Looking into the near future, there are no external threats risking the stability of Prime Minister Naftali Bennet’s government. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud is making noise in the Opposition but is unable to truly undermine or challenge the coalition government in a substantial and tangible way. Major legislative or bureaucratic hurdles have also been surpassed with the passing of the budget, and new ones are not on the horizon. The biggest question with respect to the government’s resilience and endurance remains its ability to deal with its internal fractures and present a united and consistent front. Recently, there have been some indications that Bennet is struggling to maintain power over his government as Netanyahu had on his, with some unruly behaviour by his senior ministers. 

Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

For example, a recording of Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, speaking rudely and impatiently to Bennet was aired on the news. Although Horowitz apologised, the tape illustrates a lack of agreement and unity over how to address the drastic surge in COVID-19 cases and illustrates Bennet’s weak hold over his cabinet. Another example was the news that Defence Minister Benny Gantz independently met with Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting was unauthorised by Bennet and went against the latter’s long-held commitment that there will be no negotiations with the Palestinians as long as he is the prime minister.  

These incidents are relatively minor and were addressed and mitigated before they could turn into an actual threat to the government’s cohesiveness or durability but they demonstrate a degree of insubordination which prevents it from presenting a united front and erodes public trust. Keeping the government in line and diffusing internal disagreements before they become toxic is the most important job, not only for Bennett, but also for Foreign Minister Yair Lapid if he wants the government to survive long enough for him to take over as premier.  

On the security front, as the county welcomed in 2022, two rockets were launched from Gaza towards central Israel and landed in the sea. While Hamas gave a weak excuse — saying that poor weather conditions caused an accidental launch — the incident is a warning signal that the ceasefire following Operation Guardian of the Walls is fragile. The belief is that Hamas and Islamic Jihad want to pressure Israel to ease its restrictions and are willing to risk a renewed military escalation. This was reinforced following another incident in the same week when a Palestinian gunman fired towards Israeli civilian workers doing maintenance work on the Gaza-Israel fence and injuring one of them. Hamas claimed that this was an unsanctioned incident, and that it does not intend to escalate the situation. However, two serious security incidents after three months of quiet do not bode well and could suggest that Israeli deterrence is wavering, and Hamas’ boldness is recovering. 

The Iranian front is following suit with inflammatory statements from both sides: Israel about its preparations for a strike and from Iran about its retaliatory capabilities. Israel’s recent attack in Syria which targeted unconventional weapons is seen as a message to Teheran that Israel has every intention of enforcing its red lines in Syria which include forbidding the entrance of unconventional weapons. Iran’s publishing of a map of Israeli targets, and statements by Israeli officials about the country’s strike capabilities, are all part of ongoing psychological warfare being waged by the two countries.

Monfort Advisory brief – January 2022