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After one year in power, Israel gov’t may be forced out

May 20, 2022 at 1:30 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (C) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) attend Israeli government’s weekly cabinet meeting in Golan Heights on December 26, 2021. [Israeli Government Press Of. (GPO) – Anadolu Agency]

Israeli Knesset’s summer sessions began a few days ago and so did internal debate over the future of the government and its fate, amid the opposition’s threats to topple it. This has raised more internal disputes within the government and created additional obstacles towards its stability, which may pave the way for an early announcement of a new election cycle.

Israeli parties say that the biggest challenge facing the coalition is not only its 59-60 minority in government, but that the opening of the summer session in the Knesset has shown it to be more fragile than when it was sworn in less than a year ago. At the same time, there are increasing clashes between members of the government coalition.

While Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is going through a state of instability, alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid is working frantically to extinguish the burning fires and end the crisis with Palestinians concerning to Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is happening alongside the release of several aggressive statements from within the coalition, which all hint at early elections. However, it is a question of who will topple the government, who will lead it in the election campaign, and whether the two, Bennett and Lapid, will enter into a state of conflicting interests.

Shortly after the Israeli coalition defeated the opposition at the beginning of the Knesset’s summer session, some started saying that Bennett’s government had reached its end and that he is now preparing for new elections in light of the sequence of events at Al-Aqsa Mosque which has caused a storm within the government coalition. Government leaders talked about the need for parliamentary cooperation with the Joint List led by Arab MPs Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, and not ruling out the possibility of its vote giving the government a safety net in the Knesset. This, however, would increase the pressure coming from the right-wing inside the government, and may push more right-wing members to join those who recently left the coalition government.

In addition, there is a secret battle taking place between Lapid and Bennett over the fate of the prime minister’s position. If things remain as they are, Lapid will assume the position in November 2023, but in the event the coalition government folds, and preparations for new elections begin, Lapid will take over this task during the three months of the elections and the formation of the new government, but this would cause a state of chaos, discord and internal problems.

READ: Bennett has to tread carefully or the ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ could be unleashed again

Israelis conclude that if the government stabilises during the coming weeks and succeeds in continuing despite all that is going on, then Lapid and Bennett can manage to overcome their conflicting interests. However, if the political arena continues to witness successive changes, then the secret battle between the two over who will lead the government may bring it closer to its end, and their partnership may be dissolved.

It is no longer a secret that calls for early elections prevail in Israeli political circles, although barely a year has passed since the current government was sworn in. The coalition has become fragile after the resignation of its president, Idit Silman, and her transition to the opposition. It is suffering from fragility in light of the series of challenges. As the days go by, tensions in the government increase, increasing speculation that polls are imminent, as well as Israeli assessments that the government is about to collapse.

At the same time, the government is facing a number of economic and security challenges, especially in light of the recent Palestinian guerrilla operations.

The opposition has exploited the situation on the ground with Palestinians, describing the government as a failure as a result of its handling of the situation, and accusing it of submitting to blackmail and surrendering to the demands of the United Arab List headed by Mansour Abbas, and trying to please him so that he can return to the coalition government.

There is also a fear of a new internal crisis, due to members’ desire to show achievements in front of their constituents, even at the expense of their coalition partners.

The government may face a problem when trying to get laws approved by the Knesset, as it no longer holds a majority. As a result, it will struggle to pass the budget and others bills to help it govern. Bennett announced that an agreement had been made between coalition members that they would work together to maintain the government, and not to slip into elections and chaos at this sensitive time.

Bennett’s fragile government is under a great deal of tension as a result of the political situation, Israeli partisanship, in addition to the security tension with the Palestinians. It’s unclear if his coalition be able to withstand all these storms.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.