New Israeli Government Might Not Mean Major Policy Changes
With a shaky coalition that disagrees on basic issues, analysts are skeptical that major policy changes will occur.
Would a new government mean a profound shift for Israel?
June 2, 2021, 12:04 p.m. ET
Mr. Bennett speaking in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, in Jerusalem on Sunday.Credit…Pool photo by Yonatan Sindel
Naftali Bennett, who leads a small right-wing party, and Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the Israeli opposition, have joined forces to try to form a diverse coalition to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.
Spanning Israel’s fractious political spectrum from left to right, and relying on the support of a small Arab, Islamist party, the proposed coalition, dubbed the “change government” by supporters, could signal a profound shift for Israel. Its leaders have pledged to end the cycle of divisive politics and inconclusive elections.
The opposition parties announced a coalition agreement on Wednesday. But even if they survive a vote of confidence in the Parliament and form a government, toppling Mr. Netanyahu, how much change would their “change government” bring, when some of the parties agree on little else besides antipathy for Israel’s longest-serving leader?
Mr. Bennett, whose party won seven seats in Parliament, is often described as further to the right than Mr. Netanyahu. While Mr. Netanyahu eroded the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Mr. Bennett, a religiously observant champion of Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, openly rejects the concept of a sovereign Palestinian state and has advocated annexing West Bank territory.
Still, though the coalition will include several parties that disagree on both those issues, they have agreed to allow Mr. Bennett to become prime minister first.
If the coalition deal holds, Mr. Bennett would be replaced for the second part of the four-year term by Mr. Lapid, who advocates for secular, middle-class Israelis and whose party won 17 seats.
By conceding the first turn in the rotation, Mr. Lapid, who has been branded as a dangerous leftist by his opponents on the right, smoothed the way for other right-wing politicians to join the new anti-Netanyahu alliance.
In a measure of the plot twists and tumult behind this political turnaround, Mr. Bennett had pledged before the election not to enable a Lapid government of any kind or any government reliant on the Islamist party, called Raam.
The coalition would stand or fall on the cooperation between eight parties with disparate ideologies and, on many issues, clashing agendas.
In a televised address on Sunday night, Mr. Bennett said he was committed to fostering national unity.
“Two thousand years ago, there was a Jewish state which fell here because of internal quarrels,” he said. “This will not happen again. Not on my watch.”