Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government after another too close to call Israeli election – the 4th of its kind in only two years. Now, with Netanyahu’s opposition camp seeking to take power, he seems to be taking every opportunity possible to ensure that he remains in power and that Israel goes to a 5th round of elections, but what are the consequences?
This Wednesday, Israeli President, Reuven Rivlin, tasked Yair Lapid with forming a government after PM Netanyahu failed to do so in 28 days. Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party now has the task of somehow pulling together right and left wing anti-Netanyahu parties, in order to complete the task of dethroning Benjamin Netanyahu who has been Prime Minister longer than any other in history.
Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud Party did manage to win the most seats of any party in Knesset, but could not bring together enough parties in order to meet the 61 seat marker required to form a government. The threat now remains of the anti-Netanyahu groups coming together in order to destroy the current PM, however given their vast political differences it does seem unlikely.
Yair Lapid now has the backing of a Palestinian-Israeli Party potentially offering to join a coalition government. The current Premier’s problem, when it came to forming a coalition including an “Arab Party”, was two fold; he would lose the support of the ‘Religious Zionism’ slate if he did; and would likely take a hit politically, as including Arabs in government is considered a taboo amongst many right-wingers.
No ‘Arab Party’, as Israelis called them, has ever been included in a coalition government, despite many times – as part of the ‘Arab Joint List’ – winning the third most seats of any Party in the Knesset. Currently it is believed that only 29 percent of Israeli Jews support Arab’s being Ministers and included in coalition governments; that support drops to only 13 percent amongst right-wingers. For a moment, just imagine that only 29 percent of white Americans or Brits supported Black people being in government, it would most definitely reveal a racist mentality in these countries, and reporting would reflect this. Yet in the case of Israel, it is completely ignored.
The possibility of the Joint List working with Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid may be far-stretched, but if it was to occur it would certainly make history. However, the fact that the Joint List is even considering this, could be trampled on in the face of an uprising over attacks on the Old City of Jerusalem during Ramadan.
Netanyahu is still currently Prime Minister, and in order to hold on, he must do all that’s within his power to ensure that his opposition does not oust him, thus sending Israel to its fifth election since 2019. In order to win next time he has to calculate as to how he can further divide his political enemies and bring on board either more voters or right-wing Parties to his side. What the Israeli Premier cannot do, is lose the ‘Religious Zionism’ slate which is only growing in its support and has now been allowed into the Knesset by Netanyahu. The Religious Zionism Party is a pro-settler extremist group – by most standards – which includes racists and convicted criminals. Under it [the Religious Zionism slate] falls in the Jewish Power Party (Oztma Yehudit), which ideologically hails the ideals of Kahanism and is directly connected to the racist settler group Lahava, which organized the recent “Death to Arabs” protests in Jerusalem.
These settler organisations, being tied to ‘Religious Zionism’, are now preparing to take to the streets of Jerusalem again, this time in an attempt to storm the al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan. It is expected that anywhere up to 30,000 settlers may show up for the storming of the site, which Palestinians vow to stop. This event may well lead to a unified Palestinian uprising, sparking the 3rd Intifada, which has been in the making for weeks now.
If Netanyahu wanted, he could take measures to prevent the settlers from attempting to storm the third holiest site to Muslims during Ramadan, yet instead it looks like he will work to facilitate it.
Netanyahu allowing this settler protest is no mistake, he wishes to keep Religious Zionism on his side and do all he can to prevent his opposition from forming a coalition government. A full on confrontation with the Palestinians, either as part of an Intifada or Israel launching a war on Gaza, is guaranteed to shake up the political scene. So at this point there is no doubt that there are many calculations being made on the Israeli side, but this could all backfire very badly.