Tuesday, June 22, 2021

A fragile Israeli coalition, with a little underlying glue

JERUSALEM – A new Israeli government is united in its determination to oust Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but agrees on little else, planning to take office on Sunday under a right-wing leader whose coalition of eight parties left and for the first times include. , an independent Arab party.

It seems like a recipe for chronic instability.

Even Sunday’s vote of confidence in the Knesset, or parliament, which would usher in the first change in Israeli leadership in a dozen years, is not a done deal, given the razor – sharp majority of Naftali Bennett’s coalition with its 61 seats in the 120-member. room. But every indication is that the votes around Mr. To make Bennett prime minister, locked up, without any 11th-hour drama.

A signed coalition agreement was formally submitted to the Knesset secretariat on Friday, the final step before a vote and the swearing-in of the new government.

Survival will then become the problem. Israel’s parliamentary democracy has threatened a presidential direction under Mr. Netanyahu. Eventually, his increasingly dismissive style alienated too many people, especially among nominal allies on the right.

Agreement to return to democratic norms could be the underlying glue of the unlikely coalition.

“The parties are diverse, but they share a commitment to restore Israel as a functional liberal democracy,” said Shlomo Avineri, a leading political scientist. “In recent years, we have seen Netanyahu begin to rule in a semi-authoritarian way.”

After an agreement was reached on the government program on Friday, Mr. Bennett said: ‘The government will work without exception for the entire Israeli public – religious, secular, ultra-Orthodox, Arab. We will work together, out of partnership and national responsibility, and I believe we will succeed. ”

Success requires constant compromise. “They will not deal with the very controversial issues between left and right,” said Tamar Hermann, a professor of political science at the Public University of Israel.

In practice, this means a probable concentration on domestic affairs rather than foreign affairs. Israel has not had a budget in more than two years of political unrest and repeat elections. Mr. Bennett, a self-made technology millionaire, is determined to deliver higher living standards and prosperity to a population so paralyzed.

The delicate issues that need to be postponed or funded include renewed peace talks with the Palestinians and any major settlements in the West Bank.

Although Mr. Bennett was once a leader of the most important settler movement in the West Bank and called for the annexation of parts of the territory that Israel conquered in 1967, it seems that he is restricted by centrist and leftist members of the coalition and by the pragmatism that requires survival.

Establishing good relations with the Biden government, a priority, and improving relations with America’s majority liberal Jewish community is also an important goal.

“Hard people from the right, we have the evidence, are becoming central in their office,” she said. Hermann said. “Bennett was not prime minister when he made his statements about the settlement.”

Mr. Bennett, 49, like other prominent members of the prospective cabinet, waited a long time to emerge from the shadow of Netanyahu. Yair Lapid (57), the incoming foreign minister, and Gideon Saar (54), who would become justice minister, are other leading politicians of a generation tired of being sidelined by the man who Israelites came to call the king of Israel. They will not want to return to the shadows.

Mr. Lapid, a leading architect of the coalition, will become prime minister in two years’ time under the agreement that offers an alternative to Mr. Netanyahu made possible – another incentive for him to get the government working.

Yet it may not. The parties, ranging from Mr. Bennett’s Yamina party on the right to Labor and Meretz on the left disagree on everything from LGBTQ rights to public transportation on Saturday.

They will disappear and be constantly attacked by Netanyahu’s center-right Likud party. It is conceivable that Mr. Netanyahu will be expelled from Likud at some point, after which the right-wing members of the coalition can return to their natural alliances.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said Avraham Diskin, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “I really doubt that Lapid will become prime minister in two years.”

Among the measures agreed upon by the prospective government is legislation that will set a two-term limit for prime ministers. This would in fact exclude the Netanyahu redux.

Four ministries will be closed, including the digital and strategic affairs. Mr. Netanyahu has a cabinet that was so large and awkward that he could argue that he had to make his own decisions.

The prospective government will also pursue legislation aimed at complicating the basic laws of Israel, which serve as the constitutional basis of the country, in the absence of a constitution. Mr. Netanyahu, who has been charged with fraud and other charges, apparently tried to limit the powers of the Supreme Court and protect the immunity from prosecution as prime minister.

The presence of Raam, an independent Arab party, in the government will influence the policy to some extent.

The differences in living standards, education and access to land between Israeli Jews and the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up about 20 percent of the population, have become a burning issue. Violent clashes between communities last month were the worst in two decades. Tension remains high.

The government plans to allocate nearly $ 10 billion to close gaps between communities over the next few years, freeze the demolition of unlicensed homes in Arab areas, recognize three Bedouin villages in the Negev desert, and improve public transportation. and increase policing in disadvantaged Arab communities. suffers from drug trafficking and violence.

The posts promised to Raam to secure his support include deputy minister in the prime minister’s office and chairman of the Knesset committee on Arab affairs.

But tension can flare up at any moment. Immediately, a nationalist march through the Muslim majority areas in the Old City of Jerusalem was rescheduled for Tuesday. The original Jerusalem Day march last month was canceled due to the Hamas rocket and clashes between police and Palestinian protesters.

The issue remains highly sensitive, loaded with the same emotions that led to a brief war last month, despite efforts to agree on a less sensitive route for the march. Bennett and Lapid’s political attack will be quickly tested.

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