Israel government formation: Broad coalition set to oust Netanyahu

By Matthew Norman

ISRAEL has formed a new coalition government which may see the end of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 year premiership.

The new alliance, comprised of eight parties from across the political spectrum, was formed by Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party.

A parliamentary decision will be made on 15th June, and if by then the coalition manages to hold their leading position of 61 seats in the 120 seat Knesset, they will replace Netanyahu.

Lapid was given a 28-day mandate to forge a majority after Netanyahu’s failure to do so with the first mandate. The deadline for formation, 12pm on Wednesday 2nd June, was very nearly unmet.

Mr Lapid and other party leaders signed a contract at 11:22pm on the day of the deadline, following which Mr lapid called the Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin: “Mr President, I am calling you to say that I have succeeded in forming a government.”

In a BBC sounds interview, BBC’s Middle East correspondent Jeremy Bowen said: “One last hurdle remains, they have to pass a vote of confidence in the Israeli Parliament. So that means that if Mr Netanyahu can slice off one or two MPs, well they’re going to be in trouble.”

Netanyahu, known by his supporters as ‘King Bibi’, has denounced the new coalition, calling it the “fraud of the century”.

Jeremy Bowen commented on Netanyahu’s likely temperament if ousted by the new alliance: “He’s not going to go into some Israeli version of Mar-a-Lago like Donald Trump did in Florida, he’s going to be very evident, angry, still ambitious as the leader of the opposition so he’ll still be there reminding them why it is they agreed to sink their differences.”

Assuming the proposed government gains parliamentary acceptance, it could put an end not only to Netanyahu’s political career, but his personal freedom.

The politician is the subject of three ongoing corruption cases, namely, on fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges. If he were to lose his position as prime minister, he may also lose the legal immunity afforded to him by parliament.

The coalition will operate under a rotation agreement, whereby the leader of the right-wing Yamina party, Naftali Bennett, will serve as prime minister until 2023, when Yair Lapid will take over the role.

Mr Bennett is a staunch Jewish-nationalist and a supporter of Jewish settlers in Gaza and the West Bank. He has also made it clear that he does not back a Palestinian state, and believes Israel should annex the 60 per cent of the West Bank it currently occupies.

Jeremy Bowen said: “This is a really wide, eight party coalition going from people like the putative prime minister Naftali Bennett, who said that he doesn’t agree with a Palestinian state, or giving up any of the land that Israel has been occupying since 1967 on one side, then on the left, at the other end there’s the Meretz party, who unlike most Israeli politicians, for example, say that it might be okay if Israelis accused of war crimes are actually put on trial in international courts.”

One of the coalition’s members is the United Arab List, known in Israel as Ra’am, an Arab-Islamist party led by Mansour Abbas.

Holding four seats, they are the first party from Israel’s Arab population to join a government in decades.

This is a true demonstration of the broadness of parties that have come together to oppose Netanyahu, and there has already been signs of good will between left and right-wing factions.

Abbas and his coalition counterparts have agreed on several proposed ideas and budgets that would positively affect Arab Israeli society.

Abbas pledged that many of the incoming benefits would be allocated to the Negev region in Southern Israel, where a significant number of the United Arab List’s voters live.

A statement made by the Arab-Israeli party, expressed that Lapid and Bennett intend to pledge NIS 30 billion over five years in development funds, as well as a further NIS 2.5 million to combat violence and crime in Arab society.

Additionally, three Bedouin unrecognized villages – Rakhma, Abda and Khashm al-Zena – are going to be legalized.

It is evident in recent media that discourse around Israeli politics has been centred on one figure, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Jeremy Bowen comments on the atmosphere surrounding politics in Israel: “It’s all about Netanyahu really, and this is one of the complaints that his opponents have made, that it’s no longer about the state, and the good of the state, and the strength of the state.

“It’s about Netanyahu: can he stay in office, can he avoid being prosecuted for serious corruption charges. That trial has already begun in Jerusalem.

“The fact is that, either his supporters think he is Bibi king of Israel, which is one of their favourite chants, or they think that he is a lying, pernicious, corrupt, dishonest, self-serving politician.”

The diverse political group that make up the coalition have frequently been referred to in the media as the ‘anti-Netanyahu coalition’, and it has often been said that their binding objective is the removal of the long-serving prime minister.

So one is inclined to ask, after Netanyahu is removed, what motives bind the coalition together and drive them forward?

And, given the enormous rift in political outlook, how will the coalition work together on future decisions?

The coalition is made up of the following parties: 

  • Yesh Atid (centrist) – led by Yair Lapid (17 seats)
  • Blue and White – (centrist) – led by Benny Gantz (eight seats)
  • Israel Beiteinu (centre-right to right-wing nationalist) – led by Avigdor Lieberman (seven seats)
  • New Hope (centre-right to right-wing) – led by Gideon Sa’ar (six seats)
  • Labor (social-democratic) – led by Merav Michaeli (seven seats)
  • Meretz (left-wing, social democratic) – led by Nitzan Horowitz (six seats)
  • Yamina (right-wing) – led by Naftali Bennett (seven seats)
  • Raam (Arab-Islamist) – led by Mansour Abbas (four seats)

Featured Image: U.S. Secretary of Defense@Flickr

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