Young Israelis Contemplate Life After Netanyahu

Israel’s youth are as divided as their country. But even some on the right see Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure as a chance for change.

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Young Israelis face the end of their forever prime minister.

A protest against Mr. Netanyahu last year.Credit…Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

June 13, 2021, 7:23 a.m. ET

After 12 years with Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, young Israelis and Palestinians — who can barely remember his predecessor — expressed a wide range of reactions to the possibility of a future without Mr. Netanyahu at the helm.

“Wow,” said Gil Maymon, a graduate student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, barely concealing her excitement. “We started to think he would never leave, but now it’s finally happening.”

But Ms. Maymon, 30, expressed some reservations about the politician expected to take Mr. Netanyahu’s place: Naftali Bennett, the leader of the hard-right Yamina party, who strongly supports settlement building.

“Sometimes you don’t get everything you want,” she said.

Young supporters of Mr. Netanyahu, however, said they were not only shocked, but bitter, at the prospect of his exit.

Nathan Moatti, 27, an education student, said he was furious at Mr. Bennett — a former chief of staff to Mr. Netanyahu — for unseating the prime minister. “I feel betrayed,” Mr. Moatti said.

“I very much love and appreciate Netanyahu,” said Mr. Moatti, 27, who lives about 150 feet from the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. “He has transformed our economy, defended us against Iran and stood up for our country around the world.”

The government that is expected to be inaugurated on Sunday is made up of right-wing, left-wing and centrist political parties, as well as the first independent Arab party to join a coalition in Israel’s history.

But many Palestinians in the occupied West Bank said they doubted that a new prime minister would bring dramatic changes in their lives.

“The same system and strategy — the restrictions on movement, the checkpoints and the wall — will stay,” said Bahaa Nairoukh, 30 an accountant in Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority, in the West Bank. “It’s hard to imagine anything different because occupation is all I’ve known my whole life.”

Mohammed Wawi, an Arab citizen of Israel, also did not expect a transformation. “It’s true he incited against the Arab community,” he said of Mr. Netanyahu, “but Bennett has also made comments against us.”

Mr. Wawi, 29, a physical therapist from Nazareth, said that while the Arab party that joined the rising coalition may be able to extract additional money in the budget for Arab towns, it was unlikely to be able to make changes to the nation-state law — legislation passed in 2018 that formally declared Israel to be the nation-state of Jewish people only.

Some on the right praised Mr. Netanyahu, but said that the only way Israel could overcome its political deadlock, after four elections in two years, was for him to leave office.

“The country got stuck,” said Alon Saperia, 30, an industrial engineer who lives in the long-disputed Golan Heights. “The unfortunate reality is he had to go.”

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