As fighting continued to intensify, the possibility of Opposition leader Yair Lapid, 57, tasked with putting a coalition government together by President Reuven Rivlin, succeeding in his efforts waned.
Who could think barely two weeks ago when Israel struggled with its worst communal tensions internally, and not just the barrage of rockets fired from Gaza, that a historic combination of divergent ideologies – drawn from the Left, the Right and the Centre along with an Arab party – could come together to form a national unity government that would oust Benjamin Netanyahu.
When fierce fighting raged, everybody thought it had lent Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister and shrewd politician Netanyahu’s efforts to hold on to power a new lease of life with disparate political formations taking a break from negotiations.
As fighting continued to intensify, the possibility of Opposition leader Yair Lapid, 57, tasked with putting a coalition government together by President Reuven Rivlin, succeeding in his efforts waned. However, in a strange way, the person standing to benefit the most from these talks going disarray emerged as the single most cementing force. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that 71-year-old Netanyahu, seen by many as Israel’s “divider in chief”, also in a strange way proved to be a unifier, bringing in together unthinkable bedfellows and creating a government of national unity never seen in Israel’s history.
“Whatever happens tonight and in the days left until the confidence vote if it ever takes place, this is a historic photo. A leader of an Arab-Israeli party and the leaders of a Jewish-nationalist party signing an agreement to join a government together,” Anshel Pfeffer, a journalist for daily Ha’aretz, tweeted hours before Lapid informed President Rivlin that he had succeeded in putting a coalition together. He posted a picture of Ra’am party chief, Mansour Abbas, signing the coalition agreement with right-wing Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett and Centrist Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid along with the tweet.
The picture became the talk of the nation on Thursday with all media outlets talking about the “historic moment” irrespective of what the coming days have in store. The razor-thin majority of 61 lawmakers in the 120 member Knesset (Parliament) that Lapid has managed to put together still faces severe challenges amid hopes that it will still hold together because of the “unity of purpose” created by the agenda of ousting Netanyahu after an uninterrupted stint at the helm of affairs for 12 years since 2009.
Having served another term as Prime Minister between 2006 and 2009, Netanyahu is the longest serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history, having surpassed the record set by founding father David Ben-Gurion. Interestingly, almost one-third of the people standing in unity to oust Netanyahu would be his “natural allies” ideologically and having also worked as his close associates in the past.
An overwhelming majority of the prominent figures in the new coalition have been his “staunch supporters-turned-foes” because of personal issues more than anything else. Israel went through an unprecedented four general elections within two years since April 2019, yielding inconclusive results, but the right-wing parties put together always had a firm majority in Parliament.
Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party could have easily mustered the support of the majority of the lawmakers if it had decided to put aside Netanyahu but chose to stand by him. However, with power almost slipping out of their hands, a quiet discontent within the party is perceptible and gaining strength. Many analysts believe that Netanyahu’s long-term “invincibility” led to an arrogance because of which he went on pushing his friends away from him each time there were differences of opinion, simultaneously also labelling them as Leftists as if it was a stigma.
They also accuse the Prime Minister of sharpening internal cleavages within the Israeli society by putting one section of the population against the other to suit his political interests. It is still not all over for Netanyahu, but there is no denying the fact that the recent political developments have truly been historic for the Jewish state.