Recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced to Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, that he “had successfully formed a government,” according to CNN. For the past few weeks, Netanyahu has been engaged in complex coalition building with his right-wing partners. But will this new government remain as stable as Netanyahu hopes?
Netanyahu’s Negotiations with Various Political Parties
Over time, Netanyahu has focused on reaching an agreement with right-wing parties, namely the Religious Zionism Party, Jewish Power and United Torah Judaism. The first two are mostly religious national parties who want a more aggressive stance on national security and continued building in the settlements in the West Bank. These right-wing parties won 15 seats in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), and some new Knesset members immediately sought ministerial positions – including National Security Minister (in charge of Israel’s police system) and the Minister of Finance.
After prolonged negotiations, Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gitr became the National Security Minister and Bezalel Smotrich is the new Minister of Finance. However, Netanyahu will retain his power over budget preparation in the Finance Ministry.
Other ministerial positions and committee chairmanships will be given to more junior members of this right-wing bloc. For instance, The Times of Israel noted that “Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party appeared set to parcel out entire departments of the Education Ministry to partners in his prospective right-wing, religious coalition.” Progressive educators from within and outside Israel are attempting to introduce “woke” ideology to Israeli schools, a motif that will sound familiar to U.S. readers.
Netanyahu also finalized negotiations with ultra-orthodox (Charedi) parties that are more interested in issues important to their voters. These parties wanted control over housing issues and welfare payments, religious affairs, and public transportation, low-income programs that are particularly important to the voter base of the Charedi parties.
Both the national religious parties and the ultra-orthodox parties demanded full autonomy on their educational institutions. The new Minister of Education, Miri Regev, will only be left with control over secular educational institutions in Israel.
The Reaction from the Opposition
The opposition to Netanyahu was quick to sound alarm bells. The leaders of the opposition, such as outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid, want to ensure that there will be constant public pressure against Israel’s government. Their focus is on growing the power of religious parties and exerting more control over budget and decision making.
Opposition leaders have warned that secular Israelis will need to get used to religion playing a bigger role in their lives. While that is not the case, the opposition does want greater control over budget and policies to advance the causes of their electorate.
Netanyahu and the Stability of the New Government
What will Netanyahu, who is secular in his personal life, do in light of these plans from the religious right? He is in a difficult situation since he must deal with needy coalition partners. To remain in power, he will need to install leaders who may enact policies he may not like.
While Netanyahu is subject to the influence of his political partners, he has one major advantage over right-wing religious parties: He is simply a much better politician. The leaders of the religious national bloc are political novices, and Netanyahu is a veteran politician who has seen everything there is to see in the political arena.
If Netanyahu needs to push back on his right-wing parties, he already has been given some initial offers of aid by some of his formidable opponents. For example, The Jerusalem Post quoted outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz, one of the leaders of the opposition bloc, who said that the National Unity party will support Netanyahu if he “wishes to “oppose his partners’ actions that involve harming democracy or national security.”
What Will Netanyahu Do to Politically Survive?
Netanyahu’s corruption trial is progressing slowly, and it appears likely that several years will be pass before there is a decision. However, Netanyahu wants to finish his career on his own terms.
He is in his early 70s and one more full term as Israel’s Prime Minister makes sense. Netanyahu will have more time to install his successors in Israel, who will uphold his political legacy.
But to achieve this goal, Netanyahu must navigate the stormy waters of Israeli politics and test the boundaries of his political partners. It will not be a surprise if Netanyahu does not finish his term or if he replaces his right-wing allies with centrist parties such as Yesh Atid. These centrist parties might be willing to overlook collaborating with Netanyahu, who they mistrust and despise, to sideline the right-wing national religious bloc that they fear.