Recently, the Israeli political arena has once again been in turmoil. On June 20, Israeli Prime Minister Bennett and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Lapid issued a joint statement, announcing that a bill to dissolve the current parliament would be submitted to the parliament. According to the party agreement when the current government takes office in June 2021, Bennett will serve as prime minister, Lapid will serve as deputy prime minister and foreign minister, and the two will exchange positions in June 2023; Rapide as caretaker prime minister. On June 30, the Knesset announced that it had finally passed a bill to dissolve the Knesset. On July 1, Rapide officially served as caretaker prime minister until a new government was formed.
From April 2019 to March 2021, Israel held four parliamentary elections in two years. From the end of October to the beginning of November this year, Israel will usher in a new election. Such frequent changes in just three years may mean that Israeli politics is facing a huge crisis.
Palestine-Israel issue hits fragile alliance
The current Israeli government consists of eight political parties with different ideologies. These include the right-wing parties “Our Home Israel” and the “New Right-wing Coalition”, the left-wing parties “Labour” and “Energy”, and the center-wing parties “Blue and White”, “New Hope” and “Have a Future”, and the “United Arab List” of Israeli Arab political parties. The ruling coalition holds only a narrow majority of 61 of the 120 seats in the Knesset.
The Israeli-Palestinian issue is the direct cause of the downfall of the current Israeli government. According to foreign media reports, from late March 2022, Jewish settlements in Israel and the West Bank have been repeatedly attacked by Palestinian “extremists”. Afterwards, there was a huge disagreement within the Israeli government over how to deal with the frequent attacks. Right-wing parties advocate cracking down on extremists; left-wing parties and Arab parties advocate reducing the number of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and oppose “violence with violence”. In order to maintain the internal stability of the ruling coalition, Bennett has adopted a vague attitude, that is, while ordering the arrest of extremists, he opposes radical retaliatory measures against Palestinian villages and towns in the West Bank.
However, Bennett’s policy failed to gain the support of all MPs in the ruling coalition. Some left-wing party members believe that Bennett’s vague policy has intensified the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and is acquiescing to the development of Israel’s right-wing political forces; while some right-wing party members believe that Bennett’s treatment of Palestinian “extremists” is too weak, The crackdown should be intensified, along with an accelerated push to build Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In the following April and May, the internal crisis of the ruling coalition continued: first, Hillman, a member of the “New Right-wing Coalition”, announced his withdrawal from the ruling coalition, and then the “United Arab List” announced to “freeze” his party’s membership in the parliament and the ruling coalition. Vitality” party lawmaker Zoabi also announced his withdrawal from the ruling coalition. The crisis has resulted in the ruling coalition losing its majority in the Knesset. At the same time, a bill granting special legal status to Israeli settlers in the West Bank is due to expire, after a previous motion to extend it was rejected in the Knesset over party divisions. According to Israel’s “Ha’aretz” report, on June 17, Bennett held discussions with Israel’s Attorney General, Gali Miyala, that holding new parliamentary elections could automatically extend the bills.
However, the underlying reason for the disintegration of the current Israeli government is that the foundation of the ruling coalition is too fragile. The current Israeli government can be seen as “against the Netanyahu government”. The center-wing parties in the coalition, the “Have the Future” party and the “Blue and White” party, reached a cabinet agreement with the “Likud group” led by Netanyahu after the March 2020 general election, but were subsequently defeated by Netanyahu. Niahu’s “betrayal”; right-wing party “Israel Our Home” leader Lieberman, “New Hope” leader Gideon Sal and “New Right Alliance” leader Bennett, all with Netany Yahu’s feuding relationship led him to refuse to join Netanyahu’s ruling coalition. Netanyahu failed to form a ruling coalition, and the eight parties opposed to him reached a ruling agreement. However, “private grievances” have become the “links” for the establishment of the ruling coalition, which means that its foundation is not solid, and the fact that too many party ideologies are covered will also lead to disputes over major political issues and the crisis of collapse of the ruling coalition.
How the future political situation will go
The dissolution of the current Israeli government will have many impacts. First, “political veteran” Netanyahu may return to the political arena. From 2009 to 2021, Netanyahu served as the Prime Minister of Israel for 12 consecutive years. If you include his term as Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999, Netanyahu has served as the Prime Minister of Israel for 15 years. longest-serving prime minister. Now, after more than a year as the “opposition leader”, Netanyahu seems to have a new political opportunity. On the one hand, the previous corruption lawsuit brought against Netanyahu in January 2020 has not yet been concluded, and the recent changes in the candidates of the Israeli Attorney General and the judges of the Israeli Supreme Court have also extended the progress of the case. On the other hand, after multiple attacks in early 2022, the views of right-wing political forces in Israel dominate domestic public opinion, and the public expects a strong political figure to take charge of the political arena. As the leader of Israel’s right-wing political forces, Netanyahu, known as “Mr. Security”, is likely to get more votes.
Second, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may intensify again. On the one hand, the peace dialogue process on the Israeli-Palestinian issue may be interrupted again. Relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have grown cold after the failure of the 2014 Palestinian-Israeli peace talks chaired by then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Between 2019 and 2021, official dialogue between Israel and Palestine will cease entirely. In late 2021, under the auspices of Israel’s Defense Minister and leader of the “Blue and White” party Ganz, Israel and the Palestinian National Authority reopened the dialogue. However, with the disbandment of the current Israeli government, especially when the views of right-wing political forces dominate Israeli public opinion, the recent restart of the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue process may be interrupted again. On the other hand, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to escalate. In preparation for this year’s new general election, Israel’s political parties are likely to make a big fuss on sensitive political issues to attract voters. For right-wing parties, the emphasis on “national security” is the best issue to attract votes. Within Israel, Palestinian “extremist” attacks on Israeli and Jewish settlements are the ones that most stimulate the nerves of people who support right-wing parties. Therefore, in order to win the attention of voters, some social groups affiliated to right-wing political forces are likely to continue to provoke topics about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before the general election.
Finally, U.S. Middle East policy may be influenced by changes in Israeli politics. From July 13 to 16, 2022, US President Biden will visit the Middle East for the first time, and the first stop will be Israel. The Biden administration’s diplomatic hope of returning to the Iran nuclear deal requires Israel’s support, but on the Palestinian-Israeli issue, the Biden administration opposes Israel’s expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and urges Israel to work with the Palestinian National Authority Institutions start a dialogue. However, due to the disbandment of the current Israeli government, Biden can only hold talks with Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister Lapid when he visits Israel. In this case, even if a political intention is reached, it is still doubtful whether the future Israeli government can abide by it.
It is worth noting that there is still a question mark over whether this year’s Israeli general election will produce a new government. On the one hand, the relationship between Israeli political parties and the “personal grievances” between political party leaders are complex, and there are still great variables in whether the winner can successfully form a government after the election; on the other hand, whether the new government can govern for a long time is also another challenge. After all, from 2015 to the present, successive Israeli governments have failed to complete their term of office but were dissolved early.