Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

In addition to all the challenges Israel’s new prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is already facing to hold together an unlikely, ideologically diverse governing coalition, analysts say he must also undertake a joint effort by his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, to run the government. sabotage his work and bring it down.

On June 13, the Israeli parliament took an oath new eight-party coalition government — led by right-wing nationalist Bennett — with an alliance of left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties, as well as a party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel.

It put an end to the 12-year presidency of Netanyahu, the most dominant Israeli politician of his generation, who could not form a government after Israel’s election on March 23 – the fourth in two years.

Netanyahu continues corruption trialon charges he denies, his desperation to return to power only deepened, and as the new opposition leader of the Knesset and the head of Likud, the largest party in parliament, he and his allies used a variety of political tactics. around the government.

“Netanyahu and Likud are determined to undermine this government’s ability to function properly,” Donna Robinson Divine, professor emeritus of Morningstar Jewish Studies at Smith College, told Al Jazeera.

“They use every rule and procedure of the Knesset to oppose everything the government proposes.”

‘They have contributed to the disorder in what is usually not a completely civil discourse. “Netanyahu’s approach is therefore to impose all kinds of roadblocks for the reforms and legislation that the coalition wants,” she said.

‘Three strategies’

“Netanyahu has adopted three strategies in his desperate attempt to make his own return to power possible and perhaps escape it, but again face a variety of criminal charges against him,” Ian Lustick, professor of political science, told the University of Pennsylvania, told Al Jazeera.

He said the first strategy is to use a variety of procedural devices, insults and personal smears to create an image of the new government as illegal or fraudulent.

“This includes the disruption of the Knesset sessions, the recent refusal to vacate the prime minister’s house and insist that his followers continue to refer to Netanyahu as prime minister,” Lustick said.

Netanyahu also undermined Bennett’s authority by acting as if he were still in power, among other things when he recently informed the public that he had called the CEOs of the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna for new stocks of COVID vaccine doses. to procure for Israel.

Second, Lustick said Netanyahu and his allies tried to use filibusters to frustrate and delay government legislation and to create tension within the ruling coalition by drafting a series of bills on controversial topics intended to exploit their ideological divisions. ; especially between Bennett, a former settler leader and a hard-right religious nationalist who called for the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank and other parties.

“Legislative and political maneuvers are being used to create tension in the ruling coalition through issues concerning issues such as settlements, the rights of [Palestinian citizens of Israel]”, or how strongly to oppose the US outreach to Iran, which has the potential to hinder the coalition by forcing it to unite in a position that its left or right – or both – can hardly accept,” Lustick said.

Third, the opposition is also making efforts to lure or entice coalition members, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz, to abandon it in favor of an agreement that would result in a new government with Netanyahu.

United by ‘virulent antipathy’

The coalition’s margin of error is small and it has already suffered some major defeats in the Knesset, including fails to extend a law it denies citizenship and right of abode to Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and marrying Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Netanyahu had previously supported the law, but opposed its renewal during the vote in early July.

As a government of relatively inexperienced politicians, it made several mistakes during its first month in office – such as when Mickey Levy, chairman of the Knesset, accidentally backed a bill.

“The coalition will have to become much more skilled at working with the procedures to prove that it can govern,” Divine said.

“There is every incentive for everyone to quickly climb the steep learning curve if they want a political future in Israel.”

Prime Minister Bennett is a former settler leader and a hard-right religious nationalist who has called for the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank [File: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

However, Lustick says the new government was also quite capable of defying Netanyahu’s attempts at sabotage and setting aside controversial issues that could widen rifts in the coalition.

‘Although the coalition contains elements that occupy very different positions in the Israeli political spectrum, the issues that have traditionally defined the spectrum – what to do with the [occupied Palestinian] areas … and whether a two-state solution should be negotiated is completely off the agenda, ‘Lustick said.

Most importantly, the coalition is united by its shared resentment towards Netanyahu.

‘The parties in government are united by a brutal antipathy towards Netanyahu, for fear of the consequences of the Likud’s return with his ultra-Orthodox allies, and by their desire, after so long in the political wilderness, for the benefits enjoy and power to hold ministerial posts, ”Lustick said.

Uriel Abulof, visiting associate professor at Cornell University, told Al Jazeera that the coalition was not only the pitfalls and challenges posed by the opposition, but also successful in setting out its own political agenda.

The coalition has launched bills aimed at promoting plans to tackle corruption and nepotism, alleviate draconian restrictions on the agricultural sector and reform trade bureaucracy.

“It not only survived, but also began to change the agenda and set some ambitious goals, outlining many much-needed reforms,” ​​Abulof said.

“Yet some critical mistakes – such as raising the defense’s budget – could jeopardize its prospects and attractiveness.”

The coalition will undergo a crucial litmus test in November when the new budget must pass the Knesset – for which it requires a simple majority.

Abulof said Israel’s political system, while shaken after four elections in two years, had long experienced aggressive tactics – including from Netanyahu himself as part of the opposition in the 1990s, when his actions were ‘much more aggressive and worse’. was – and a to the Netanyahu era offers opportunities to move to a less bald, divided way of doing politics.

‘Stamism reaches its peak under Netanyahu. In any case, the tribe may now begin to decline, but much depends on the coalition’s ability to survive and provide a new, exciting vision for Israel, embracing both the different tribes and creating a common path forward. ‘ says Abulof.

But Netanyahu is likely to continue to return as prime minister, if possible, especially with the threat of imprisonment hanging over him.

“He will do everything in his power to resume power,” Abulof said.

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