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DOOR TO THE EAST Israel, divided (and suspended) between new elections and the return of Netanyahu

The country is heading for its fifth vote in just over three years. Tomorrow the dissolution of the Knesset should be approved. Behind the scenes, the former prime minister is moving to return to power, in this or the next legislature. Dovish rabbi: Bennett’s executive has failed to make any progress on “important issues” such as “the occupation and the peace process.”

Milan () – Israel is heading for its fifth parliamentary election in just over three years, after the failure of the coalition that emerged on March 23, 2021. The coalition, although majority, had seen the light with meager numbers: 60 deputies in favor, 59 against and one abstention (decisive) out of the 120 of the Knesset. It was made up of parties of different inspirations, whose only (or almost only) point of cohesion was opposition to Benjamin Netanyahu. On June 22, the deputies approved in a preliminary reading the dissolution of the assembly, the first step towards holding new elections. Yesterday there was a impasse, punctuated by dense and vain negotiations between the majority and the opposition, alternated with palace games to delay the process that ends the legislature. However, at the end of the day it was announced that the decisive vote would take place tomorrow.

Behind the scenes, some parliamentary forces have been working in an attempt to create an alternative coalition. Among the most active – along with Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionist Party – is Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, who is moving with Likud to avoid a vote in the fall. The decision came after “consultations” between Gafni and spiritual leader and rabbi Gershon Edelstein, according to a party statement.

If the project fails – and it probably will – the solution is to “go back to the polls.” However, also in this case there is a deep gap between the majority and the opposition: the outgoing coalition wants to vote on November 8, while the pro-Netanyahu front presses for it to be on October 25 or a date close to the holidays. Jewish. Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz has spoken out in favor of holding new elections, stating that he is “doing everything possible” so that the country has elections according to the established deadlines.

“This new crisis situation is not surprising.” who comments it to is Jeremy Milgrom, Israeli rabbi and member of the NGO Rabbis for Human Rights. “We are facing the prospect of new elections and the prevailing feeling is one of boredom,” he adds. “A part of the country is impatient and concerned about the possibility of Netanyahu returning to power, but the fact is that he still has many followers” ​​and “remains a “strong personality”. Furthermore, he says, Bennett’s limitation is perhaps “his lack of charisma and the fact that he is at the head of too broad a coalition, even though he is not far from the former prime minister ideologically.” Theirs was a missed opportunity, because the presence of an Arab party in government could have been a “positive element”, but the experience foundered too soon and without tangible results.

A fragile coalition

For weeks, there have been tensions and disagreements in the government coalition – which includes elements from the right, the center and the left, as well as the Arab Ra’am party. Therefore, the two leaders, Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid , have decided to harden the calendar and present the motion for dissolution in the Knesset, to start the process that will lead the country to early elections. The transition executive, called to guarantee the normal development of the administration until the elections, should be led by Lapid, leader of the Yesh Atid liberation party and outgoing foreign minister. This is what marks the agreements that led to the birth of the first majority after a decade of Netanyahu’s power. Under the law, dissolving the Jerusalem-based unicameral parliament would require three plenary votes and a committee review in the House. However, there are forces that are delaying the deadlines so that the deputies have enough time to create an alternative government. And at the head of the alternative government -it goes without saying- would be Netanyahu himself, who has already described the outgoing executive as the “worst” in Israel’s history.

From the beginning, the Bennett-Lapid tandem showed difficulties in standing up due to evident internal contradictions that, as the months went by, increased. The ideological clashes “dispute over unleavened bread”, to cite an example – culminated in the cessation of the majority after the desertion of some deputies from Yamina, close to the right. The Arab party also threatened to leave the coalition in protest, after the acts of violence on the esplanade of the Mosques during Ramadan.

However, it is likely that the end of the legislature was the rejection of the law on settlers: a “special” regulation for the territories that runs the risk of triggering a new escalation of tension and which is opposed by part of the coalition, in particular Mansour Abbas (Ra’am). The regulation extends Israeli civil law to settlers and has been renewed every five years since the 1970s. It sanctions a kind of apartheid between Israelis and Palestinians living in the same territory. It is worth noting the position of Netanyahu’s right: despite being in favor of the law and having renewed it several times in the past, this time he voted against it to give the executive a new push.

In recent months, explains Jeremy Milgrom, the Likud “maneuvered to return to power, manipulating some members of Bennett’s party, who maintained an ambivalent attitude. The latter received very strong pressure to leave the executive”, he adds, “and the current prime minister also betrayed his electorate, at least in part, by forming a majority with the Arab party. As for former Prime Minister Netanyahu, “his desire to return to power as soon as possible is evident. After all, he is the one who won the last elections, but the most plausible hypothesis is that the Knesset will end up being dissolved and there will be elections in the fall.” “.

A torn country goes to elections

Recognizing the impossibility of having a majority to vote for the “pro-settler” rule, Bennett proposed the dissolution of the Knesset, for which a simple majority is sufficient. If the process begins, the prime minister will resign from his post and propose Lapid as his successor, who will carry out government affairs. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is moving his pawns. On the one hand, he is looking for possible alliances in the current legislature with the Zionist/religious wing and the Yamina pariahs. This would allow him to return to power and guarantee himself a shield against trials for fraud and corruption in which he appears as a defendant. At the same time, he does not disdain the prospect of going to elections, knowing that although he is divided, he still garners a broad consensus in the electorate – but not enough to govern autonomously.

Divisions within the (former) coalition could spill over into the election campaign. It is not yet clear if the different formations will want to find a new point of contact and relaunch the government experience -which has largely failed, except for the approval of the budget -for 2021- for the first time in three years.

In a nation with a fluid political landscape characterized by alternating alliances, analysts and commentators explain, what emerges is the leading role of Likud. There are traces of a consensus that continues to point to it as the leading party. The latest polls give him up to 35 seats (of the 61 needed to govern), to the chagrin of those who a year ago decreed the end of the Netanyahu era. “This experience seems to be a closed stage” and it is difficult to propose an alliance for the vote, Milgorm stresses.

“You have to understand where the Arab electorate will point and how the Islamic party will move,” he continues. occupation and the peace process [con los palestinos]. At the same time, the prospect of Netanyahu’s return seems more brutal because behind him there are movements like the haredi [judíos ultraortodoxos, ahora en la oposición]who take advantage of a secularist like him to return to government and have total control of the budget and finances”.

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