In recent years Israel has made a lot of progress in its relations with formerly enemy countries. It has also made progress in terms of economic growth. But it certainly has not made any in relation to political stability, which remains precarious. After the fall of the government, announced June 20 and which saw right-wing premier Naftali Bennett temporarily replaced by centrist Yair Lapid, Israel will go to its fifth general election in three and a half years, scheduled for Oct. 25.
An unstable political system
It may come naturally to ask how is it possible that a country that is so prosperous economically and has done well in international relations is at the same time mired with governments even more unstable than Italy's?
First, it is necessary to recall how the just-fallen government came about. An earlier dossier by the Centro Studi Machiavelli explained it: elections in Israel take place under a very rigid proportional system, with a 1.5 percent threshold and a single national constituency; this is compounded by the fact that many parties represent a very specific segment of the population, often defined on an ethnic or religious basis.
Netanyahu has no numbers 2, only foes
This gives greater power to small parties and, after the March 23, 2021 elections, allowed even diametrically opposed political forces to coalesce in order to "take out" Benjamin Netanyahu. The latter, who had ruled uninterruptedly since 2009 and enjoyed broad support due to his achievements in diplomacy and the fight against covid, had through the years gained many enemies even within the center-right area. This was because, in order to remain at the head of his party (the Likud), he had ousted anyone who could undermine its leadership.
As the Italian-Israeli scholar Sergio Della Pergola explained in 2021, "Whenever he found himself a capable enough number 2, Netanyahu pushed him away. The result is that now many Israeli party leaders are former Netanyahu secretaries." This category includes Naftali Bennett, the prime minister who resigned on July 1 and had been Netanyahu's chief of staff from 2006 to 2008.
The result of this anti-Netanyahu alliance was that, since June 13, 2021, Israel has been led by a coalition that in fact spans almost the entire political spectrum: the various center-right parties other than Likud have been joined by the Labor Party and Meretz's Socialists, as well as having for the first time the support of an Arab party, Ra'am, which splitted from the Joint List that groups most of Israel's Arab parties (and has always been placed in opposition).
Why the anti-Netanyahu coalition collapsed
Because of such a fragmented composition of the government, when shared decisions had to be made, quite a few problems arose. The most striking case concerns a law that must be periodically passed to extend Israeli jurisdiction over West Bank settlements. It needed to be voted on again by June in order to guarantee Israeli citizens living there the same rights as others and to be able to arrest terrorists who are attempting on their lives.
Under previous center-right governments this law was reapproved every five years, but this time the presence of parties opposed to the settlements, such as Meretz, blocked the procedure and stirred up much friction between those in favor and those opposed. Added to this is the fact that Likud did not lend its support to the law, precisely to put Bennett (whom it considers a traitor) in trouble.
Apart from this case, the various coalition parties also disagreed on other issues: on the approach to Iran, on the role of religion in institutions. Advocating for secularism in the state are not only Arab and left-wing parties, but also Yisrael Beitenu ("Israel our home" in Hebrew), Avigdor Lieberman's right-wing party originally formed to represent Jews who emigrated from the former Soviet Union.
What's going to happen now
According to the July 3 polls, if elections were held immediately Netanyahu's Likud would gain 34 seats out of 120, remaining firmly the leading party in the country. In second place would be Lapid's party, Yesh Atid ("There is Future"), with 21 seats, while Bennett's party, Yamina ("On the Right") would get only 4, as many as Meretz and Ra'am. These figures confirm the fragmented nature of the Israeli electorate, and it can be expected that, even after the October elections, the situation will remain unstable.
A freelance journalist, he has written for the newspapers Mosaico , Cultweek and Il Giornale Off . Member of the Council of the UGEI (Union of Young Jews of Italy). He was editor-in-chief of HaTikwa and communications officer of the US-Italy Global Affairs Forum .