The Week (US)

Israel: Why so many hate the likely new prime minister


It took an implausibl­e alliance of political enemies to pry Benjamin Netanyahu from power, said Sheldon Kirshner in TimesOfIsr­ In the past two years, we had three inconclusi­ve elections that produced weak coalition government­s headed by Netanyahu, a wily political operator who has served as prime minister since 2009. But after the fourth election, in March, he could not muster a majority in the Knesset, having disgusted so many lawmakers with his attempts to cling to office as he stands trial for corruption. Instead, our government will be formed by the eight-party “change bloc,” which runs the gamut from left to far right and, in a first, includes an Israeli-Arab party. Its leaders are Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid party, which won 17 seats in the 120-member Knesset, and Naftali Bennett of the nationalis­t Yamina, which took seven seats. Since the far right had to be wooed to abandon Netanyahu, Bennett will serve as prime minister for the first part of a four-year term‚ so long as the Knesset approves the coalition. Bennett, 49, is a pro-settlement hard-liner who has vowed to block Palestinia­n statehood, and secular Israelis abhor him. Neverthele­ss, Netanyahu is angrily smearing the coalition as a “dangerous left-wing government.”

He has a point, said Caroline Glick in Israel Hayom. Bennett and Lapid are hiding their intentions from their voters by refusing to publish the coalition agreement until after the swearingin next week. The one coalition member that is talking is the Islamist Ra’am party, which claims it was promised a freeze on evictions and demolition­s in ArabIsrael­i towns and villages as well as a free pass for Bedouins to build in the Negev. That means this so-called government “will jettison Zionism.” Many right-wing Israelis are infuriated by the “sheer number” of promises Bennett has shattered, said Daniel Tauber in Arutz Sheva. Among them are his pledge to never join with centrists or with lawmakers from the Ra’am party, whom he has called terrorist sympathize­rs. And “Bennett’s power grab is essentiall­y undemocrat­ic,” since his party won less than 274,000 votes out of a total of 4.4 million—and he is not even planning to honor the will of those few voters.

Netanyahu is exploiting this rage in the most dangerous way, said Nehemia Shtrasler in Haaretz. To describe the change bloc as leftist is farcical: It has 44 legislator­s from right and center and only 17 from the left, and has “a hard-right, kippah-wearing prime minister.” Yet Netanyahu, desperate to topple this government and mount a comeback that might keep him out of prison, is effectivel­y fomenting violence against his prospectiv­e replacemen­t. He refuses to denounce supporters who call Bennett a “traitor,” a “court Jew,” and “an enemy of Israel.” It’s a gruesome replay of the run-up to the 1995 assassinat­ion of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a far-right radical, when “the country was awash with violent rallies” where Rabin was denounced as an Arab apologist. Back then, Netanyahu was part of the baying mob. Now he is its leader. If this ends in bloodshed, Netanyahu will be to blame.

 ??  ?? Bennett: The right-winger who will replace Netanyahu
Bennett: The right-winger who will replace Netanyahu

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