After just over a year, the Israeli Government has collapsed. A couple of weeks ago, the unique rainbow coalition consisting of the right, the left, the centre and an Israeli-Arab party announced that it will dissolve itself and that Israel will go to its fifth election in three years. Let’s find out what happened in the only democracy in the Middle East!
How did we get here?
This incredibly diverse and very narrow coalition was always in a precarious position, and was often in thrall to its more radical elements on either flank. In truth the coalition formally lost its majority two and a half months ago when Idit Silman, the coalition chairperson or whip, from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party, left the coalition. Silman left the Government due to religious disagreements with the more secular wing of the coalition. Silman also suffered a severe amount of abuse from the right-wing opposition parties and their supporters for months whilst part of the coalition.
There were further warning signs when last month the government needed a compromise with the opposition over legislation to award academic scholarships to combat veterans – highlighting the government’s inability to pass security related laws independently.
The coalition took another massive hit when two members of the coalition, Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi of the left-wing Meretz party and Mazen Ghanaim of the Islamist Ra’am party, voted against a bill to extend civil law in the West Bank.
Last week Prime Minister Bennett was informed that the West Bank civil law bill could not be bypassed or extended beyond its June 30 deadline without a Knesset vote. This law has been extended every five years since 1967, but the Likud was not willing to give the government any backing, even for a law they have traditionally supported. By dissolving the Knesset, the law will be automatically extended until three months into the next government’s term.
Therefore after losing their majority, from both the left and right, last week Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced that they will bring forward a vote to disperse the Knesset, leading to new elections later this year, likely in early November.
Did the Government actually achieve anything?
The formation of the Government alone, with such diverse parties making up the coalition, is an incredible achievement in its own right. The fact that it lasted for over a year, and passed the desperately needed state budget for the first time in three years, is remarkable.
However, this was not the only success of the Government.
- Lapid and Bennett’s Government made concrete advances toward building a shared society for Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel.
- One of the most pressing domestic issues for Arab citizens of Israel has been rampant crime and violence in their communities. In the past the police neglected Arab cities and towns, where gangs and mafias proliferate.
- The Government made an unprecedented investment of NIS 2.5 billion (£598 million) toward making everyday life safer for Arab citizens. These funds were not only directed toward the Israeli police but also aimed at addressing some of the root socioeconomic causes of crime and violence.
- The government also put forward a five-year plan for economic development for Arab communities worth some NIS 30 billion (£7.1 billion).
Away from intercommunal relations the Government also;
- allocated new funds for transportation, health care, and education.
- nudged ultra-Orthodox schools for boys to teach core subjects, including English and math, which eighty-four per cent of the secondary students in those schools did not learn, according to a 2020 report.
- Boosted the economy as economic growth surpassed eight per cent in 2021 and is expected to run at more than five per cent this year.
- also significantly raised the number of work permits for Gazans to 20,000, therefore improving conditions in the Gaza Strip.
So what’s next?
Despite attempts by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay dissolving the Knesset in order for him to try and convince defectors to support him in forming a Government, the Knesset voted to dissolve itself.
As per the coalition agreement for an alternating premiership, as the collapse of the Government came from Naftali Bennett’s right-wing of the coalition, our friend Yair Lapid has been appointed the Prime Minister of the transitional government, Bennett will serve as Alternate Prime Minister with responsibility for the Iran portfolio.
As caretaker PM, Lapid will be constrained in his ability to push a new agenda, and without the Knesset, he will not be advancing legislation, except in narrow, special circumstances.
However, Lapid will be the caretaker prime minister for at least four months with the elections currently pencilled in for 1st November. Yet it could be much longer, should post-election coalition formation prove protracted or impossible. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu held the interim title intermittently in the two years between 2019 and 2021, when Israel cycled through four elections.
With regard to Naftali Bennett he has just announced that he will not be running in the upcoming elections and will be stepping back from political life.
The outgoing prime minister said that his long-time political partner Ayelet Shaked will take up the Yamina leadership moving forward.
Last week US President Joe Biden made his first visit as President to Israel and was received by Prime Minister Lapid.
Whilst it is incredibly disheartening for LDFI that this Government has collapsed, we are enormously proud of our friends and partners in Yesh Atid, led by Yair Lapid for their courageous efforts in forming and maintaining such a fragile coalition.
Despite us not wanting to see it come about in these circumstances, we have to admit it is wonderful to see Mr Lapid, the head of our Israeli sister party, who are in the process of joining Liberal International, becoming the first ever Liberal Prime Minister of Israel.
Behatzlacha Adoni - Good Luck Sir!