Israel is in crisis 50 days after the elections.
It is an index of the inherent political fragility that Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to forge a coalition has plunged the country into political chaos, rendering another election inevitable.
The next tryst with democracy has been scheduled for 17 September, the short point being that for the next four months the country that has played a pivotal role in Middle East geopolitics will have to make do without an effective government in Jerusalem.
The astonishment must be still more intense as Netanyahu had won the election in April for the fifth time in a row. His ad hocism pending fresh elections is no substitute for governance. The collapse of efforts to form a coalition government is testament to the crisis that confronts an individual and the political class, specifically the ruling Likud party.
In parallel to the crisis of governance has been the diplomatic failure. The visit of Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, to Jerusalem to buttress his Middle East peace plan has now been reduced to irrelevance. Both the White House and Israel must be acutely aware that any progress ~ if at all ~ at this stage runs the risk of being revoked by the next Israeli administration.
The uncertainty can only deepen the ferment in the Middle East. After the deadline to form a government lapsed at midnight last Wednesday, Netanyahu has at least had his way with his resolve to “disband” Parliament rather than enable his political rival, Benny Gantz, grab the premiership.
The country’s executive and the legislature are now in suspended animation. On the face of it, America’s Track-II diplomacy, to use a subcontinental expression, has come a cropper though Netanyahu has made a laboured defence of his talks with Kushner ~ “We’re going to continue working together.
We had a great, productive meeting which reaffirms that the alliance between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.” Last week, Netanyahu was indeed anxious to dumb down the chaos on the home front and ensure that public attention is riveted to his foreign policy ~ in particular his personal chemistry with Mr Trump.
He was doubtless addressing the international gallery when he displayed an official US State Department map that Kushner had given him. Suitably cartographed, it incorporates the disputed Golan Heights as part of Israel. Trump had apparently scribbled “Nice” on the map with an arrow pointing to the disputed area.
America’s unilateral exercise in map-pointing can only foment tension amongst the Palestinians. in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In the absence of a government, Benjamin Netanyahu lacks the wherewithal to make the US map of Israel acceptable to the world at large. The internal crisis in Jerusalem poses a forbidding challenge.