Benjamin Netanyahu is the longest-serving prime minister of Israel, being in function for the past 12 years. But this might soon change, as Israel is trying hard to get out of the political deadlock. As the Prime Minister has failed in forming a new government, Yair Lapid was given the position to form a new government.
The Israeli President designated Yair Lapid, the head of the opposition and the leader of the Yesh Atid party, with forming a coalition and a government, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conceded that he had failed to do so. Yair Lapid told President Reuven Rivlin late Wednesday that his party has put together a majority-backed government. This happened just one hour before the deadline, with the help of the Yamina party, which eventually accepted to become part of the new coalition. In this respect, the leader of the Yesh Atid party posted on Twitter: “I just notified Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin that I succeeded in the mission of assembling a government. I pledge that this government will work at the service of all Israeli citizens — those who voted for it and those who did not. It will respect its opponents and will do whatever it can to unite and reconnect all parts of Israeli society.”
The negotiations were accelerated since the 30th of May, when Naftali Bennet, the leader of Yamina, declared: “There is someone telling us that a right-wing government is just around the corner, and we are the ones who are preventing its formation. That is a complete lie. After four elections and two additional months, we have all seen that there just will not be a right-wing government headed by Netanyahu.” Through this statement, the Yamina party leader expressed his will to join the coalition for a new government, to prevent the fifth round. This comes with the compromise to ally with parties that are of totally different political views.
As agreed, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet would rotate the function of prime minister, with the leader of the Yamina party being the PM of Israel for the first two years and the leader of Yesh Atid for the last two years of the term.
There are other political parties that have already signed agreements with Yesh Atid, namely New Hope, a right-wing party, and the Islamic party of Raam, or the United Arab List. It is for the first time in history when an Islamic party has joined the coalition. Even though the party would most probably have no minister designated in the government, they will still have a say in the negotiations that would take place in the Israeli government. It is an unconventional move coming from the United Arab List party, as the other parties in the coalition, especially the Yamina party, are against the two-state solution. The coalition now only needs the support of the majority in the Knesset.
The new coalition claims that the current Prime Minister is trying to destabilize them, by trying to influence the speaker of the Knesset, Yariv Levin, which is one of the associates of Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu. This could be possible as the speaker of the Knesset has the right to postpone the vote on the new government for a week or even for longer. This would give Likud more time to persuade Yamina legislators to leave the small 61-member coalition. Furthermore, the Israeli Prime Minister has warned that the new coalition is a threat to national security and called on the right-wing member of the Parliament not to allow the new coalition to ascend to power.
In the whole political game in Israel, the Palestinians are divided, with some of them supporting the new government, despite having elements specific to the ultra-right-wing. They hope that this government would make some steps forward in the legitimizing of Palestinians in Israel. On the other side, many Palestinians sustain that there is nothing related to the new government that would help them in any way, nothing that would make any difference compared to the previous governments. What is more, they are convinced that the other nationalists that would replace Benjamin Netanyahu are likely to adopt a similar, right-wing agenda, that would for sure not be in the interest of the Palestinian people.
There are some political personalities in the Middle East that are pleased with what is going on in Israel, namely with the downfall of the Prime Minister. One such person is the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who posted on Twitter: “Netanyahu has joined the disgraceful journey of his anti-Iran co-conspirators—Bolton, Trump, and Pompeo—into the dustbin of history. Iran continues to stand tall. This destiny has been repeated over several millennia for all those wishing Iranians harm. Time to change course.”
In the meantime, on Wednesday, 2nd of June, the 11th president of Israel was elected by the members of the Knesset. Elected with 87 votes, Isaac Herzog, succeeded in obtaining the largest victory in presidential elections in the history of Israel. His opponent was the educator Miriam Peretz, who only gained 26 votes. Three Knesset members abstained. The presidential term in Israel is of 7 years and the new president will occupy the office on the 9th of July. After winning the elections, Isaac Herzog stated that he would be “the president for everyone”. He was congratulated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I congratulate Isaac Herzog on his election as president and wish him great success in the name of the citizens of Israel. I thank Miriam Peretz for her honorable candidacy and I am certain she will continue to contribute to Israeli society, as she has done all her life.” The new president was also congratulated by other important political figures in Israel, for instance by Yair Lapid, by the current president Reuven Rivlin, but also by his opponent, Miriam Peretz.
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About the author:
Delia-Maria MOTAN is Intern research at MEPEI, and her research interest lies in international relations and political science in the Middle East. Currently, she is studying at the Faculty of the Political Science / University of Bucharest.