Israel’s Netanyahu likely out of power after 12 years, at crucial time for Middle East

After running Israel— a geopolitical powerhouse— since March 2009 (and with a brief stint in the 1990s), Benjamin Netanyahu‘s right-wing premiership seems to finally be coming to an end. Following the formation of a broad anti-Netanyahu “change“ coalition in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, Netanyahu appears to have lost his governing majority.

This news comes after Naftali Bennett agreed to join Yair Lapid’s potential government, as reported by Reuters. Branded as a “government for change,” the Bennett-Lapid government would end an era, with a more fragile majority than ever before seen.

Naftali Bennett leads Israel’s New Right party, with a heavily Zionist, right-wing base. Bennett himself was, until May 2020, in Netayahu’s cabinet as Minister of Defense. This is in stark contrast to Yair Lapid, who leads the centrist Yesh Atid party, and the Opposition to Netanyahu in the Knesset.

Furthermore, Lapid’s Yesh Atid is a party in support of a two-state solution— that is, one which supports an independent Palestinian state. Meanwhile, Bennett has, according to the Huffington Post in 2013, bragged “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”

This clearly turbulent coalition comes after months of political gymnastics in Israei politics. It all started after an April 2019 election, the results of which left Prime Minister Netanyahu without a clear majority in the Knesset. Since then, elections in September 2019 and March 2020 both failed to produce a cohesive government. Finally, an election last March 23 seems to have provided relief to an ongoing crisis in Israel, by finally producing a government. 

Following the March 23 election, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin gave a mandate to Netanyahu to form a government. Being unable to do so, the mandate was given to Lapid on May 5. That mandate expires on June 2, but even after then, the Knesset will be able to simply select a Prime Minister— likely Lapid.

Under the reported Bennett-Lapid agreement, members of the new government could assume office as early as Thursday, with Bennett serving as the new Prime Minister for the front half of the upcoming term, before Lapid becomes Prime Minister for the latter half.

Naturally, Netanyahu is opposed to a deal that seems well-positioned to remove him from power. To this effect, he tweeted on May 30: “There is not a single person in the country who would vote for Naftali Bennett if he knew what he was going to do. This is the scam of the century!”

Regardless, this agreement could not come at a more crucial time for Israel, given recent military activity in the region, sparking international concern.

Since the State of Israel was created by United Nations mandate following World War II, the area has been a hotbed of violence between Israel, in a struggle to exist, and various Palestinian and Arab peoples, in a struggle to defend previously established claims to the territory.

In the Gaza Strip— territory in the southwest of the region— the Palestinian militant organization Hamas has been engaged in conflict with Israel as of late over these deeply-embedded disputes. In May 2020 alone, 11 days of fighting saw 240 dead, before a ceasefire was agreed to.

These deadly confrontations have never failed to draw international attention, especially from the United States. For instance, both Presidents Jimmy Carter (D-Ga.) and Bill Clinton (D-Ark.) helped negotiate diplomatic agreements between Israel and its neighbors in an attempt to curb violence.

In 2018, President Donald Trump (R-Fla.) gave his two cents, overseeing the relocation of the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem— a heavily controversial move that seemed to grant favor to Israel over Palestine, from the world’s foremost superpower.

Conversely, the recent conflict in Gaza saw newly-minted President Joe Biden (D-Del.) urge peace between both sides in a speech on May 20: “Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live in safety and security and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity, and democracy. My Administration will continue our quiet and relentless diplomacy toward that end.”

As a crossroads of various religions, ethnicities, and ideologies, the leader of Israel is certain to have paramount influence upon the course of the greater Middle East. For decades, Israel has been the most valuable ally of western governments in the area otherwise dominated by disproportionately Arabic states.

Netanyahu, a staple of global leadership for well over a decade, is poised to leave both that space, and the space of governance of his country.

This leaves the world in just as much uncertainty as the stability of the coalition seeking to replace him. The question, then, is not how will the Bennett-Lapid government go forward, but how long can it truly last?

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