Brief # 115 – Foreign Policy
Israel’s New Coalition Government: Can It Succeed?
By Reilly Fitzgerald
June 11, 2021
Over the past month, Israel has been a hotbed of political turmoil which has included mass protests, an 11-day war, and now a political coalition in the Knesset that includes eight political parties trying to remove Prime Minister Netanyahu. The eight party coalition is interesting in that it includes factions of the entire political spectrum in Israel with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox parties. It has members from the right-wing, the left-wing, and even the Arabist Ra’am Party. The Knesset will vote on Sunday (6/13/2021) on whether or not to move forward with the removal of the country’s longest serving Prime Minister; if the vote passes, then a new government could be sworn in as quickly as Sunday.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has been an extremely polarizing figure in world politics over his 12 years in charge of the country; and he has become just as divisive within Israel. The political energy of the country, based on previous election results, has become about whether or not politicians (and citizens) side with his style of governance or not. It is not surprising to see such a wide-spread coalition come together when the single issue that they share in common is whether or not Prime Minister Netanyahu should be the leader; and they can all agree on not wanting his time in power to continue. Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing trial for corruption charges, as well as being unpopular globally for his comments on the Iran Nuclear Deal, and also his most recent 11-day Gaza war against Hamas.
The Biden Administration is in a tough position in regards to Israel, as the political climate domestically has turned fairly sour towards Prime Minister Netanyahu following the war in Gaza last month. Republicans believe that he did not support Israel enough; Democrats, especially amongst the Progressive wing of the Democratic party, believe that he did not support the Palestinian cause enough.
The White House has said they will work with whomever is the leader of Israel. I expect this to be a more difficult task with a coalition of eight different parties coming together and coming from across most of the Israeli political spectrum. For example, Ra’am Party is a supporter of the idea of a recognized Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital; it is a supporter of ending the divisive issue of Israeli settlements; and it is a supporter of increasing Israeli- Arab social infrastructure (educational system, opportunities, minority status and rights, etc).
There will mostly likely be an increasing tension within the coalition should they successfully remove the Prime Minister this weekend. The plan, as it has been explained so far, will be to have Naftali Bennett take over as Prime Minister of Israel. Mr. Bennett is going to be a polarizing figure within this coalition and globally as he is a devout Jew and has been far to the right of Prime Minister Netanyahu. To complicate matters even more, Mr. Bennett would only be in power for the first two years of this government and would be replaced by a centrist afterward. It will be a tough job for the White House to work with a government that is seemingly only united in its disdain for a singular leader rather than a shared set of beliefs or ideas to move Israel forward.
The Israel Democracy Institute (https://en.idi.org.il/) – is an independent think tank dedicated to strengthening democracy within Israel. This resource includes overviews of the political parties involved in Israel politics including the parties involved in this new coalition.