Benjamin Netanyahu, an iconic figure in Israeli politics, has once again secured a mandate amid one of the most trying periods of his long career. On Sunday, Israel’s parliament approved an unprecedented governmental structure, creating a new unity government. In it, centrist Benny Gantz is bound to serve in the newly created role of “alternate prime minister”.
A Long Battle Comes to an End
The formation of Israel’s new government follows a long political crisis. Neither Benny Gantz nor Netanyahu was able to amass a coalition large enough to govern. This left the government in gridlock for months. Three inconclusive elections finally forced the two rival coalitions to join in a unity government.
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Enjoying a clear political victory, Benjamin Netanyahu had this to say after the government’s successful formation.
“The public wants a unity government, and that’s what the public is getting today,”
Per the terms of the agreement, Mr. Netanyahu retains his role as head of government, and Benny Gantz will serve as Defense Secretary and “alternate prime minister”. Netanyahu will stay on as Prime Minister for 18 months, after which time he and Gantz will switch roles.
The new unity government is already mired in controversy. Gantz had sworn against forming a coalition government with Netanyahu. He changed his stance in light of the government’s need to respond pandemic. Many in the liberal wing of Israeli politics have labeled him a sellout. The controversy is compounded by the criminal charges that Netanyahu will face this month.
Criminal Charges for the Man in Charge
In an unusual situation that hearkens to the American political climate, Benjamin Netanyahu will soon face charges for felonies including embezzlement, corruption and bribery. Evoking images of President Trump, Netanyahu calls these charges a political witch-hunt.
In a number of days, Netanyahu will stand in defense of these charges days after securing his mandate. He is in a more advantageous situation politically than he was during the government deadlock. Also, it is a testament to the veteran leader’s political acumen that he was able to weather the storm of the last few months without losing his position.
West Bank Promise
One of the highest priorities of the new organization will be the continued annexation of Israeli settlements. This will surely ruffle feathers in the Arab world and beyond.
Netanyahu made the new government’s goal’s clear: “It’s time to apply the Israeli law, and write another glorious chapter in the history of Zionism.” Zionism, the belief that there should be a Jewish State in the Holy Land, plays a key role in Israel’s conflicts with neighboring states, especially with Palestine.
The complex conflict with Palestine involves the Israeli consolidation and control of several settlements, especially in Gaza and the West Bank. These settlements are contested by the Arab World. Many of these countries do not even endorse Israel’s right to exist.
Liberals in Israel generally oppose these settlements, preferring more harmonious relations with their neighbors. Conservatives, including Netanyahu, see the settlements as sovereign Israeli territory. He believes the areas need development, and that the Israelis living there needs protection, just like anywhere else in the country.
Gantz, a center-left politician, is much less hawkish on settlement annexation than his veteran counterpart. Much to the chagrin of his party, he appears to be moving to the right, rather than bringing Netanyahu to the left on the issue.
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