While Benjamin Netanyahu has managed to stay in power to this point, accusations of corruption and his repeated failure to form a stable and reliable coalition government seemed to indicate the end of his reign.
However, the recently erupted conflict with the Palestinians may have paved another path for Netanyahu and his quest to remain Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, analysts say.
Israeli leader and his Likud party did not form a governing coalition and President Reuven Rivlin has taken over the task the leader of the opposition, Yair Lapid to form a government of its own.
Even before the election, Netanyahu lost the support of the Israeli people for several reasons, according to Micheline Ishay, director of the University of Denver’s human rights program.
“Netanyahu’s popularity has waned and people are fed up with inconclusive elections. Likud fell from 36 seats in March 2020 to 30 in March 2021, “Ishay told Al Jazeera.” Netanyahu’s relentless efforts to avoid prosecution, the division of right-wing parties and a persistent pandemic have contributed to disillusionment. widespread “.
But the conflict with the Palestinians has reduced public resentment against Netanyahu, he added.
“Its popularity will no doubt increase among some citizens as a result of this escalation with Gaza. Under fire and in war situations, people tend to concentrate behind the existing government, fearing both rockets and threats. In this sense, the current crisis is strengthening Netanyahu ‘s political designs, “Ishay said.
Still, Ishay said he does not believe Netanyahu supported the conflict outside of political calculation, despite the apparent link to violence against Palestinians.
“Netanyahu even allowed to nurture domestic provocations the Kahanists in Jerusalem, the planned confiscation of Arab property in Sheikh Jarrah, the fencing of the Damascus Gate during Ramadan, and the police action in Al-Aqsa.
“However, it is not clear that he would have anticipated, and even less desired, Hamas’s response. Regardless of the intention, the war benefits both Hamas and Likud, at least in the short term,” Ishay added.
However, it is not just public perception that the conflict may have shifted in favor of Netanyahu in recent days.
On the one hand, a broad coalition against Netanyahu, as Yesh Atid expected, became more uncertain than ever. Naftali Bennett he claimed that his Yamina party would leave talks with Lapid and that it would seek a broader unity government with Netanyahu and Likud. Bennett opined that it was in the interest of the country in times of crisis.
The sudden reconciliation between Netanyahu and Bennett may come as a surprise, but it may make sense politically.
After all, Netanyahu and Bennett share an ideology and both had advocated the unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank, Ishay said, while the implications are beneficial to the prime minister.
“By prioritizing his perceptions of national threats over his political differences with Netanyahu, Bennett could revive the Likud coalition and greatly weaken any anti-Netanyahu bloc,” Ishay said.
However, Bennett was also aware of how the current crises affected the negotiations that were advancing to the point that ministerial posts had already been assigned to the “block change“.
To get the required majority, the coalition needed to include the votes of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Knesset. In view of the unrest between Israeli Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel, this scenario has become inconceivable, both Arab parties are essentially in a position where they cannot support an Israeli government that includes right-wing forces.
The main example is Mansour Abbas, leader of the United Arab List (UAL), which had agreed to support the Lapid and Bennett government. Given the armed conflict in Gaza, however, UAL withdrew from coalition talks.
Bennett’s call for the deployment of the Israeli army in Palestinian-inhabited places in Israel made it impossible for the United Arab list, also known as Raam, to support this policy, Ishay noted.
“Apparently, Bennett suggested that the actions of the Israeli Defense Force against Gaza and the police against Palestinian riots could not be directed by a government that included the joint Arab list. This suggests that Arab Israelis can never be part of ‘a government except during peace,’ ”he said.
Bennett’s move could become a crucial issue for Netanyahu to move forward, Ian Lustick, chair of the University of Pennsylvania’s political science department, told Al Jazeera.
“While a Raud-backed Likud-Bennett government can be conceived, I find it extremely unlikely. However, the strategic importance of Arab political parties in coalition negotiations is here to stay, ”he said.
“While Netanyahu may want direct elections for the prime minister, depending on how those elections are held, this could also give rise to Raam’s joint list and bargaining power over the question of whether to run for prime minister or s. ‘would unite behind a “block candidate” change.
Meanwhile, Benett’s decision to re-enter talks with Netanyahu could help Likud move forward and will certainly come at a price for Bennett, Lustick said.
“It opens up possibilities for Likud to expand by absorbing elements of Bennett’s Yamina who were willing to abandon him if he stayed with Lapid. Even if Bennett achieves a prestigious position in a future Netanyahu government, his political reputation as independence and integrity will have been a serious blow ”.
Meanwhile, Lapid is not inclined to succumb to the rather desperate circumstances.
“Bennett is wrong,” said Lapid, who promised to turn every stone to form a government without Netanyahu, adding that it is not worth working with someone responsible for the current situation. But his determination is unlikely to make a difference.
‘Fragile unit destroyed’
For Netanyahu, the Gaza conflict has provided him with another opportunity, Lustick said
“Netanyahu was on the verge of losing the presidency to an unlikely coalition. However, the crisis, caused in part by calculated and highly provocative Israeli movements in Jerusalem, destroyed the fragile unity of this coalition. “
Although Netanyahu does not yet have a majority of his own with Bennett – and without at least one Arab party – Bennett’s defections de facto lead to a situation in which a government can no longer be formed against the incumbent prime minister. Lustick argued that it makes the fifth election in the fall even more likely.
“While Bennett’s defection back to Netanyahu may not produce a new Likud-led government, it may likely lead to new elections.”
In fact, both Ishay and Lustick coincide on the scene of the fifth election in two and a half years.
“Right now, a fifth election is still inevitable. The Likud may form a short-lived coalition, but its political power will eventually diminish after this round of violence, ”Ishay said.
“On the other hand, an anti-Netanyahu bloc does not share enough common problems beyond the removal of the current leadership to maintain a new coalition. One can only hope that fatigue from the pandemic, repeated elections and now war “Promote peace negotiations. A government that is willing to take the Palestinian issue seriously will have more power to stay.”
Lustick shared this assessment.
“If Lapid fails, the Knesset itself will have the opportunity to form a government. This is almost certain to fail. “
However, he also acknowledged that the situation has become even more unpredictable.
“The question is what kind of elections will be held then: elections to the Knesset, elections to the Prime Minister or both? The uncertainties and complex calculations associated with a situation as dynamic as we have entered, and the relatively new phenomenon of participation Arab in the coalition negotiations, offer interesting possibilities and difficult to predict for the consequences of these elections, ”said Lustik.
However, the implications of the conflict go even further, Lustick said. With or without votes, Palestinians from the river to the sea are part of the Israeli political system.
“Whether its impact on this system occurs through voting, coalition negotiations, political mobilization, protests or violence, they will have a growing impact,” he said.
It’s a dynamic that Netanyahu will have to keep in mind if he wants to achieve his goals, whether he likes it or not.
Meanwhile, regardless of whether a new coalition can be facilitated now or during a fifth election, Netanyahu’s prospects of remaining prime minister have certainly increased last week, analysts said.