Week of Monday, June 14, 2021 | Issue 36
Filipe Neves and Antonios Stavropoulos, CENTCOM Team
Naftali Bennett, the current Prime Minister of Israel
Date: June 13, 2021
Parties involved: All political parties that participated in the 2021 Israeli legislative election and secured seats in the Knesset, including Yesh Atid, Yamina, and Likud
The event: On June 13, 2021, after four parliamentary elections in two years, a new coalition government led by right-wing nationalist Naftali Bennet and Yair Lapid ended Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure. According to the agreement of the newly-elected government, Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years, after which centrist leader Yair Lapid will replace him.
The political protracted deadlock left 9.3 million people with a poorly functioning government for long periods of time. Now, the new coalition government has the duty to resolve major internal issues, such as the Palestinian issue, the annexation of the West Bank, and Israel’s foreign policy toward Arab countries. Taking into consideration that the government is constituted by right-wing nationalist leader Naftali Bennett, the centrist Yair Lapid, as well as Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Arab party called United Arab List (UAL), it may be extremely demanding to see eye to eye on every critical issue. The intrinsic divergences between the various parties that integrate the coalition make political instability a likely scenario, stressing the need for the elected government to overcome these adversities and coordinate its efforts in order to create a politically stable country after two years of a political deadlock.
The inclusion of the UAL in this new coalition highlights the political shift occurring in Israel as it establishes the integration of the Arab minority in the country’s political realm and their legitimization as a valid political force. No Arab party had ever managed to be a part of a coalition government. This shift opens the path for deeper cooperation between Israeli Jews and Arabs, as well as the chance to resolve long-standing and unresolved issues within Israeli society, most notably the lack of trust and unity. However, it is highly likely that this partnership will be continuously challenged considering the prospect of renewed violence with Gazan terrorist groups and social unrest in the West Bank. Seeing that the coalition needs the UAL to maintain its majority in the Knesset, it will likely be forced to navigate the line between containing the threats to Israel’s national security while also attending to some of the UAL’s demands if it wants to remain the governing force.
The moment Israel swore in a new government marking the beginning of a new era, Benjamin Netanyahu, the most prominent politician of his generation, must face more critical issues than its political defeat. Currently on trial for corruption, Netanyahu was indicted in 2019 for numerous scandals, such as gifts from millionaire friends as well as exploiting his relationship with media tycoons in return for favorable coverage. Even though Netanyahu has denied the allegations, it is time for the trial to continue and Netanyahu and his reputation may suffer detrimental consequences, while the public outrage may deteriorate his situation.
It remains unknown how successful the new government will be in containing Iran, which is possibly the most concerning threat to Israel’s security. With the United States wanting to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal, which Israel opposes for failing to limit Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his fragile coalition will now have to take on the task of preventing the United States from re-entering the deal. This will likely put the coalition’s resilience and preparedness to overcome such adversities to the test and could shed some light on what to expect from this government going forward.