Benjamin Netanyahu’s record 12-year run as Israeli Prime Minister could be coming to an end, with his political rivals joining forces to form a coalition after the country’s fourth elections in two years ended in a hung parliament.
Each of the past four elections was seen as a referendum on Netanyahu – who has become a polarising figure as he stands trial on corruption charges – with each ending in deadlock.
The new fragile coalition has come into being after Israeli far-right politician Naftali Bennett joined hands with centrist leader Yair Lapid.
Bennete, 49, who was Netanyahu’s defence minister, defended his decision to join hands with Lapid to prevent the country from sliding into a fifth consecutive election in just more than two years.
“It’s my intention to do my utmost in order to form a national unity government along with my friend Yair Lapid, so that, God willing, together we can save the country from a tailspin and return Israel to its course,” Bennett said on Sunday after meeting with his own party, Yamina.
Netanyahu has called the coalition plan “a danger for the security of Israel”. He accused Bennett of betraying the Israeli right-wing and urged nationalist politicians who have joined the coalition talks not to establish what he called a “leftist government”.
Centrist Lapid has been tasked with forming a new cabinet by 11:59pm (20:59 GMT) Wednesday.
Israeli media reported that under the proposed terms of the deal, Bennett and Lapid would take turns as prime minister, but it has not been officially confirmed.
The coalition comes after 11 days of Israeli attacks on Gaza ended in a ceasefire. About 250 Palestinians and 12 Israeli were killed in the conflict.
Here are some of the main details:
Which parties are in the coalition?
The new fragile coalition has come into being after Bennett, a kingmaker whose Yamina (Rightwards) party has six seats in parliament, joined hands with Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party.
With 17 seats, Yesh Atid is the second-largest party in the 120-member Knesset – the Israeli parliament.
The centre-right alliance led by Netanyahu’s Likud party emerged as the largest group in the April elections, with more than 50 seats, but fell short of the 61-seat majority required to form a government.
An anti-Netanyahu alliance would be fragile and require outside backing by Palestinian-Israeli members of parliament, experts say.
- Yesh Atid – 17
- Yesh Atid’s allies – 34
- Yamina – 6
- United Arab List – 4
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from West Jerusalem, said Lapid would also most likely include the United Arab List party in the coalition.
“Lapid needs to cement all of the bilateral deals with the various constituent parties in this coalition as it gets formed. Once that is signed and sealed and he has a promise of support most likely from the four-seat-strong United Arab List party – the first such Palestinian-Israeli party that would be brought into such an agreement,” he said.
What are their agendas?
The coalition would be expected to focus on economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, while setting aside issues on which members disagree, such as the role of religion in society and Palestinian aspirations for statehood.
Yamina is a supporter of Israeli settlements, considered illegal under international law, in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as the Palestinian territory’s partial annexation.
Bennett is openly against the two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the recent Israeli bombardment of Gaza, he told Al Jazeera: “The width of Israel is just about seven or eight miles, we see what they (Palestinians) turned Gaza into, no Israeli is going to give up Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and allow them to create a terror state that’s just a few minutes away from my home … ”
Yesh Atid, founded in 2012, is fiercely secularist and centrist.
Dov Waxman, director of the UCLA Y&S Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, told Al Jazeera that the potential broad coalition’s objective of getting Netanyahu out of office could be all they agree on.
“This is a broad government that includes not only the centre and the hard-right, but also centre-left parties as well. So it is really a large, unwieldy coalition kept together largely by one thing that they all agree upon, which is that they don’t want Netanyahu to remain as prime minister,” he said.
“In terms of what they can do, it is very little. I think it is very likely focus on economic issues. That is where there is the greatest areas of agreement between the different parties … When it comes to foreign policy issues and the Palestinian issue in particular, the disagreements among the members of this potential coalition make it very unlikely that there will be any real policy changes.”