Mondoweiss / June 20, 2022
The Bennett/Lapid “government of change” has collapsed under pressure from Benjamin Netanyahu. New elections are set for October, but there is no alternative to apartheid on the Israeli horizon.
It’s now official – the Israeli government is collapsing, and the parliament is being dissolved next week in a vote. The next elections are likely to take place on October 25, 2022.
This will mark a 5th Israeli election in 3 years, after the last one was a 4th in two years. This government was popularly known as the “government of change”, presumably because it was not led by Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, and whose party Likud is now leading in the polls, by far.
It was reportedly decided today by the two government leaders – Prime Minster Naftali Bennett and alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid (now serving as Foreign Minister), that the vote for dissolving the parliament would be taken, and that Lapid would begin his term as prime minister immediately – rather than in October as was first planned if the government continued to exist its full four year term. Israeli governments hardly ever manage the four-year term, and certainly not in recent years. This one is the 36th government in 74 years – it’s an average of elections every two years.
This government was crumbling for some months now. In April, Idit Silman from Bennett’s Yamina (Rightwards) party left the coalition on the pretext of it lacking “Jewish Identity” (notably in the most Jewish-supremacist right-wing government in Israel’s history). The government effectively lost its razor-thin majority at that point.
Then, earlier this month, a vote on extending what became known as the “Apartheid Law” (which gives Israeli settlers civic rights while Palestinians in the same geography are governed by military law ) exposed rifts in the coalition, with two Palestinian members (Mazen Ghnaim and Ghaida Rinawi-Zoabi) voting against and promising to keep it up. The Netanyahu-led opposition also voted against the coalition bill as well, just to push the government towards toppling over.
Finally, last week, Yamina lawmaker Nir Orbach (who had charged at Ghnaim during the Apartheid bill vote and shouted at him that the experiment of including Palestinians in the Israel government had failed), also decided to leave the coalition, bringing it into an actual minority. Orbach opined at that point that the government would probably collapse within a week or two – one week was right.
Bennett and Lapid did not actually involve their collation partners in the final decision to end the government, not even their closest party associates, and this might cost them some future alliances.
Benjamin Netanyahu is already jubilant. He calls this “the worst government in Israeli history”, one that “was dependent on supporters of terrorism”, and that “endangered the Jewish character of our state”.
Netanyahu is presumably alluding to the fact that the conservative Islamist party Ra’am, with its four lawmakers, is part of the government – but it was actually his idea to have such a party inside his potential coalition in order to avoid the deadlock, and he might yet resort to such courting again.
Netanyahu envisions, “a wide, national government headed by Likud”.
Likud has polled rather consistently over the past half year with about 35 seats out of the 120. No party comes even close to that – Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) polls around 20 seats, and any other party will get up to around 10 seats. Actually, the one party that is polling best among those smaller parties in recent months, with about 10 seats, is the extreme right-wing Religious Zionism, including the Kahanist Itamar Ben Gvir. If the election were today, Likud would be joining forces with Religious Zionism, the ultra-orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism (15 seats between them), to reach 60 – and then it needs some extra. Likud has reportedly promised to ensure that Idit Silman, who left the coalition, will have a seat in its future list.
The Likud strategy is clearly race-baiting, and it is trying to persuade people to never-ever repeat the “experiment” with Palestinians, even though it might try to do it itself as mentioned, for political exigency. It wants to push everything even further rightwards, so that the Zionist center and left which held a “just not Netanyahu” stance, loses its legitimacy and is seen as a spoiler of what would otherwise be Zionist bliss.
Still, the purported “wide, national government” appears to be wishful thinking. Netanyahu’s wish to remain in power is also tied to his corruption cases. The animosity to him as a person is great, and the path to Likud governance is not straightforward. Likud’s success depends very much on breaking its opposition and poaching opponents into its ranks, like Silman. In the past, Bennett was undecided about opposing Netanyahu. Ideologically, Bennett should have no compunctions about joining Netanyahu, since Bennett himself is ideologically further right than Likud. If not Bennett as a person, others, like his 2nd spot Ayelet Shaked, may yet come into the Likud fold – not involving her in the decision to fold the government may turn out to be the mistake that brings that about.
No “government of change”
We must remember, that with all the drama about this final collapse, there has been no government of change here. Oren Ziv of +972 Magazine published a piece yesterday analyzing in numbers the amount of house demolitions and killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces under this current government, as compared to the recent Netanyahu government – and it is roughly the same. Arguably, it is even worse, as Issa Amro, a prominent Palestinian human rights activist in Hebron, is cited saying:
Since the formation of the Bennett government, we have seen an escalation in the West Bank: more settler violence, more army raids, the army opening fire indiscriminately, soldiers feeling that the prime minister has their back, that they have a green light to do whatever they want with impunity… The right is both in government and in the opposition and I do not hear voices from inside the government — from Meretz, or Yair Lapid — trying to take their government in the direction of their own ideology. Their goal is only to survive, at the expense of the human rights and lives of the Palestinians.
There is no change on the Israeli horizon, even if it’s five more elections in the next three years. There will be more Apartheid, whichever government comes to be formed.
Those are strong points. Even the left-Zionist Meretz, the furthest to the left in the Zionist spectrum, voted for the recent Apartheid Law bill, failing to force the hand of its member Rinawie-Zoabi to do the same. As Meron Rapoport wrote in +972 last week, Meretz has abandoned “it’s last core value” on that Apartheid vote.
And so here’s the spoiler about these new upcoming elections — we are not going to see something dramatic happen in Israel. There is no change on the Israeli horizon, even if it’s five more elections in the next three years. There will be more Apartheid, whichever government comes to be formed. There will be no government of change, no matter what happens. It will be more of the same. If you want something different, look somewhere else – the pressure for change in Israel has to come from outside.
Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli musician, conductor and blogger/writer based in Denmark