Five governments in three and a half years – Why Israel is so ungovernable

Israel has been heading for parliamentary elections since this Monday. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Jair Lapid agreed to dissolve parliament. A corresponding law should be introduced on Monday next week, said Bennett’s office. Lapid will then lead the government for the transition phase.

Bennett’s coalition was on shaky ground from the start. Their majority was extremely narrow, and the ideological differences between the eight allies could not have been greater. Represented were secular and religious factions, hawks and doves, market economists and social democrats and – for the first time – an Islamist party.

The ideological differences were initially swept under the carpet so as not to jeopardize the existence of the coalition. Because one thing held the very different partners together: the intention to no longer allow multiple Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as head of government. Also because he is now accused of corruption.

After the fall of this heterogeneous government, it has been shown once again: Israel is ungovernable. The youngest cabinet survived exactly a year and a week. Instability is becoming a tradition: the fifth new election in three and a half years will take place in the fall. But even then there will not be clear majorities, if the latest opinion polls are to be believed.

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Netanyahu’s Likud party is currently doing the best in opinion polls – but not well enough to build a majority coalition with other parties. After the elections, the coalition negotiations will therefore drag on for several weeks, possibly even months. During this time, Lapid, who had just been ousted as foreign minister, was acting as interim prime minister with an interim government. They will hardly be able to pass new laws.

And Netanyahu, who has been leader of the opposition for a year, now sees the time for his return to the prime minister’s office.

Netanyahu’s dubious power game

In order to overthrow the government, he, who had always presented himself as representing the interests of the settlers, had ordered his party to vote against their ideological beliefs. Specifically, it was about a law that gave the almost 500,000 settlers in the occupied West Bank the same rights as the Israeli citizens in the Israeli heartland.

Parliamentarians had renewed this law every five years for the past five decades. But not this time: Netanyahu’s party voted against the law, as did two members of the coalition, one left-wing and one Arab member of parliament.

The rejection of the law could create a legally untenable situation in the West Bank. But that didn’t stop Netanyahu from voting against it. In addition, he repeatedly tried to win over coalition members with political promises. He wanted to deprive the government of its majority. So now with success.

Despite its slim majority, the coalition managed to do a lot in the 13 months. For example, it passed a budget for the first time in three years, filled key positions that had previously only been managed on an interim basis, and intensified relations with important Arab states.

Now, at least for the next few months, the country is again threatened with chaotic domestic political conditions.

More: Israel is to deliver liquefied gas to Europe via Egypt

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