drawing by Biderman Haaretz
Netanyahu has not been able to form a government after the four weeks granted by President Reuven Rivlin. In spite of all his last maneuvers to attempt convincing Naphtali Bennett, Gideon Saar or Benny Gantz to join him, even agreeing to leave them first the position of Prime Minister in the framework of an alternative government, he did not succeed in gathering the 61 votes necessary to obtain a majority. The extremist alliance of the religious Zionists led by Bezalel Smotrich —who proclaimed from the top of the Knesset podium that “Arabs are citizens of Israel, for now at least, and that they have representatives at the Knesset, for now at least.“—and of the kahanist and homophobic deputee Itamar Ben Gvir, refused to support a right-wing government if it were to depend on the votes of Raam, the islamist party. And as a result, President Rivlin mandated Yair Lapid, who got the support of 56 deputees, including those of the “Tikva Hadasha“ (the New Hope) of Gideon Saar and of 5 out of the 6 deputees of the Unified List which regroups 3 “Arab parties“ in order to try in turn to form a government.
After having negotiated during 28 days with both Netanyahu and Lapid, Bennett, based on his justified wish to avoid a fifth round of election, called members of right-wing parties to be “bold“ and join a unity government. He said then that “while businesses were collapsing all around“, he preferred “to establish a broad emergency government , indeed a challenging one, but one that would pull the cart out of the mud.“ Lapid already promised him, if he joined him, the position of Prime Minister he would hold first within the framework of an alternative government, with a distribution of cabinet portfolios among the different parties.
Lapid has now 4 weeks to succeed in forming a government of change and we may expect all kinds of dirty tricks from Netanyahu in order to make him fail in doing so. If he does succeed, he will probably put an end to that era, Netanyahu being the first Prime Minister to lead the country for so many years since 1948, exceeding even the longevity of Ben Gurion. But unlike Ben Gurion, who remained in History, and for all Israelis, as the founder of the State who was able to change a dispersed people into a nation, Netanyahu will be, in case he had to leave now, the one who divided the most, fueling hatred between its different components. However, by wooing publicly Mansour Abbas, leader of the Raam party, in order to get his support, he legitimized the Arab vote and he deserves his share of credit for the integration of Israeli Arabs in the country’s political life. According to a recent poll of the Israeli Institute of Democracy, 29% of the Jewish population and 73% of the Arab population support the participation of Arab parties in the next coalition and the nomination of Arab ministers. These results have improved since the previous polls : between September 2019 and April 2021, that support increased from 71% to 83% among left Jewish voters, from 31% to 43% for center voters, and from 5% to 13% for right voters.
In conclusion, even if the possibility of a fifth round is not totally ruled out in case Lapid fails, the fact that Netanyahu failed for the fourth time in a row to form a government announces the end of a reign for the man called a “magician“ because of his ability to bounce back against difficulties.