Unlikely Alliance Forms Israeli Government to Oust Benjamin Netanyahu

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    Benjamin Netanyahu, whose record-long grip on Israeli politics has faltered in the face of corruption charges and a polarized society, is on the brink of being unseated by the unlikeliest government in the country’s history.

    In a development that looked far-fetched just weeks ago, opposition leader Yair Lapid notified President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday he had put together a diverse coalition of parties that set aside conflicting ideologies to oust the prime minister. If ratified by parliament the plan would topple Netanyahu, who’s been in power for 15 of the past 25 years, and could put an end to years of political turmoil linked to his legal woes.

    Under the coalition agreement, Lapid, a centrist, is to share power with nationalist Naftali Bennett, who would be Netanyahu’s immediate replacement. And in a historic first, an Arab faction is to become part of an Israeli governing alliance.

    With a majority of just 61 of parliament’s 120 lawmakers, the coalition hypothetically could be derailed by a single rebel, allowing Netanyahu to cling to power for the time being but potentially triggering a fifth snap election down the line.

    Yet even if the coalition is ratified, its slim parliamentary majority, and the preponderance of so many disparate parties under one tent mean its survival could prove to be a day-to-day challenge.

    The coalition is an amalgam of religious, secular, nationalist, leftist, centrist and Arab parties. The 49-year-old Bennett, a former defense minister who opposes Palestinian statehood and takes a hard line on Iran, is to serve as prime minister for the first two years. Lapid, 57, a former finance minister whose political career has focused on economic and social issues, is to take the reins the following two.

    Lapid was assigned to try to piece together a government after Netanyahu failed following the March 23 election, the country’s fourth in two years.

    The political upheaval was catalyzed by multiple accusations of influence peddling against Netanyahu that have landed him in a Jerusalem courtroom. It would also plunge Netanyahu, who says he’s innocent of any wrongdoing, into an even deeper legal nightmare by quashing the possibility he could halt his trial with legislation shielding a sitting leader from prosecution.

    Such legislation has been a major impetus behind his efforts to stay in power.

    Politically, a new government would end an era that spanned decades of transformation. Since his first term beginning in 1996, Netanyahu — Israel’s longest-serving leader — pulled the country sharply to the right on security and peacemaking, while dismantling much of the socialist legacy of Israel’s founders.

    Netanyahu’s successors, with their disparate agendas, are expected to leave contentious issues like relations with the Palestinians to the future. Instead, their immediate focus may be on urgent matters such as drafting a national budget for the first time in three years to accelerate Israel’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

    Just weeks ago, the new coalition’s formation had looked doomed by the conflict in Gaza, when Bennett pulled out of negotiations with prospective partners already outside his comfort zone. But the former defense minister, who had pledged to do the utmost to avoid a fifth election, threw his lot in with the anti-Netanyahu bloc on Sunday, after having concluded there was no way to form a right-wing government under the current circumstances.

    The governing alliance, however, could be just one crisis away from falling apart. Bennett’s hawkish and predominantly religious Yamina party seeks to strengthen the state’s Jewish character and annex West Bank land the Palestinians claim for a future state.

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