Israel is experiencing the “worst” political crisis in decades.
Four general elections have been held in two years, and Israel’s political turmoil still shows no sign of an end. Judging from the current seats, it is difficult for both sides to successfully form a cabinet, whether it is the camp that supports the current Prime Minister Netanyahu or the coalition of political parties mainly has the future.
Compared with the previous three general elections, this election is more like a “referendum” against Netanyahu himself. Voters seem to have left the gap between the left and right, just want to distinguish between favoring and opposing Netanyahu.
Today’s political deadlock is about to drag Israel into the general election again.
The ruling coalition may once again “difficult labor”
On March 23rd local time, Israel held a vote for the 24th parliamentary election, which was also Israel’s fourth general election in two years.
However, according to the votes of Israel’s 24th parliamentary election, no camp has won the 61 seats required to form a cabinet. The camp that supports incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu has won 52 seats, and his opposition, a coalition of parties mainly owned by the Future, is expected to receive up to 57 seats, according to Reuters.
Although the general election failed to elect a political union that won more than half of the seats in Parliament, the formation of a cabinet would continue.
On March 29th, local time, Israeli President Ruven Rivlin announced that he would consult with the leaders of the parties next week and eventually appoint the interim prime minister to start the first attempt to form a cabinet.
In fact, Israel is a parliamentary country. Because of the relatively low threshold for parties to obtain parliamentary seats, political parties with a support rate of more than 3.25% can win seats. Therefore, there are many small and medium-sized parties and the political power is more scattered. Since the establishment of Israel, almost all coalition governments have been formed through multi-party alliances.
Whether the cabinet formation will be successful or not is still unknown. Al Jazeera analyzed that the parliamentary competition and game are very fierce. It is not clear whether one side can eventually win the support of 61 seats, and Israel’s political deadlock may continue.
A “referendum” against Netanyahu
This political deadlock is not so much a standoff between the two parties as a strong match between Netanyahu’s supporters and opponents. The Economist pointed out that the parliamentary election revolved solely around whether to support Netanyahu’s rule, and policy and ideological issues have become secondary concerns.
The U.S. political news website Politico directly described the election as a “referendum” against Netanyahu himself.
Netanyahu first became the Prime Minister of Israel in 1996, and then lost to the Israeli Labor Party and temporarily withdrew from politics. After the 2009 general election, Netanyahu successfully formed a cabinet and became Prime Minister. He has been supported by Israeli business groups, blue-collar workers and many Jewish religious groups in Israel because of his advocacy of the hardline policy of the right.
There are also many voices against Netanyahu in Israel. Al Jazeera reported that the left-wing party refused to cooperate with Netanyahu because of his right-wing nationalist policies. Some of Netanyahu’s “middle” right-wing allies also objected to cooperating with him because of his tough governance style and his own lawsuit. There are also some small parties who dislike Netanyahu because he is good at using political skills to suppress his competitors.
Controversial but “standing”
However, such a controversial figure can become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and “stand still” in Israeli politics.
The reason is, on the one hand, the change of Israel’s domestic political ecology, and on the other hand, the Palestinian-Israeli issue is constantly weakening internationally.
In terms of domestic politics, in recent years, Israeli voters have a right-leaning tendency.
According to the religious division, Israel can be divided into ultra-Orthodox Jewish groups and non-extreme orthodox Jewish groups. Some analysts say that with the progress of social economy, the fertility rate of ultra-Orthodox Jews has continued to increase, and the proportion of the population has increased, and the demographic structure has become relatively young, gradually becoming the ticket of Jewish religious parties. The Jewish religious party is a supporter of Netanyahu’s Likud group and belongs to the “far right” on many issues.
Netanyahu’s political strategy to attract voters is the same as former President Trump of the United States and President Bossonaro of Brazil. The Associated Press pointed out that Netanyahu’s anti-establishment remarks, as a right-wing populist leader, also made him popular among traditional working-class voters.
In addition, the gradual decline of the status of the Israeli Labor Party has also led to the “difficult climate” of the left. Labour, which used to be Israel’s largest party, is now marginalized as votes are scattered among smaller and more extreme parties.
Time magazine pointed out that it was the voters who kept leaning to the right that made Netanyahu’s tough remarks recognized and kept him winning the election.
In addition, with the change of the situation in the Middle East, the Palestinian-Israeli issue is also constantly weakening.
The “Arab Spring” has triggered sectarian tensions in the Middle East. Subsequently, Trump came to power and withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Agreement. The Iran issue has gradually replaced the Palestinian-Israeli issue as the focus of the Middle East. Time magazine pointed out that the more people pay attention to Iran, the less attention they pay to the Palestinian-Israeli issue.
Netanyahu took a tough stand on the Palestinian-Israeli issue. When the search for Palestinian-Israeli peace talks is no longer the focus of Israeli voters, this greatly reduces Netanyahu’s pressure.
In addition, Israel’s economy developed rapidly under Netanyahu’s rule. He also built Israel into a regional power with a global perspective by building military superiority, regarding Trump as an ally, and seeking alliances between the Likud and the Republican Party of the United States.
Recently, Netanyahu’s success in fighting the epidemic and improving relations with the Gulf countries has also won him political support at home.
The political situation in Israel is a mystery.
The deadlock around Netanyahu continues. Frequent general elections have seriously affected Israel’s economic plan, and Israeli party leaders are calling for the avoid of a fifth election.
Today, most parties have clearly stated that they have joined the political camp that supports or oppose Netanyahu, while the United Right Party (Yamina) and the Ra’am Party have not yet clearly “stand side”. This means that winning their support is the key to the success or failure of the cabinet formation.
In this parliamentary election, the United Right, led by former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, won seven seats, and the Ram Party, an Islamic party led by Mansour Abbas, won four seats.
At present, there is still great uncertainty about the formation of the Israeli cabinet. According to Al Jazeera, both camps have recently been in contact with Bennett, the leader of the United Right. On April 2nd local time, Bennett met with Netanyahu in the Prime Minister’s office to discuss the possibility of establishing a coalition government. In addition, Bennett will meet with the leader of the “With the Future” party, Lapid on April 3.
After discussions with Netanyahu, Bennett said that he would “will work to form a stable government that is beneficial to Israel”.
On the other hand, the Ram Party has political opposition with the far-right Zionist party in Netanyahu’s camp. The Zionist religious party has said that Netanyahu’s camp will not cooperate with Mansour Abbas’ Islamic party.
In this regard, Netanyahu joined hands with the United Right and won the support of the Ram Party. It is unlikely to form a coalition government.
In view of the huge differences between the anti-Netanyahu camp on ideological issues and who should be the prime minister, the possibility of joining the United Arab Party and the United Right wing in the Netanyahu camp is not ruled out.
However, even if Netanyahu can continue to rule, his supporters and opponents will “equalize” Israel as usual, which will lead to Israel’s political dilemma destined to continue.
Israel’s previous three general elections
In the April and September 2019 general elections, Netanyahu’s Likud group was comparable to the newly formed Blue and White Party led by Benny Gantz, Israel’s former Chief of General Staff.
Netanyahu gained the right to form a cabinet because Likud attracted more support from other opposition parties in both elections. However, Netanyahu failed to successfully form a ruling coalition within the stipulated time limit, resulting in the repeated dissolution of the parliament and the continuous holding of general elections.
In the March 2020 general election, the Likud Group won 36 seats and the Blue and White Party won 33 seats. In the face of the “stalemate”, Netanyahu and Gantz subsequently reached an agreement to form a coalition government, stipulating that Netanyahu would first serve as Prime Minister in the coalition government for 18 months, and then Gantz would serve as Prime Minister for 18 months.
The parliament was dissolved in December 2020 due to differences between the two sides on a series of major issues, which led to the breakdown of cooperation.