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Israel’s possible new government, explained

Opposition groups have formed a majority coalition as they attempt to remove Prime Minister Netanyahu, but the process for a new government is far from over

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Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem,

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to right-wing opposition party members a day after a new government was sworn in, at the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 14, 2021.

Asssociated Press

Israel’s long-standing political stalemate may finally come to a resolution, reported the BBC Wednesday. Opposition parties, led by centrist Yair Lapid, have formed a coalition attempting to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Only 38 minutes before the Wednesday midnight deadline, Lapid announced the finalized deal for the new government, according to CNN.

  • Netanyahu has held the office of prime minister for 12 years, the longest in Israel’s history, said Al Jazeera.

Following an inconclusive election in March, Netanyahu lost a parliamentary vote of confidence, giving his opponents the opportunity to take control by forming a majority coalition, said BBC.

Who is leading the Israeli government now?

Currently, Netanyahu is still Israel’s prime minister, said The Guardian. He is currently on trial for corruption charges in three cases — bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu’s opponents viewed these charges as reasons he should not remain in office, said the BBC.

Who are the key leaders of the possible new government?

The coalition is led by two key politicians, said Al Jazeera:

  • Lapid is a centrist politician of the Yesh Atid Party. At 57 years old, he’s a former journalist and television news anchor, said BBC.
  • Naftali Bennett has partnered with Lapid as Israel’s possible new prime minister, said Al Jazeera. Bennett is an ultranationalist politician of the Yamina Party and a former defense minister and tech entrepreneur.

Lapid and Bennett have agreed to rotate premiership between themselves, said the AP. Bennett will serve as prime minister for the first two years while Lapid serves as foreign minister, says CNN. In 2023, the pair will switch roles, said The New York Times.

What is the process of forming a new government?

To establish the new government and remove Netanyahu, Lapid faces two obstacles, said The Associated Press:

First, Lapid had to present a finalized plan for the new oppositional government to President Reuven Rivlin by midnight on Wednesday. This plan needed to secure at least 61 of Israel’s 120 parliamentary seats to approve the plan, reported The Associated Press.

  • To form a majority coalition, Lapid made deals with eight political parties from across the political spectrum, said The New York Times.
  • The parties have little in common except for a shared goal of removing Netanyahu, reported CNN.
  • For the first time in the country’s history, an Arab-Israeli party, the United Arab List, that represents Israel’s Arab minority has joined the coalition, according to CNN.
  • The coalition currently involves 62 parliamentary seats, a majority by one seat, according to The Guardian.

Second, the coalition must pass a parliamentary vote of confidence before the new officials can be sworn into office, reports CNN. Parliament must hold this vote within a week or as late as June 14.

  • If the coalition does not pass this vote, the country will face its fifth general election, according to CNN.
  • Israel has had four elections in just over two years, said the AP.

Will the coalition pass the vote of confidence?

With ideological rivalries and a slim majority, the coalition remains incredibly fragile and vulnerable to collapse, reports The Guardian. The coalition faces four challenges to passing a parliamentary vote:

  1. Time: The vote of confidence must happen within a week so parliamentary schedules may cause issues, said The Guardian. The Parliament speaker, who is a member of Netanyahu’s party, must schedule the vote and could delay doing so.
  2. External events: Other events, such as an end to the ceasefire with Hamas, could disrupt parliamentary procedures, said CNN.
  3. Internal incompatibility: Bennett’s right-wing Israeli nationalist party has accused him of “selling out” by partnering with an Arab-Israeli political party, said The Guardian.
  4. Defectors: Netanyahu can still — and will try to — persuade people to defect from the coalition, causing the coalition to lose the majority, said The Guardian.

If the coalition passes a vote of confidence, Netanyahu will be removed from office, reported CNN.

What does the possible new government mean for political relations?

New leadership in Israel would provide a fresh start to U.S.-Israeli relations, said The Hill. Lapid and Bennett are unlikely to be as confrontative to U.S. leadership as Netanyahu.

  • For Israeli-Palestinian relations, the change in leadership is uncertain, reported The Hill. Bennett supports the annexation of portions of the occupied West Bank but also supports increased Palestinian autonomy in other portions.

Update: The Israeli Parliament confirmed the new Bennett-Lapid government on June 14 by a narrow margin. Read more about it through the AP.