Monfort Advisory brief, June 2021

Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 consecutive years of power came to an end on 13 June when a new government was sworn in. The so-called ‘change’ bloc — led by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennet — managed to form an opposition coalition and oust Netanyahu. For the first two years the new government will be headed by the right-wing Naftali Bennet who will be followed by the centrist Yair Lapid. The government itself is a mishmash of parties, spanning many ideologies from Meretz on the left to Yamina on the right. The only thing binding them together was the desire to get rid of Netanyahu and this was seemingly strong enough to get Meretz to sit together with Avigdor Lieberman which was a sight that many thought they would never see. And, for the first time in Israel’s history, an Islamist Arab party is also included in the coalition, while the Ultra-Orthodox parties, who tied their fate to Netanyahu’s, followed him into opposition and away from the source of power.

Architects of Israel’s new government – Prime Minister Naftali Bennet and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid

The swearing of a new government is historic and puts an end to the perceived inevitability of Netanyahu’s rule but whether this is permanent or temporary remains to be seen. Below are several key points about this new political reality in Israel

The new government is a strange assortment but will not be easily toppled 

The ideological differences between the parties and members making up this new government are vast and range from security to social and economic issues. With so many potential landmines, the government has already declared its intention to shy away from explosive and sensitive issues, such as Jewish settlements and the peace process. Instead, it will focus on social and economic issues: repairing the damages done to civility and discourse; address the broadening segregation between sectors of Israel society; and recover the economy after the pandemic. 

It is true that the government will face many potential challenges and disagreements built into it. On the flip side, however, no member of the government has any interest in the election and this will make them work harder to endure and less likely to dissolve the coalition.

The opposition will be brutal and merciless

During his opening speech, the newly elected Prime Minister Naftali Bennet faced a barrage of heckling and yells from members of Likud. The ousted Netanyahu gave a speech that was filled with ridicule and contempt for the new government which he declared was dangerous and he vowed to return. This illustrates the type of opposition that the new government will face: it will be brutal, unrelenting, and eager to return to power. Netanyahu is known to be a fierce opposition leader, and he will stop at nothing to topple this government and return to power. The opposition will work to embarrass and fracture the government by highlighting their differences and manipulating them into having to address explosive issues. The life of this new government will therefore not be easy, not only because of the external opposition it will face, but also its own internal tensions and contradictions.

Nevertheless, something has to be said for the historic character of the government: for the first time in Israel’s history, a ruling coalition truly reflects Israeli society. It spans the entirety of the ideological spectrum, with a representation to the Israeli-Arab minority, and a record number of female ministers.