Netanyahu Finally Out, But for How Long?

Israel's long national nightmare is over. Or is it?

NYT (“Israel’s Parliament Approves New Government, Ousting Netanyahu“):

The long and divisive reign of Benjamin Netanyahu, the dominant Israeli politician of the past generation, officially ended on Sunday, at least for the time being, as the country’s Parliament gave its vote of confidence to a precarious coalition government stitched together by widely disparate anti-Netanyahu forces.

Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, approved the new government by just a single vote — 60 to 59, with one abstention.

After his supporters cheered the announcement of his election, Naftali Bennett then exchanged a brief handshake with Mr. Netanyahu before walking to the rostrum at the front of the parliamentary chamber and taking the oath of office as prime minister.

Yair Lapid, a centrist leader, is set to take Mr. Bennett’s place after two years, if their government can hold together that long.

They lead an eight-party alliance ranging from left to right, from secular to religious, that agrees on little but a desire to oust Mr. Netanyahu, the longest-serving leader in the country’s history, and to end Israel’s lengthy political gridlock.

In a speech made before the confidence vote, Mr. Bennett hailed his unlikely coalition as an essential antidote to an intractable stalemate.

“We stopped the train before the abyss,” Mr. Bennett said. “The time has come for different leaders, from all parts of the people, to stop, to stop this madness.”

Before and after the fragile new government was announced on June 2, Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing allies labored hard to break it before it could take office. They applied intense pressure on right-wing opposition lawmakers, urging them to peel away from their leaders and refuse to support a coalition that includes centrists, leftists and even a small Arab Islamist party.

It was a watershed moment for politics in Israel, where Mr. Netanyahu, 71, had served as prime minister for a total of 15 years, including the last 12 years uninterrupted. But given Mr. Netanyahu’s record as a shrewd political operator who has defied many previous predictions of his political demise, few Israelis are writing off his career.

Even out of government and standing trial on corruption charges, he remains a formidable force who will likely try to drive wedges between the coalition parties. He remains the leader of the parliamentary opposition and a cagey tactician, with a sizable following and powerful allies.

Israel has held four inconclusive elections in two years and has gone much of that time without a state budget, fueling disgust among voters with the nation’s politics. No one was able to cobble together a Knesset majority after the first two contests, and the third produced an unwieldy right-center coalition that collapsed after months in recriminations.

The new coalition proposes to set aside some of the toughest issues and focus on rebuilding the economy. But it remains to be seen whether the new government will avoid another gridlock or crumble under its own contradictions.

I don’t have much to add this morning but thought the occasion deserved to be noted. Even going back to his first stint as PM, from 1996-1999, I thought Netanyahu a lout and a bully. But he’s been extraordinarily effective in maintaining power by exacerbating the tensions in Israeli society and stoking nationalist and anti-Palestinian sentiments.

One hopes this ouster is permanent and he finally ends up in the prison cell he has so long avoided. But one suspects this fragile coalition, held together mainly by anti-Netanyahu sentiment, will collapse and he’ll wind up back on top again.

FILED UNDER: Israel, World Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mattbernius says:

    One hopes this ouster is permanent and he finally ends up in the prison cell he has so long avoided. But one suspects this fragile coalition, held together mainly by anti-Netanyahu sentiment, will collapse and he’ll wind up back on top again.

    While this is probably true, I’m hoping that now that he is out of the Prime Minister role, the public corruption trial will move forward. I have to think that there are people within his coalition who think it’s time for him to be taken out of the stoplight.

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  2. Kylopod says:

    @mattbernius: Israel does at least have some history of prosecuting former presidents, and it did indict Bibi while he was in office, so it seems they’ve got a stronger precedent for taking this kind of move than the US.

    Also, the Israeli right isn’t united in support of Netanyahu, the way the American right is with Trump.

  3. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I suspect it’s the end of Bibi as a player, but it’s an unwieldy and unworkable placeholder administration if we’re honest about it. I see the power balance swinging back to Likud.

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  4. Kathy says:

    I’m guessing a lot depends on what happens when the coalition deal falls apart.

    I assume a fifth election would be required, as Bibi already was given a chance to form a government after the fourth election and failed to do so.

  5. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    I understand he will be re-instated sometime in August.
    Oh…wait…that’s the other former guy…

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  6. Kylopod says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I’m not sure how likely it is in Netanyahu’s case, but at least in Israel the idea of a PM getting “reinstated” later isn’t absurd the way it is in the US; it happens quite often in parliamentary systems (and has already happened with Netanyahu himself before). There are no term limits for PMs, and governments can crash at any time.

  7. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Kathy:

    They have 90 days to execute a budget or the coalition gets dissolved and we’re right back to new elections anyway. It’s not a question of if it falls apart so much as one of how soon it falls apart.

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  8. al Ameda says:

    @HarvardLaw92:

    They have 90 days to execute a budget or the coalition gets dissolved and we’re right back to new elections anyway. It’s not a question of if it falls apart so much as one of how soon it falls apart.

    Dead on. I was speaking yesterday with a couple of close friends who are Jewish and they are guessing that it falls apart about a week after Yom Kippur.

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  9. wr says:

    Who would have thought that leaders of major countries around the world would decide that their role model would be Silvio Berlusconi…

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  10. de stijl says:

    Netananyu strikes me as a dude who is primed towards a brutal parting shot.

    I def prefer he would not, but predict he will.

  11. de stijl says:

    @de stijl:

    Okay. Critics of Israeli government policy have been determined as anti-Israeli.

    We can object to current government policy on settlements and free movement of Palestinian folks and still be ostensibly pro-Israel.

    Testing my last nerve, though. You are marching down an apartheid path. Very markedly. You can turn back. You should. This is a point of decision. You can stop and withdraw if you choose to. You should.

    Likudnik policy is just fucking over the line as to adequacy. Backing away is not cowardice. Bunch of mad lads.

    RW Israelis vs. Restore Homeland Palestinians will not resolve peacefully.

  12. de stijl says:

    It pisses me off Netanyahu promises violence unless he is reinstated as PM. Uncool shit, man.