Israeli regime’s premier Benjamin Netanyahu has lost a second chance to form a coalition government on Wednesday, triggering a dissolution of the parliament for a new early election in September. The rare development in the Israeli politics comes while Netanyahu had earlier talked about an outright win in the April 9 elections. Now as a result of the deep division among the right-wing parties, the political future of Netanyahu is on the line.
The previous parliament was dissolved in October 2018 and April 9 was set as its election date. In April elections, Netanyahu’s Likud party in a tight race against the Blue and White party managed to win a single seat more than the rival party, led by Benny Gantz. By winning 36 votes, Likud set hope on forming a coalition cabinet.
The key parties Netanyahu needed for his government are ultra-orthodox who held 16 seats in the freshly dissolved parliament. The big challenge that had its roots in a couple of months earlier was the ultra-orthodox conscription law. They are exempted from military service. The Knesset drafted a law to remove the exemption. Netanyahu in coalition talks vowed to oppose the law in return for the Haredi Jews’ support. On the opposite side, Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of Yisrael Beiteinu party, who had a key role in the previous parliament dissolution, opposed dropping the draft law. Opposing Lieberman meant losing 5 seats and opposing the ultra-orthodox Jews meant losing 16 seats for Netanyahu.
Division in the right-wing camp
A majority of parties active in this election insist on aggressive foreign policy and violent treatment of the Palestinians in Gaza in their election campaigns. Despite the fact the Blue and White party joined the race with a different approach, its leader Gantz promised expansion of the settlements and further freedom for the military actions.
The New Right party, led by former Minister of Education Naftali Bennett and former Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, is, in fact, a modernist right-wing party that criticizes the traditional right. Its leaders broke ranks with the Jewish Home party to form their own party. They also came tough on the Palestinians. New Right rejected dialogue with the Palestinians and proposed assassination of the Gaza-based Hamas leaders. The party is opposed to any government, even a civilian government without army, for the Palestinians.
Labor Party, led by Avi Gabbay, is another party in the race. The Labor rejected evacuation of the settlements in the West Bank.
Zehut (Identity) party, which had a liberalist approach to politics, adopted radical approaches in April elections. Moshe Feiglin, the party’s head, supported Oslo Accords revoking and annexing the West Bank to the Israeli territory.
In fact, the right-wing crisis and largely unrealistic policies pushed the parties away from union around a single policy.
Now the question is why the Israeli parties, even the leftists and moderates, use rightist slogans in the campaigns and fail to unite in an effective coalition in the face of hardline parties.
Having in mind that state-building processes in the Israeli regime is not internal and various groups of migrants were lured into migration to the occupied territories, the Israeli society now suffers from an identity crisis, largely exhibited in the Knesset vote campaigning. For example, the Ashkenazi Jews, who migrated from Europe and the US, are different from the Sephardic Jews who were born in the occupied territories. This difference has so far kept them from uniting under a political alliance. Alexander Wendt calls the identities “relational affairs” where an understanding of “self” takes shape. To understand the identity, we should look at its transaction with the other one. To put it differently, when the identity is not home-grown, some governments forge foreign foes so that the various identity groups unite around the common enemy concept. Nearly all Israeli parties emphasize on enmity with the Palestinians and opposition to an independent Palestinian state to pass the identity crisis and win parliamentary seats. This causes sheer competition in adopting hardline policies. Such a phenomenon gave rise to highly fragile alliances in Israeli politics.
The second factor responsible for the current crisis is Netanyahu’s back-to-back wins. Four times winning the prime minister post by Netanyahu gave rise to the notion that adopting hardline policy is a must to succeed in the Israeli politics. In 2009, Netanyahu promised to topple Hamas government if he won the election in that year.
The third factor is the relentless US supports to Tel Aviv policies that pushed them to a kind of ostensible success. This causes Tel Aviv to fail to act like a normal player. So, the right-wing parties who coalesced with Netanyahu had practicality unfeasible demands from Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s corruption and his push for judicial immunity and the popular protests also fuel the division in the Israeli regime. After all, Netanyahu is the man the rights called capable of crafting an alliance in the rightist camp for the Knesset elections.