End of an era in Israel as Netanyahu is ousted
After a record 12 years in office and a political crisis that resulted in four elections in two years, Israel’s parliament elected a new coalition government on Sunday, sending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into opposition.
After a 60-59 vote in parliament, Naftali Bennett, the leader of a small ultranationalist party, was sworn in as Prime Minister. However, if he wants to keep his position, he’ll have to maintain an unwieldy coalition of political right, left, and center parties.
The eight parties, which include a small Arab faction that is creating history by joining the government coalition, are unified in their opposition to Netanyahu and new elections, but there is nothing else on which they agree.
They are likely to pursue a modest agenda that aims to de-escalate tensions with the Palestinians while maintaining good relations with the United States without taking any substantial steps.
During the vote, Netanyahu sat motionless. He stood up to leave the chamber once it was authorized, then turned back and shook Bennett’s hand. A devastated Netanyahu sat in the opposition leader’s chair for a brief moment before storming out, wearing a black medical mask.
Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, remains the leader of parliament’s largest party and is anticipated to oppose the new administration vehemently. If just one faction deserts, the party could lose its majority and collapse, giving him an opportunity to reclaim power.
Bennett’s presentation to parliament ahead of the vote highlighted the country’s significant differences. Several supporters of Netanyahu were hauled out of the chamber after he was repeatedly interrupted and noisily heckled.
Bennett’s speech focused primarily on local matters, though he opposed US efforts to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal with world powers.
Bennett pledged to maintain Netanyahu’s aggressive stance, saying, “Israel will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons.” “Israel will not be a party to the deal and will retain complete operational autonomy.”
Bennett did, however, express gratitude to President Joe Biden and the United States for their decades of support for Israel.
Netanyahu, speaking after him, vowed to return to power. He predicted the incoming government would be weak on Iran and give in to U.S. demands to make concessions to the Palestinians.
“If it is destined for us to be in the opposition, we will do it with our backs straight until we topple this dangerous government and return to lead the country in our way,” he said.
Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, said the new government will likely be more stable than it appears.
“Even if it has a razor-thin majority, it will be extremely tough to overthrow and replace since the opposition is fragmented,” he said. Each party in the coalition will want to demonstrate its ability to deliver, and they will need “time and achievements” to do so.
Netanyahu, meanwhile, will continue to cast a shadow, according to Plesner. He anticipates the next opposition leader to take advantage of the situation and propose legislation that right-wing coalition members would like to support but are unable to do so, all in the hopes of embarrassing and undermining them.