The Irish Times view on Israeli politics: for him or against him
After four inconclusive elections and two years of political stalemate, it appears a parliamentary majority may emerge to remove Binyamin Netanyahu from power
The leader of Israel’s Yesh Atid party Yair Lapid, and leader of the Yamina party Naftali Bennett, arriving at the Israeli President’s residence in Jerusalem. Photographs: Oren Ben Hakoon/ AFP via Getty Images
Whether it was the international community, his fellow politicians or even the Israeli people themselves, there was one question that always mattered more than any other to Binyamin Netanyahu about the people he encountered. Were you for him or were you against him? Those who pledged fealty were handsomely rewarded, while those who stood in opposition felt his wrath.
To those Israelis who did not vote for him, or whose leaders would not do business with him, he never had anything much to say. To those who kept him in office, and made him his country’s longest-serving prime minister, he was willing to say and do almost anything. The result – his legacy – is a country that has shifted far to the right, where voices of reason are shouted down, where the political will for any settlement with Palestinians has never been less apparent.
It turns out that Netanyahu’s Manichean view of the world was a self-fulfilling prophecy. After four inconclusive elections and two years of political stalemate, it appears a parliamentary majority is about to emerge among an eclectic coalition of parties that have managed to agree on just one thing: the need remove from office the man who has dominated Israeli politics for a quarter of a century. The proposed coalition would comprise parties of the right, left and centre, and it would depend on the votes of an Arab party to stay in office. The premiership would rotate between the centrist Yair Lapid and the ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett.
Any hopes that the emerging coalition, should it succeed in ousting Netanyahu from office, will mark a significant shift in Israeli policies are almost certain to be dashed. Bennett is more dogmatic and less flexible than his erstwhile mentor. As so often in recent Israeli politics, the occupation has barely featured as a domestic issue of late. Once the aim of removing Netanyahu has been achieved, the coalition’s internal contradictions would quickly define it. And the most likely result will not be change but stasis, rancour – and, before long, yet another election.