Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has fought tooth and nail to hold onto power during a grueling two-year-long electoral standoff with open opponents and sometime-allies denying him the votes to form a stable majority government. But with the prospect of a fifth election in two years, and with it clear that animus for Netanyahu is the sticking point, it appears the logjam is about to be broken.
The decision of Naftali Bennett, the leader of the Yamina Party to the right of Netanyahu’s Likud, to join forces with Yair Lapid, the head of the centrist opposition Yesh Atid Party, has created the likelihood that a “government of change” will be sworn in within the next week. That means that unless he can somehow sabotage that deal at the last minute, after 12 consecutive years as prime minister, Netanyahu will be heading to the opposition benches.
The proposed coalition involves parties of both the right and the left and will rely on the votes of an Arab political party that will remain outside of the government to be sworn in. As such, it’s far from clear whether the Bennett-Lapid alliance can survive for long.
But given the only viable alternative to this scenario is a fifth election and implacable opposition to Netanyahu from a majority of the members of the Knesset, or parliament, it appears Bennett will soon become prime minister as part of a bargain in which he will serve for two years followed by two years of Lapid as the country’s leader.
For many Israelis, this is hard to swallow. Leaving aside the plurality of Israelis that continue to support Netanyahu and his remaining religious party allies, the rest of the electorate is also not entirely pleased with the compromises for both left and right that are obligatory to achieving this outcome. There’s little doubt, however, that President Biden will be among those cheering for the new coalition.
While Biden likes to boast of his long friendship with Netanyahu, there is little love lost between him and the president as well as the rest of the Obama administration
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