The new changes of Israeli party politics and the policy adjustment of Bennett administration

Israeli politics experienced a political “earthquake” in June 2021, when longtime Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu stepped down in favor of a young Right-wing Israeli politician, Naftali Bennett. The ruling coalition of eight parties, including The “Own the Future” party and the United Right Alliance, has taken power in Israel, breaking the decade-long dominance of the Likud party. The political spectrum in the ruling coalition includes left, right and center parties, which highlights the new characteristics of Party politics in Israel and exerts new influence on the internal and external policies of the new Israeli government.
New features of Israeli party politics

Since June 2021, Israeli party politics has taken on a new character as a ruling coalition formed by yair Lapid, leader of center-left Own the Future party, and headed by Bennett, leader of the right-wing United Right Alliance, came to power.
First, the era of right-wing political dominance is over and the era of multi-party competition has begun. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, the development of party politics has gone through many stages, which can be roughly divided into four periods: “one-party monopoly”, “two-party competition”, “right-wing monopoly” and “multi-party competition”. Among them, from 1948 to 1977, Israel’s left-wing Labor Party dominated the political arena. Labor party politicians have long held major government posts such as prime Minister, foreign minister and defence minister. 1977-2006 was the period of “left-right competition” in Israeli party politics. The Labor Party and the right-wing Likud party competed with each other and took turns in power, and they became the two major political forces in Israeli politics. From 2006 to 2021, The Likud dominated the political arena. Netanyahu led the Likud and formed governing coalitions with right-wing parties such as “United Torah Judaism”, “United Right Alliance”, “Israel Is Our Home” party and Shas party, dominating the Israeli political arena. In June 2021, Israeli party politics will usher in a new era of “multi-party rivalries”. Bennett’s ruling coalition consists of eight parties including the United Right Alliance, Yisrael Beitou, the centrist New Hope, Own the Future, blue and White, the left-wing Labor Party, Meretz party, and the Arab United List party. The Labor Party entered the cabinet for the first time in nearly a decade, while The New Hope, Meretz and United List parties entered the governing coalition for the first time in history, demonstrating the growing influence of the center and left parties in Israeli politics.
Second, a new generation of politicians has emerged. Netanyahu first served as Prime Minister of Israel from 1996 to 1999 and served as prime Minister for 12 consecutive years from March 2009 to June 2021. He is the longest serving prime minister since the establishment of the modern Israeli state in 1948 and has long dominated the Likud Party. From 2019 to 2021, Israel experienced four general elections in two years, and a new generation of Israeli politicians rose rapidly. On the one hand, younger likud factions are challenging Mr Netanyahu. In 2020, Gideon Saar left likud to form a new right-wing party, New Hope. In 2021, after Netanyahu’s departure from office, his authority within Likud was questioned. Yuri Edelstein, a former Knesset speaker and health minister, announced his candidacy for the leadership of Likud in November 2021. In addition to Edelstein, other Senior Likud figures, such as former finance Minister Heinz Katz and former Head of Israel’s National Security Agency, Avi Decht, have also called for Netanyahu to step down as likud leader. On the other hand, a large number of young politicians entered the cabinet and became political stars. Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaaid, Justice Minister Saar and others have limited previous experience as ministers and above. Bennett is a first-time prime minister, Israel’s transport and road safety Minister Merav Michaeli, Health Minister Nizan Horowitz, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Environment Minister Tamar Sandberg are all first-time Israeli government ministers.
Finally, ideology no longer dominates Israeli political relations. On the one hand, the personal relationship between party leaders directly affects party relations. The success of the eight-party coalition is largely due to the fact that several party leaders, for various reasons, have personal problems with Mr Netanyahu. From March 2019 to June 2021, Israel has had four general elections. Although Mr Netanyahu to form a chance for many times, and invite more right-wing parties and between parties party coalition, but the right-wing parties “Israel is our home” party leader avigdor lieberman, unified right-wing coalition leaders Bennett, blue Bai Dang leader Mr. Kennedy and the “new hope” party leader thrall in resistance. Bennett, Lieberman, Gantz and Sahl all served in Netanyahu’s government, but later refused to join the governing coalition netanyahu wanted to form due to power distribution and political ideology, resulting in netanyahu’s many aborted attempts to form a government. The ruling coalition formed in June 2021 was dubbed the “anti-Netanyahu” cabinet.
On the other hand, cooperation between political parties of different ideologies has increased. Under Mr Netanyahu, the positions of the left, centre and right were sharply divided. Mr Netanyahu’s coalition is almost entirely made up of right-wing and far-right parties, while the left, centre and Arab parties are almost all in opposition. During Netanyahu’s reign, Israel’s foreign and domestic policies showed a strong right-wing political philosophy, which was fiercely attacked by the center parties, the left parties and Arab parties. After the Bennett government took office, it made great efforts to adjust the relations among the left, center, right and Arab parties in the ruling coalition, and the cooperation between parties with different ideological tendencies increased.
The Bennett administration’s policy changes

The new changes of Israeli party politics directly affect the trend of Israel’s domestic and foreign policies. Bennett government adjusted the domestic and foreign policies.
First, in domestic policy, the new Israeli government has paid more attention to minorities and marginalized groups. Arabs are Israel’s largest minority group, making up more than 20 percent of the population. Israel has the largest gay population in the Middle East, and tel Aviv hosts an annual gay pride parade. Under Netanyahu, right-wing religious parties, such as Shas and The United Torah, have long dominated the ministries of education, internal affairs, religious administration and health care. The government has continuously strengthened Israel’s status as a “Jewish state” and weakened the social status of Israeli Arabs and Druze. Discriminatory policies against Israel’s gay community in areas such as military service, education and health care are hard to shake.

After The Bennett government came to power, Israel began to revise its discriminatory policies. The coalition’s “United List” party, which wants to promote equality between Jews and Arabs; Israel’s health minister and Meretz leader, Daniel Horowitz, has championed gay rights. After taking office in June 2021, the Israeli government amended a number of decrees to increase aid to Israeli Arabs and Bedouins and to promote the status of Israel’s minority groups. In October 2021, Israel’s Interior Ministry announced that it would upgrade the administrative status of Maghar, a Druze town in northern Israel, from “town” to “city.” Mahal became “the first Druze city” in Israel. Mahal’s move from town to city gives more power to the local “municipal government” and “city council”, and helps the area apply for more policy support from Israel’s central government. In November 2021, the “combined list” of the party, the Labour and meretz under the push of the communist party, the Israeli government passed the subsidy policy, plan for the fiscal year 2022-2026, invested $9.4 billion of Israel’s Arab towns and villages and communities, to improve the environment of Israeli arabs, raising the level of education in the Arab youth and health level.
The Bedouin of the Negev Desert in southern Israel, who maintain the nomadic habits and territories of their ancestors, insist on building their houses in the desert and thus have no access to running water or electricity. In January 2022, the Knesset amended the Electricity Law to allow homes without building permits to be connected to Israel’s electricity system and water mains. Under the new law, Israel’s Bedouin communities have the right to obtain electricity and running water by applying for pipelines from Israel’s Electric and water companies. Meanwhile, in August 2021, the Knesset of Israel passed a resolution amending the 1981 Blood Transfusion Regulations and abolishing the “prohibition of collecting homosexual blood” provisions in the original regulations. In January 2022, the Knesset amended the surrogacy Law to allow Israeli homosexuals to apply for “artificial insemination” and “surrogacy” to meet the demands of Israeli homosexuals to raise children.
Second, in terms of foreign policy, the Bennett administration has made efforts to ease relations with Palestine and strengthen ties with the Biden administration, striving to build the image of a “responsible Middle East country”.
On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the Bennett administration avoided squeezing space for Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank and worked to improve relations with the Palestinian Authority. In October 2021, Israeli Defense Minister Gantz approved plans to build more than 3,000 Jewish homes and more than 1,300 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, the first time In more than a decade that Israel has authorized mass new housing for Palestinians in the West Bank. In November 2021, the Israeli Defense Ministry issued identity documents to more than 4,000 Palestinians in the West Bank. It is the first time in nearly a decade that Israeli officials have issued identity documents to Palestinians in the West Bank. The Israeli government has also repeatedly suspended or halted jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank in an effort to improve relations between The Palestinians on the West Bank and Israel.
At the same time, the Bennett administration has taken initiatives to ease relations with Hamas and ease the economic pressure on Gaza. After Hamas’s takeover of Gaza in 2007, Israel and Egypt sealed gaza’s borders, keeping only “homeland checkpoints” and “Rafah checkpoints”, respectively, as land routes between Gaza and the outside world. Under the Blockade of Israel and Egypt, Gaza, a territory of just 360 square kilometers with a population of 2 million, has 60 percent unemployment and severe shortages of electricity and water supplies. After the fierce conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out in May 2021, the Israeli government completely closed the “territory checkpoint”, and the humanitarian situation in Gaza became increasingly difficult. The Bennett administration believes in both preventing Hamas’s attempts to attack Israel and improving the social situation of Gazans to reduce the risk of conflict between Israel and Gaza. Bennett’s administration, while wary of the situation in Gaza, has tried to maintain stability, with sporadic rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza not escalating into a major conflict with Hamas. In August 2021, the new Israeli government issued entry documents to more than 1,300 Gazan merchants, allowing them to bring goods into Israel for sale. In October 2021, Israel increased the number of short-term visas for Palestinian workers in Gaza by more than 3,000, allowing them to seek employment opportunities in Israel and easing economic pressure on the territory.
Relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have gradually thawed under the Bennett administration. In August 2021, Israeli Defense Minister Gantz visited Ramallah, the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank, and held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In December 2021, Abbas paid a return visit to Israel for talks with Israeli ministers, the first visit by a Palestinian leader to Israel since the 2010 meeting between Palestinian and Israeli leaders. Israel promised more loans and financial support to the Palestinian Authority, which resumed cooperation with Israel in the areas of intelligence, politics and security.

People gather near the car of three Palestinians killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Nablus February 8, 2022.

During The Netanyahu administration, Israel opposed the NUCLEAR negotiations between the United States and Iran and demanded that the United States withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in 2015, which chilled Israel’s relations with the Democratic administration in the United States. Biden didn’t hold a phone conversation with Netanyahu until a month after he took office in 2021. The Bennett administration has worked hard to mend fences with the Democratic administration and to influence the Biden administration on the Iranian nuclear issue. Bennett spoke to Biden by phone just days after taking office. Bennett visited the United States in August 2021 and held talks with Biden at the White House. Bennett sent special envoys to the United States many times to explain Israel’s position on the Iranian nuclear issue, asking the United States “not to trust Iran”, “not to restart the Iran nuclear deal”, increasing sanctions on Iran, and even asking the United States to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities.
At the same time, the Bennett administration actively promoted cooperation with Arab countries to improve Israel’s international image. The Bennett administration worked to deepen ties with newly established Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. In July 2021, Israeli Foreign Minister Lapid made the UNITED Arab Emirates his first destination, attending the opening ceremony of the Israeli Embassy in ABU Dhabi and consulate in Dubai. In December 2021, Bennett became the first Israeli leader to visit the UAE. In July 2021, Israel and Morocco signed a number of documents on political, aviation and cultural exchanges, promoting the further development of bilateral relations between Israel and Morocco. In November 2021, Israel and Morocco signed a military cooperation agreement, strengthening military and intelligence ties between the two countries.
In recent years, Due to the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Israel’s international image is not good. Social movements such as the BOYCOTT, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, which denounces Israel as an “invader”, are gaining influence in Europe and North America. The Bennett administration attached great importance to Israel’s international image, exercised restraint on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and made efforts to build Israel into a “responsible Middle East country.” In October 2021, the Jerusalem municipality approved plans to build new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. After protests from the EU, the Israeli government halted the plan in December 2021, winning praise from European countries. Bennett and Lapid have repeatedly stressed that they will work closely with the international community to reduce the poverty rate in Gaza and improve the living conditions of palestinians in gaza. Israel is also an active participant in global climate change negotiations, promising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030, and plans to promote electric vehicles, afforestation and new energy projects to help achieve the reduction target.

Challenges to Israel’s ruling coalition

From October to November 2021, the Knesset voted to pass the budget for fiscal year 2021 and 2022. In successive Israeli cabinets, budgets have often led to the collapse of governing coalitions. The passage of the 2021 and 2022 budgets means Mr Bennett’s government has cleared key political hurdles, but many difficult questions remain ahead.
First, Mr Bennett’s coalition is on a fragile footing. Israel adopts the parliamentary prime minister system, which has 120 seats in the Parliament. Parties or coalitions with 61 or more seats can form a government. Under Israel’s election law, a party that receives more than 3.25 percent of the vote in an election is eligible to enter the knesset, and the low threshold for parliamentary entry has led to a crowded knesset. Since the founding of Israel in 1948, every Cabinet has been ruled by a coalition of political parties. Since the end of the cold War, successive Israeli governments have consisted of several parties with wide ideological differences.
Bennett’s ruling coalition has a narrow majority of 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Bennett’s coalition narrowly survived the 2021 budget vote with just 61 votes. Bennett’s governing coalition spans the political spectrum from left, centre and right. The political differences among the members of the ruling coalition on the nature of the Israeli state, the distribution of government power, the Iranian nuclear issue, the National security of Israel and other issues may lead to the withdrawal of a party within the coalition, and then lead to the collapse of the coalition.
Second, ethnic issues in Israel tend to escalate into violent partisan conflicts. To form a governing coalition, Mr Bennett brought the Israeli Arab Unity List party into government. As a result, Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian issue could inflame party relations within Mr Bennett’s government.

Israeli soldiers and tanks are pictured in Sderot, Israel, near the northern border of the Gaza Strip, on August 25, 2021.

Bennett’s United Right coalition is pushing for the expansion of Jewish communities in the Negev Desert in the south, the Golan Heights in the north and the West Bank in the east. In October 2021, the Israeli government launched a tree-planting program in the Negev region to improve the local ecosystem. The Negev’s Bedouin, fearful of turning their pastoralist lands into “green zones”, strongly oppose the Israeli government’s tree-planting programme. Since the end of 2021, the Bedouin in the Negev region and the Israeli military and police have repeatedly clashed. The Israeli right-wing political parties called for a strong crackdown on the Local Bedouin in the Negev, while the “United List” party and other Arab political parties called for the Israeli government to suspend the negev “tree-planting project”. In December 2021, Bennett announced plans to double the number of Jewish settlements in the Golan Heights by funding expansion projects. The decision was immediately met with strong opposition from the Golan Druze and Arabs, who accused the Israeli government of “Judaizing” the golan.
Israel has seen a number of violent clashes between Jews and Arabs since May 2021. In an effort to deter violence, In October 2021, Israel’s Justice Minister And leader of the right-wing New Hope party, Miriam Sall, signed a decree authorizing Israeli police to search suspicious houses and arrest suspects without a “search warrant” from the court. The ruling coalition’s united List, Labour and Forza have opposed the decree, saying it would lead to an abuse of judicial power and could threaten the legal rights of Israeli Arabs.
Third, epidemic prevention and control is the biggest challenge facing the Israeli government. Before taking office, the United Right Alliance, Yisrael Beiteinu and the Labor Party had strongly criticized the Netanyahu government for its inadequate response to the epidemic. After coming to power in July 2021, the new government continued the “universal vaccination” strategy of the Netanyahu government, with a third “booster” vaccination in August 2021 and a fourth “booster” vaccination in December 2021 for the elderly and health care workers, in an attempt to achieve “universal immunization” through vaccination. But as December 2021 will be coronavirus variant “Mick Dijon” across Israel, Israeli government’s disease control measures have been criticized by the public opinion, including poor organization criticized Israel’s government epidemic prevention measures, virus detection, hospital and community closed measures to effectively implement lead to rapid spread of the virus, and accused the government did not publish relevant rescue measures. According to Israeli polls, more than 60 percent of respondents believe the Israeli government’s response to the outbreak is inadequate. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the opportunity to repeatedly criticize the government, calling on voters to return to support Likud and Israel’s right-wing parties.
The Israeli government led by Bennett changed the political pattern of “one-party dominance” of Likud party in Netanyahu’s period, and opened a new era of “multi-party competition” in Israeli politics. The change of Party politics in Israel has brought new changes to Israel’s domestic and foreign policies. However, constrained by the realities of Israeli politics and society, the Bennett government will still face multiple challenges.