A Shaky Cabinet and New Challenges Facing Netanyahu

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ardeshir Zarei Ghanavati
Expert on International Relations & Foreign Policy

On Wednesday, May 6, 2015, and only two hours before the expiration of the deadline given to Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of Israel’s Likud Party, to form his new cabinet, he managed to form a coalition with Naftali Bennett, leader of the radical Jewish Home party, which supports construction of new settlements for the Israeli settlers. Following the agreement between the two parties, Netanyahu succeeded to get the minimum parliamentary vote he needed to form his new government. To form the new ultraright coalition in Israel, the Likud party joined hands with the Jewish Home, Kulanu, Shas, and the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) parties to win 61 out of 120 parliamentary seats and introduce its new coalition cabinet. Of course, the new cabinet has been considered shaky since its inception due to the fragile majority vote it got at the parliament (which is only one seat above the quorum), and also because of internal and external conflicts among parties that have created the coalition.

Netanyahu’s new cabinet is an amalgam of the radical right, supporters of the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, and ultra-religious parties. Therefore, it holds within itself all kinds of anti-peace plan and anti-secular tendencies that can be found in Israel. As a result, it will certainly reveal its basic conflicts with the internal situation in Israel as well as the international call for the establishment of two independent Palestinian and Israeli states in the near future. Before forming the new coalition, Netanyahu’s proposal was rejected by Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, which is known to be a traditional ally of Netanyahu’s Likud party. As a result, just one day before the end of the deadline to form the new cabinet, Netanyahu was forced to accept all conditions set by Naftali Bennett, who had only won eight parliamentary seats. The new coalition, however, is characterized with a basic paradox, which is currently nagging Netanyahu and has made his position very vulnerable. The composition of the new coalition cabinet is similar to a war council, which due to presence of Israeli figures who support settlement construction, is against any form of peace plan with Palestinians even if it is backed by the entire international community.

The new coalition cabinet formed by Netanyahu will help intensify the binary of secularism – Judaism, cause further isolation of Tel Aviv and the prime minister among international community, support expansion of the illegal settlements, and most importantly, threaten social democracy within the society. Of course, the status quo is still far from hectic, but the coalition will be badgered by domestic and foreign pressures in the near future. If the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries ended in a solution to the existing differences over Iran's nuclear program, it would have a direct impact on regional balance in the Middle East and will mount pressures on Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister is also facing another threat in the form of future positions that may be adopted by the secular and moderate party, Kulanu. The party has been already facing a contextual paradox with religious radicals and anti-peace figures within the ruling coalition over future plans of the cabinet.

Kulanu may also turn out to be the Achilles’ heel of the new coalition cabinet due to the radical right policy that is advocated by other parties and possible intensification of Tel Aviv’s isolation. Therefore, efforts made by such parties as the Jewish Home, and two religious parties, Shas and UTJ, to get more political, social, economic and security concessions from the prime minister, may force Kulanu, which has only won 10 parliamentary seats, to leave the cabinet. This is why despite fundamental conflicts in and paradoxical situation of the new coalition, Netanyahu did his best up to the very last day to attract Lieberman and his party in order to increase the number of parliamentary seats of his cabinet to 67.

Of course, the Likud party, despite pre-election forecasts, managed to win 30 parliamentary seats and take everybody by surprise while recording a big win over Netanyahu’s smart approach. However, more than being considered a powerful prime minister in his new cabinet, Netanyahu is more like a golden hostage, which should obey the orders of hostage takers under any circumstances. In view of the ongoing regional developments such as the increasing pace of the recognition of an independent Palestinian state by European parliaments; accession of Palestine to international legal institutions, including the International Criminal Court in The Hague; increasing isolation of Israel within international bodies; and incessant growth of protest movements within political and social structure of Israel, the Israeli government is sure to come under more pressure than before. Therefore, if Netanyahu fails to get support from Avigdor Lieberman or to clinch a deal with the main opposition party, the nightmare of the possible collapse of the coalition cabinet will hover over his head like the sword of Damocles.

On the other hand, it would be much more difficult than the past for Israel’s ultraright prime minister to harmonize its cabinet and maintain the status quo due to radical and somehow heterogeneous composition of the existing cabinet and also the necessity for maintaining a minimum degree of balance with foreign partners on the basis of international legal frameworks. The only development that can be considered as a strength for Netanyahu would be the possible failure of Iran's negotiations with Western powers, especially the United States, in addition to continuation of the current political and security alignment of Tel Aviv with the conservative Arab axis, which is led by Saudi Arabia. The latter development can somehow help the coalition cabinet marginalize basic problems with which it is faced right now as a result of the escalation of sectarian strife in the region, and it can even allow Netanyahu to buy more time. Betting on this situation and critical developments of the region by Netanyahu could be like betting on the winning horse in the short term, but under the changing conditions of regional balances, it is also more like sitting on the edge of a sword. Apart from instability of the current Israeli cabinet, the one thing that is certain is that the new cabinet will move toward more rightist radicalism and isolationism in future. Therefore, the cabinet will find itself at loggerheads with many international parameters in the near future. For this reason, one can categorically assert that the existing coalition will greatly endanger both the existence and the power of Tel Aviv to influence regional and international developments and even now, Netanyahu can be considered “a prime minister with two crutches” in the middle of a conflict, which is rapidly changing international equations.

Key Words: Shaky Cabinet, New Challenges, Benjamin Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett, Israel’s Likud Party, Jewish Home Party, Avigdor Lieberman, Yisrael Beiteinu Party, United Torah Judaism, Jewish Home, Kulanu, Shas, Nuclear Talks, Iran, P5+1, US, International Equations, Ghanavati

Source: Shargh Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: The Guardian

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