Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister for more than a decade, will most likely have to give way to a coalition without him this weekend. Tomorrow the Israeli parliament will vote on the new government. And it looks like it will be installed then, by a wafer-thin majority.
The government consists of a coalition of no fewer than eight parties: from the progressive to the nationalist right and with an Arab party for the first time in decades. Will this coalition with many divergent and even opposing interests last? It’s a question, but not the most important this weekend.
Because everyone in Israel is holding their breath: will race politician Netanyahu actually disappear from the scene? One thing is certain: in recent weeks he has used every rhetorical means to undermine the formation and installation of that new government without him.
He has incited supporters to protest at the homes of politicians who have turned against him. According to him, the proposed new government is a nest of opportunists and left-wing politicians: they are fraudulent and a danger to the country.
The mood in the country is tense. So tense that the director of security service Shin Bet has warned against political violence. Overdone? Not according to one of his predecessors, Yaakov Peri: “Bet based his warning on intelligence and the assessment that a political assassination is not inconceivable in such a tense and very aggressive climate.”
According to Peri, the atmosphere is comparable to that in 1995, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered by a far-right Jew. At the time, the political climate was “toxic” and now it is again, Peri said. “Violence is in the air. Not only is it uncivilized, it is also anti-democratic. Israel’s leaders should take responsibility and warn against it, against action.”
But that is not what Netanyahu intends to do. On the contrary: according to biographer Anshel Pfeffer, his behavior over the past few weeks matches his style of government. “His tactics have always been the undermining of the opposition. In his eyes it is directed against Israel and against him. He sees politics as a fight: for him or against him. That is his way of doing politics. done for the worse.”
The comparisons with Donald Trump and the United States are compelling. When the US president lost the election last November, he declared it illegal. Although Trump withdrew sulkingly to his Mar-a-Lago country residence in Florida, the former president does not resign himself to his defeat. He continues to stir and his Republican supporters still believe the majority of the presidential elections were illegal.
Is that also what awaits Israel? The expectation is not. Israel has a parliamentary democracy: a rejected prime minister can assert himself as opposition leader in parliament. In America, Trump didn’t have that option.
“Netanyahu will certainly not be quiet in the coming months,” says biographer Pfeffer. “He will turn out to be an enraged opposition leader. And plot a political comeback. He will certainly not disappear from the political scene forever.”
Former Shin Bet leader Peri expects a lot of rhetorical violence in the coming months. But he clings to the fact that a majority of the population is in favor of ‘law and order’.
Will respect for law and authority prevail? Or will Netanyahu achieve yet another comeback? First let’s see if Israel has a government without Netanyahu tomorrow. If it actually comes, it will be no less than a minor miracle.