EDITORIAL: After four inconclusive elections outcomes in two years Israeli parliament, Knesset, finally approved a change of government last Sunday with a razor-thin vote of 60-59 and one abstention ending 12 years of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rule. Naftali Bennett, a right wing ultra-nationalist, heads the new coalition government cobbled together by the centrist Yesh Atid party leader, Yair Lapid. Under a power sharing agreement, Bennett is to occupy the prime minister’s office until September 2023, after which he will hand over power to Lapid for another two years, i.e., if the coalition lasts that long. It comprises eight different parties from far-right to far-left, with little in common except for the desire to see the ouster of Benjamin Netanyahu.
There is nothing unusual for Zionist state to have a broad-based coalition governments. What is different now is that for the first time ever an Islamist Israeli Arab party, the United Arab List, is sharing power in a government. According to its leader, Mansour Abbas, he has made that “difficult” decision to improve economic conditions of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel who make up 21 percent of the country’s population. With four members in the Knesset his party has become an unlikely kingmaker even as it stands poles apart from other partners. Prime Minister Bennett is expected to keep his focus on economic issues, which may include improving the lot of ‘Israeli-Arabs’. But he is in a risky position. He can annoy his base if he stops evicting Palestinians from their ancestral homes and other properties in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to make way for Jewish settlements, and in case he resumes the activity Mansour would be under pressure from his people to withdraw from the government. Netanyahu would be waiting for such an opportunity to stage a comeback. As expected, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has termed the development an internal Israeli affair, reiterating “what we want is a Palestinian state in the 1967 border with Jerusalem as its capital.” And in its reaction Hamas said “it is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back.” All this is a stark reminder that Israel can have neither peace nor function normally as long as it remains in occupation of Palestinian lands.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021