The front page of The Jerusalem Post presents today a picture of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, arm in arm with Yair Lapid, the new Foreign Minister. In the headline Bennett‘s reconciliating words: “It’s time to heal the country.”
Bennett spoke those words yesterday, on the day Parliament voted for a new government coalition. In the heated debate before the vote, he was constantly interrupted by members of Natanyahu‘s Likud party. This party, with thirty seats still the largest in Israel, can hardly beat the lost premiership of their leader.
Meanwhile, the party was celebrated in Tel Aviv, where Netanyahu’s opponents reacted relieved when it became clear that he had to clear the field. But Netanyahu supporters had also gone to his home to support him:
The new government, whose eight parties differ ideologically, immediately starts with a shaky balance.
According to correspondent Ties Brock, the minute majority of 60 seats for and 59 against that the Bennett administration allows is comparable to the division in the country. “Reacted very differently.”
Celebration was celebrated, but Netanyhu‘s supporters hold their hearts about Israel’s future. “He‘s seen as the man with experience,” Brock explains. “As the leader who has protected the country for the past twelve years. That it needs to clear the field creates uncertainty for them.”
Netanyahu’s supporters are located throughout the country, particularly in the working class. “Many of them see Netanyahu as the only one who can protect Israel on the world stage from the enemies of the Jewish state.”
It‘s up to the new government to quickly gain the trust of the population. An important step is to draw up a budget. “That’s what it suspended for a long time,” Brock says. “Since 2019, there is no functioning government in Israel, causing projects to stop.”
The new government wants to change that quickly. “Bennett will focus on investments such as healthcare, education and infrastructure.”
Netanyahu‘s dislike as a binding factor
With Bennett, Israel has a prime minister who is more politically ideologically right than Netanyahu. But because of the coalition’s divisions, topics will be like the conflict with the Palestinians and the relationship between religion and state are not high on the agenda, says Brock.
Yet, the situation makes Bennett not really get around it. “For example, a march of nationalist Israelis has already been planned by East Jerusalem tomorrow. And a newly established Israeli settlement in Palestinian territory is on the nomination to be evacuated. Bennett has many supporters among such settlers, but left-wing parties support that eviction. That makes it complicated.”
Netanyahu‘s role has not been played out yet. “A party can step out of the coalition, and within parliament the minute majority may be lost. Anything can happen. But so far Netanyahu’s dislike within the coalition has been a common binding factor.”
Comeback not excluded
And then there‘s the trial against Netanyahu, suspected of corruption. “In the past, he was able to slow down the case, and could say that he didn’t have time to do it because he had to lead the country. He can‘t use that excuse any more.”
If he is convicted, Bibi’s political career is over. But Netanyahu has proven that he can come back from a beaten position before. “He lost the election in 1999, but ten years later he was Prime Minister again. He‘s 71, so it shouldn’t take another ten years, but a comeback is certainly not ruled out yet.”