Zionist politicians inched closer to forming a coalition that would end the era of right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest serving premier. Far-right Yamina leader MK Naftali Bennett delivered his long-awaited announcement that he would join a government with Yesh Atid leader MK Yair Lapid and seek to replace Netanyahu, who Bennett accused of leading Israel to national suicide to protect his own personal interests. Yesh Atid and Yamina began negotiations immediately following the Bennett’s announcement on Sunday night, May 30, in an effort to reach an agreement before the end of the 28-day deadline given to Lapid by Israel’s president to form a government by midnight tonight, Wednesday, June 2.
Netanyahu who is on trial for fraud, bribery and breach of trust charges, has held onto power through a period of political turmoil that saw four elections in less than two years. However, Netanyahu says the battle is not yet lost. Instead of “a dangerous left-wing government,” a “good right-wing government” can yet be built after Lapid’s mandate ends at midnight Wednesday. This could be via the arrangement he proposed — whereby Gideon Sa’ar, Netanyahu and Bennett would take turns in that order as prime minister. That would be “very unacceptable, unusual, and skewed, but still better than a left-wing government [that would] depend on the votes of [Joint List MKs Ahmad] Tibi and [Ayman] Odeh. How will they defend our soldiers in The Hague? Who will protect the settlements…? It’s a joke…” “Stand up against the left-wing government, and with God’s help we’ll together establish a right-wing government for the good of all of Israel’s citizens,” said Netanyahu in a televised announcement he made on Sunday evening, May 30.
Lapid’s possible new government would also include the centrist Blue & White party of Defense Minister Benny Gantz and the far-right New Hope party of his former ally MK Gideon Saar. MK Avigdor Lieberman’s racist Yisrael Beitenu party as well as Labor and Meretz party would also join the coalition. Under a planned government being put together by Lapid and Bennett, the top-level security cabinet will have a clear majority of right-wing and pro-occupation members. Mossi Raz, a lawmaker with Meretz, told Israel public radio “a change government will do a lot of good things. I’m not sure a peace agreement will be one of them.”
However, Lapid’s “change” coalition still faces several obstacles before it becomes a done deal. Some right-wing lawmakers object to a partnership with Arab politicians as MK Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamic conservative Ra’am party. At least one of Yamina’s seven members, MK Amichai Chikli, told Israeli public radio he would “definitely” vote against the new government. Lawmakers from the Joint List with six seats said they would be in favor of a Lapid government, but did not support one headed by the extreme-right Bennett.
Even with support from the Islamic party, a new coalition in Israel is unlikely to reverse years of Israeli settlement construction under Netanyahu in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. A new coalition is also not expected to bring about a deal any time soon to end the long-running hostility with Hamas in Gaza. As for challenging the neoliberal economic and social policy of the Likud government, this is also likely to be a non-starter, as both Bennett and Lapid are ideologically aligned with neoliberalism.