The Week (US)
Is Netanyahu’s long rule in Israel finally over?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was desperately attempting to cling to power this week, as an improbable eight-party coalition moved closer to ending his 12 years in office. Assembled by Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, the opposition coalition includes hardright parties previously allied with Netanyahu, left-wing lawmakers, and—in a first for Israeli politics—an Israeli-Arab party. The members of the “change bloc” have little in common except for their desire to oust Netanyahu, who is currently on trial for corruption, and to bring stability to Israel after four inconclusive elections in two years. Netanyahu has tried to shatter the coalition ahead of a June 13 Knesset vote on the new government, accusing its leaders of perpetrating “the fraud of the century” and plotting a “dangerous left-wing government.” Some alliance members have received death threats.
To get right-wingers to join his alliance, Lapid agreed to let Naftali Bennett of the nationalist Yamina party serve as prime minister for two years, after which Lapid will take the helm. The son of American immigrants, Bennett served in a commando unit in the Israeli army before moving to New York City, where he founded a software firm that he later sold for $145 million. If the coalition is approved by the legislature, the 49-year-old Bennett will be the first Israeli prime minister to identify as religious rather than secular.
What the columnists said
Netanyahu’s Trumpism is losing to “Israel’s equivalent of Bidenism,” said Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. Just like
Trump’s, Netanyahu’s strategy for staying in power has been to foster a personality cult and to undermine the rule of law for his own advantage, which explains why Bibi is now “tied up with legal proceedings over bribery, fraud, and breach of trust.” In contrast, Lapid—a 57-year-old former TV host—has “sublimated his ego” to restore the health of Israel’s democracy, even letting Bennett take the top leadership role despite the fact that his party is much smaller. Lapid, like President Biden, is all about “pragmatically doing what works.”
Netanyahu’s downfall won’t resolve the “growing avalanche of major policy disagreements” between Washington and Jerusalem, said Mark Episkopos in NationalInterest.org. Bennett is even more rigid than Netanyahu in his opposition to Palestinian statehood, and he is a fierce critic of the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal that Biden wants to revive. Meanwhile, Biden will continue to face pressure from a new generation of Democratic lawmakers who believe Israel is an apartheid state and who want to drastically revise “the U.S.-Israeli special relationship.” Bridging this chasm could be impossible.
“Everything about this new government feels shaky and flimsy,” said Ari Hoffman in Forward.com. “The rough American equivalent would be Sen. Ted Cruz and President Biden agreeing to switch off the presidency,” with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Tom Cotton getting Cabinet seats. Yet this alliance proves that ideologically diverse people can at least temporarily be united by a common goal. For Americans torn apart by partisan divisions, it “should be a reminder that coalitions across difference might work here as well.”