Can new Israeli administration unite despite widely disparate members?

A completely unprecedented coalition government has been united solely in its opposition to Prime Minister Netanyahu. The question will be whether it can maintain unity within the Cabinet, transcending differences in position and implementing policies smoothly.

In Israel, eight opposition parties with greatly different policies and ideologies joined together to form a new administration. Naftali Bennett, the leader of the extreme right-wing party Yamina, became prime minister.

In addition to the centrist parties that led the coalition agreement, a wide range of groups, including leftist parties, have joined the administration. A Palestinian Arab party has also entered power for the first time in Israeli history.

Israeli politics are separated into small parties, and it is difficult for the leading party to secure a majority, usually resulting in the formation of a coalition government. Over the past two years, there have been as many as four general elections due to a series of unsuccessful coalition talks and the collapse of administrations after they were formed.

The new administration’s intention to give top priority to breaking the political stalemate can be deemed appropriate.

The opposition parties rallied under the banner of departing from Netanyahu’s administration, which lasted 12 straight years and 15 years in total.

Netanyahu was prosecuted for corruption two years ago, which accelerated the decline in his leadership. Although he has achieved good results in economic development, his authoritarian political style and hard-line stance toward Palestine and Iran have intensified internal divisions in Israel and estranged his coalition partners.

Increased public demand for change as a result of the growing negative impact of his long-term administration may have led to the unexpected inauguration of a new administration.

The most difficult element for Bennett in steering the new government for the present will likely be how to deal with Palestine, with which Israel has barely maintained a cease-fire since the military clash in May.

Far-right parties do not accept the establishment of a Palestinian state and support the promotion of Jewish settlements in Israeli-occupied territories. There is a wide gap between the coalition’s far-right parties, and its Arab and centrist parties.

Bennett should avoid getting too deeply involved in issues that could lead to disagreements within the Cabinet. If results are achieved on matters directly related to people’s lives, such as the economy, this will likely lead to national reconciliation, restoration of political trust and stable management of the administration.

The focal point of foreign policy will be how to deal with Iran, which has a hostile relationship with Israel. The Netanyahu administration was working to establish an encircling net around Iran by improving relations with Arab countries that also see Iran as an enemy.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump led efforts together to encircle Iran, but U.S. President Joe Biden is trying to hold dialogue and ease tensions with Iran. It is hoped that the Bennett administration will promote a moderate policy that will contribute to the stability of the Middle East, while fully taking into account U.S. moves.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 16, 2021.