safe because of its 12 year rule. There are many geopolitical issues that can illustrate this point of view,” Shuja said. Regional observers report several clashes between Israel and Palestinian militants, primarily Hamas, during his tenure, most recently violence in Gaza in May that left more than 250 Palestinians and 12 Israelis dead.
“This is why this opposition is strengthening and we can see that there is real opposition to his rule, and this new coalition is very diverse in nature, so we will have to see what exactly will happen in the future,” he said. added Shuja.
That said, the wide range of parties in the proposed opposition coalition – centrist, left and right – present further blocking potential and demonstrate just how fragile such a government could be.
Bennett, known to be an extreme right-wing Israeli nationalist, supported the controversial Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. But to achieve a coalition government, it must have the support of at least some of Israel’s Arab parties, one of which has said it will join the unity government if it accepts their demands.
As long as the common goal is to topple Netanyahu, experts say the alliance could hold up. But if the coalition takes power, the issues that have always divided its members could see their “unity” called into question.