June 24, 2022 11:43 am
On June 20 there was a rare moment of grace in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced the dissolution of their extraordinary coalition, pushing the country towards its fifth election in three and a half years.
The coalition was extraordinary in that it included an extremely wide range of political positions, from the settler-backing right (Yamina, Bennet’s party) to the center-left of Yesh Atid (of which Lapid is a part). An Islamic formation, the United Arab List, was even part of the alliance. It never happened.
The moment of grace was produced by the loyalty and friendship shown by Bennett and Lapid, political and ideological adversaries who nevertheless managed to overcome the rifts of a fragmented political landscape marked by defections and betrayals.
Rivals with respect
Bennett and Lapid did not blame each other for the coalition’s failure and showed mutual respect. In addition, Bennett has kept his promise to alternate leading the country with Lapid, who will therefore become the prime minister of the transitional government in view of the next elections, which will probably be held in October.
“They are political rivals who have been wise enough to create a rare, almost utopian alliance by Israeli political standards. They started well and finished even better. We felt like we were dreaming. Were we in Israel or Denmark? ”Journalist Yossi Verter wrote in Haaretz. But the truth is, except for these two men, we are clearly still in Israel.
The eight-party coalition had a single founding principle: to prevent Bibi (Benyamin Netanyahu, prime minister for much of the past 25 years) from regaining power for the umpteenth time. The alliance could only work by focusing on social issues (where there was a certain agreement) and by maintaining the status quo in terms of security, settler violence and Palestinian rights.
Nonetheless, the attempt to hold together such an evidently varied coalition failed, mainly due to the defections of parliamentarians who felt compromised by collaborating with individuals who had extremely different views from their own. Among other things, the coalition was made up of just 62 deputies out of 120, so it was enough for three MPs to leave the scene, one at a time, to destroy the parliamentary majority.
Today, any political issue in Israel is related to settlers and occupation
Can we expect Netanyahu to return in October? Bibi is still on trial for abuse of office, corruption and fraud, but the coalition has failed to introduce a ban on serving as prime minister for those on trial for serious crimes. So it’s a possible scenario.
This is why Netanyahu tried with all his might to bring down the government, forcing a vote on every single measure. The knesset and the country are so divided that any shuffling of the cards gives Bibi another chance to win.
Public opinion split in half
Netanyahu even convinced his allies in the knesset to vote against a new five-year extension of the rules that place the work of Israeli settlers in the West Bank under the jurisdiction of Israeli civil law and not martial law, which instead controls the lives of Arabs in the territories. busy.
The extension is usually automatic and involves no debate, but Netanyahu’s Likud and his allies voted against despite their pro-settler political stance. Bibi knew that the four Arab members of the coalition government could not vote in favor of special rights for the settlers, so the measure was rejected and the government fell.
Today, any political issue in Israel is linked to settlers and occupation, not least because public opinion is perfectly divided in half, almost with surgical precision. This is why it has been so difficult to create an anti Bibi coalition. But it will be just as difficult to form one in favor of Bibi.
After the 1967 victory, when Israel took control of large Arab territories in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Plateau, few understood that this was the future they were building. Between the war of 1948, when most Arabs fled or were driven out of what would become the state of Israel, and the 1967 Six Day War, some 85 percent of the Israeli population was Jewish. After the 1967 victory, however, half the population of the lands controlled by Israel was Arab, Muslim or Christian.
This proportion has survived to the present day, even though the Gaza Strip has been transformed into an open-air prison that is technically not located in the state of Israel. Consequently, unless the occupied territories are returned, there are two possible scenarios: that of a democratic Israel in which half the population is Arab or that of a Jewish Israel in which half of the population has no political rights.
This is the choice that divides and paralyzes the country, without there being a decision on the horizon. Bibi is the standard bearer of all Israeli Jews who want a bigger country and where Palestinian Arabs are not considered citizens like others. These people could be back in power by the end of the year.
(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)