As the clock ticked towards midnight, it signalled the end of an era and the start of a new one in Israel with the conclusion of the 12year tenure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, mired as he was in court battles and political instability that necessitated at least three elections in the span of a year. It’s curtains on the Netanyahu era with Opposition leaders agreeing on Thursday to form what they call a unity government.
Yair Lapid has informed the country’s President that he can form a coalition government. Arguably, a deepening of the political crisis has thus been staved off not the least because failure to agree would have meant yet another election. Under the coalition agreement, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid will rotate as Prime Minister.
Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid party, was tasked with forming a government by President Reuven Rivlin after Netanyahu again failed to put together his coalition following Israel’s fourth election in less than two years.
“This government will work for all the citizens of Israel, those that voted for it and those that didn’t. It will do everything to unite Israeli society,” Lapid said shortly before a midnight deadline. Lapid, a former TV presenter and a secular centrist, won the crucial support of hardline religious-nationalist Naftali Bennett, a technology multi-millionaire who has held a number of government portfolios including the defence ministry.
Going by the terms of the coalition agreement, Bennett will take up the post of Prime Minister for the first two years and Lapid the final two. The agreement still needs to be voted in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, where it requires majority support before the government can be sworn in. The vote is expected to be held within seven to 12 days.
Israel’s latest political drama adds to the woes of Netanyahu, who is on trial for criminal charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust while in office ~ accusations that he has denied. Having lost the office of Prime Minister, he will not be able to buttress changes to basic laws that could give him immunity. He will also lose control over certain justice ministry nominations.
It would be usefull to recall that Netanyahu’s Likud won the maximum number of seats in the March 23 election but he was unable to form a majority with his natural allies. Crucially, Bennett’s far-right party ~ allied with Netanyahu ~ refused to join forces with the United Arab List, a party that emerged as a kingmaker of sorts.
In the net, Thursday’s coalition includes the Right, the Left and the centrists, verily a cross-section of the political spectrum, a rather contrived example of political unity. The coalition is a patchwork of ideologically opposed parties and will include a party that represents Palestinian citizens of Israel for the first time in Israeli history. That said, governance in a potentially explosive swathe of the Middle East is a different kettle of fish altogether.