The recent escalation between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian movement that controls the Gaza Strip, in addition to unprecedented violence in mixed Israeli cities where Arabs and Jews coexist, complicates the formation of the government, and increases the “risks” of new general elections.
The scenario of the new consultation, the fifth in a little over two years, could be a boon for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and it may be his only hope of staying in power 12 years later. But the opposition can still capitalize on the small gap it left to form a bloc strong enough to topple the longest-serving prime minister in Israel’s history.
The 11 days of bombing that ended on Friday led the heterogeneous opposition bloc to show its deep divisions on matters of security and identity. In this context, “most observers expect a fifth election,” says Toby Green, a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv. “But there are still ten days left, and in Israeli politics, it is a long time,” he adds.
Leader of the opposition and the Center Party Yesh Atid (There is a future), Yair Lapid, has until June 3 to try to form a government.
Three weeks ago, Lapid’s path to power seemed well-defined. The departure of Netanyahu, on charges of “corruption”, in several cases as well. But during the conflict with Hamas, Netanyahu was free to reinforce his image as a leader in times of crisis, in a country “traditionally aligned with the ruling leader” when the conflict broke out, recalls Yonatan Freeman, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The head of the Israel Democracy Institute, Johanan Plesner, notes that the daily emergence of Netanyahu as a “warlord” within 11 days of the bombing led to “breaking the opposition bloc.”
Lapid has only one potential partner: the far-right Naftali Bennett party, right. If the two men are ideologically opposed, two things unite them: their willingness to avoid holding a fifth election at all costs, and their desire to topple Netanyahu.
Lapid and Bennett alone do not have enough representatives to form a coalition. They need ten more, from the Arab-Israeli parties. The alliance with Bennett’s party, a favorite of Jewish settlers, is enough to intimidate the most critical Arab parliamentarians in Israel. However, a month ago, this circumstance was considered.
Since then, pictures of burning temples in some mixed cities in the country and the reopening of the front in Gaza with Hamas have prompted “Bennett to reconsider the alliance with the Arab parties,” according to analyst Johanan Plesner.
In this context, Lapid’s chances of success are slim in his attempt to form a government before June 3, but “this is not impossible either,” he said.
On the other hand, Netanyahu can count on two allies: Benny Gantz, a former election opponent and defense minister, and Gideon Saar, who has just left Likud, the historic party of the Israeli right. At a time when the security situation calmed down, Lapid announced yesterday the resumption of negotiations to form a coalition.