Israeli Opposition Forming Coalition Against Netanyahu
Monday, May 31, 2021
Lucas Leiroz, research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
In Israel, while the ceasefire with Hamas continues, internal political instability escalates. On Sunday, parties opposing the current government formed a coalition against Benjamin Netanyahu, in power since 2009. But apparently, his government will be replaced by an even more radical wing of the Israeli parliament.
Netanyahu’s name is extremely controversial in Israel. Throughout his 12 years in power, he has been involved in corruption scandals, which severely undermined his reputation. Despite some merits – such as the quick and effective vaccination campaign of the Israeli population – Netanyahu has been losing political strength in recent years and his popularity has gradually declined, which has made his situation extremely complicated for the next elections. But, in fact, there are many reasons why Netanyahu is losing his popularity. In addition to the political scandals, Netanyahu also finds it difficult to convince public opinion that he really still has control over the country, considering the violence in the conflict with Palestinians, whose impacts increasingly disturb the Israeli population, which now lives amid the chaos of the constant protests organized by the Arab community.
In negotiations to create the coalition, former TV presenter and current centrist politician Yair Lapid gained an advantage by being chosen to lead the opposition. Lapid promised a comprehensive and diverse front, bringing together politicians and parties with divergent positions, only sharing opposition to Netanyahy as a common point. Another prominent leader of the opposition movement is Naftali Bennett, a nationalist leader whose positions seem to indicate a high degree of radicalism. In his determination to overthrow Netanyahu, Lapid offered to share the power with Bennett in a kind of rotating government. The proposal is truly innovative and, above all, reveals the high degree of dissatisfaction of the Parliament with Netanyahu.
The central problem with Bennett’s possible rise to power is the extremely aggressive character of his proposals. Bennett is a far-right politician, committed to Israel’s regional hegemony. He promises to annex more than 60% of the West Bank by force, using Israeli military power to neutralize all forms of Palestinian resistance. This means that a possible Bennett government will be extremely harmful to the Palestinian cause and to all groups concerned about the humanitarian crisis in the region. In a possible rotating system with Bennett and Lapid, the centrist would have to worry about easing possible decisions made by his partner before him in order to maintain a harmonious balance, which will certainly be a great challenge.
As the unrest continues, Netanyahu is considering strategies for staying in power. In the last elections, his party, Likud, won 30 seats in parliament, but failed to get enough numbers to form a support coalition. Without the support of other parties in Parliament, Netanyahu’s party, even with many representatives, will not be able to form the majority necessary for the functioning of the legislative branch, which will result in an unprecedented political crisis, isolating Netanyahu more and more.
In fact, everyone is dissatisfied with the current Israeli government. Those who defend Palestinians and human rights criticize Netanyahu for the actions of the armed forces during his government, while those in favor of Zionist expansionism criticize Netanyahu for not fulfilling his promise to annex the West Bank and are against the ceasefire with Hamas. On the other hand, those who supported Netanyahu and considered him a point of balance between political extremes are now disappointed due to his corruption scandals, which have made the Prime Minister a controversial, isolated and unpopular politician – elements that contribute to a stable government.
So, the end of the Netanyahu’s era becomes almost inevitable. What is undesirable is the holding of a new election. Israel has gone through four elections in the past two years, all operated with the aim of forming coalitions for the government – and none of them successful. Now, a coalition appears to be formed, but against the government. If Netanyahu refuses to participate in the next electoral process or resigns before the elections, the opposition coalition will be able to take power peacefully and start the rotating government, but this is unlikely to happen. Netanyahu wants to remain in power and there will certainly be strong internal tensions – which will lead to street protests and extreme political polarization across society.
Regardless of who comes to power, strong institutional mechanisms must be created to prevent peace in the region from being subject to the mere goodwill of government officials. It is legitimate for Bennett to rule his country – but it is unacceptable that this means a new war and the violent annexation of 60% of the West Bank. Who governs Israel is a national issue, but peace in the region must be a global concern and preventing a new conflict is the task of the UN, which must use its mechanisms to guarantee peace in Palestine.
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