Israel’s democratic fever dream has almost broken. After four elections in two years, a coalition government finally seems poised to end the 12 year reign of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The proposed coalition could give Israel a semblance of stability it has been sorely lacking since the April 2019 election that set off the democratic flurry.
The coalition is poised to be the single most bizarre and ideologically diverse government that Israel has ever had. Forged by centrist Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party, it features the right wing nationalist Yamina party and their leader Naftali Bennett, who is likely to become the next Prime Minister, and the Islamist United Arab List party, among others.
This spread of odd bedfellows is one of Netanyahu’s own making as he has increasingly vilified Israeli-Arab’s in an effort to drive out his base and swung further to the right, alienating him from former allies, such Lapid and Bennett, both of whom served in prior Netanyahu governments. The unified front against Netanyahu has resulted in comedic jabs, with veteran political journalist Yair Rosenburg tweeting “They say Netanyahu is a divisive leader, but if this happens, he will have brought together an Arab Islamist party, a settler leader, and a bunch of Israeli centrists and leftists … all to kick him out of office.”
The United Arab List is also on the verge of making history as the first Arab party to be a part of an Israeli government. A move that would add legitimacy to Israeli-Arab politicians who have struggled to win seats or influence policy, despite the large percentage of Arabs in the country. In participating in the coalition Mansour Abbas, the head of the List, has been able to extract promises for a 50 billion shekel over 10 year plan, the recognition of 14 Arab villages in the Negev, and the chair of the Knesset Interior Committee. Should the coalition spur Israeli-Arab’s to begin voting more often it could be a death knell for the Likud, or at least end the political stalemate that has gripped the country in recent years, as Arabs are a sizable minority in the state.
The ousting of Netanyahu could spell the death of his political career. Bibi is 71 years old and facing a barrage of legal challenges related to charges of fraud and bribery, which he had been using the powers of his office to dodge for some time.
But while the coalition looks likely, there is still time for Netanyahu to peel away enough votes to force another election. The Knesset will vote on the new government in the coming weeks, needing a 61 vote majority of the 120 seat body to officially end Bibi’s Premiership. In the intervening weeks Bibi and the Likud will have time to pressure individual members of the coalition parties out of the vote, with their attention focused on Naftali Bennett and his party members, who until recently were staunch supporters of the Likud. Netanyahu has already accused the right wing members of the coalition as having abandoned their voters, likely in reference to the deal with Abbas, with further outbursts on the horizon as he fights for his future.