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Will Benjamin Netanyahu’s government survive?

January 24, 2023 at 7:11 pm

People gather to stage a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to ‘weaken the judiciary’ and its far-right policies at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, Israel on January 14, 2023 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]

Before it was formed, the new far-right Israeli government coalition has been plagued with disputes and disagreements, despite the fact that all of its members are from the right-wing parties and all of them, at least, share the same principles, although each Party has its own procedures to achieve the common goals.

In order to appease, for example, the leaders of the extremist far-right Jewish parties, such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, head of the Likud Benjamin Netanyahu, was obliged to invent new ministries and create new jobs with others.

Far-right, ultra-nationalist Religious Zionism Party leader, Bezalel Smotrich, became Finance Minister and had a position of Minister in the Defence Ministry to follow up his own plans to create and promote settlements, leading to the full annexation of the Occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu was obliged to modify the mission of the Ministry of Internal Security or Ministry of Public Security in order to give certain authority to extremist Otzma Yehudit leader, Itamar Ben Gvir, to follow up his extremist and provocative plans in the Occupied Territories and his ministry’ was named the Ministry of National Security.

Israel's newly appointed National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Israel’s newly appointed National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir stormed the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

It seems that Netanyahu brought them to the ring by signing the coalition agreement, but he is trying to go ahead with his government based on his own plan. The dismantling of the illegal Jewish settler outpost of Or Chaim, which was built on a strategic hilltop in the northern West Bank, was a demonstration of what has been going on.

This incident disclosed a likely chronic conflict between Netanyahu, on the one hand, and Ben Gvir and Smotrich, on the other.  Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, gave his orders to dismantle the illegal settlement, despite the strong opposition of both far-right extremist ministers.

“Minister Smotrich issued an order this morning, in accordance with his authority, to the head of the Civil Administration to stop the evacuation and to take no action until he could hold a discussion on the issue at the start of the week,” a statement issued by Smotrich’s office said.

“Defence Minister Gallant ordered the evacuation to go ahead, despite the order and without consulting with Minister Smotrich, and completely against the coalition agreements that form the basis for the existence of the government.”

Ben Gvir commented on the incident saying: “It’s not right that when Arabs build in Judea and Samaria (West Bank), the Civil Administration does not uphold the law, but when it’s Jews they come within hours to destroy the outpost.”

National Missions Minister, Orit Strock, from Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party tweeted: “Mr Prime Minister, coalition agreements must be respected and this is 100 per cent your responsibility.”

READ: Israeli government to discuss settlement policy in West Bank amid divisions

In addition to the disputes among the coalition parties, Netanyahu is facing a very challenging dilemma – massive anti-government protests have erupted over the planned judicial overhaul aimed to dismantle the High Court of Justice of its strong tools that rein in illegal government procedures.

On Saturday, Israeli police estimated that some 100,000 Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv, protesting Netanyahu’s plan to overhaul the judicial system. It is the second massive demonstration staged last week, for the same reason. Protesters raised Israeli flags and placards that read: “Our Children will not live in a Dictatorship” and “Israel, We Have A Problem.”

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, who joined the protests, told media: “People came here today to protect their democracy.” Lapid and other opposition and former senior Israeli leaders have strongly criticised the judicial changes. Former Defence Minister, Moshe Yaalon, called on the Israelis to involve in “street battles” in order to undermine the judicial overhaul.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, pledged, last week, to continue with the judicial overhaul plans, despite the protests. “They want to turn us into a dictatorship, they want to destroy democracy,” Al Jazeera reported the head of the Israeli Bar Association, Avi Chimi, saying. “They want to destroy judicial authority; there is no democratic country without a judicial authority.”

On Wednesday, the Israeli High Court ruled that the Deputy Prime Minister, Interior and Health Minister, Aryeh Deri, must be removed from his posts, pushing Netanyahu to fire him on Sunday. Firing Deri has caused a major problem for Netanyahu, as this is putting the seven seats in the Knesset of Deri’s Shas Party at stake.

The Israeli government coalition is made up of the Likud, which has only one fourth of the Knesset seats and is depending on the alliances with other small religious and fanatic parties, including Shas, the Jewish Power and Religious Zionism.

Facing all of these challenges, the government of Netanyahu – who is on trial for the corruption accounts – might not survive and Israel might go to the fifth election in less than three years.

WATCH: Thousands of Israelis protest planned judicial reform by Netanyahu’s gov’t

“It will not be easy for the coalition government,” left-wing Israeli journalist, Meron Rapoport, told MEMO. “They [government partners] are in power less than a month, but already have many problems. I think they will survive the next months, but I am not sure thay will pass the budget so maybe we will have elections early next year.”

Speaking to MEMO, right-wing Israeli journalist, Baruch Yedid, said: “Netanyahu to survive following Deri’s ouster because he has enough support from other right-wing parties, but the protests [against the judicial overhaul] still posing a big danger for him.”

Yedid also said: “The pressure of the judicial system is gigantic, added to the massive political pressure from the US. So, the situation is not positive for Netanyahu.”

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