Israel's new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Photograph:( AFP )
Will the new government be able to survive long enough? Will it be possible for the coalition to steer clear of its political and ideological differences and adhere to a common agreed plan of action?
Curtain is finally drawn over the political uncertainty which had engulfed Israel for past several months. Four elections in the last two years remained inconclusive. Finally, the Israeli Parliament (Knesset) approved on 13th June the formation of government by a coalition of eight opposition parties which managed to cobble together the required numbers i.e. 61 in the 120 Members Knesset. Naftali Bennett has been sworn in as Prime Minister. Under the coalition agreement on the principle of rotation of the post of Prime Minister, Benett will hold this position for the first two years.
It is noteworthy that the coalition government is a conglomeration of minuscule, small as well as big political parties with extremely diverse political ideologies ranging from ultra-right to extreme left and in between centrists.
For the first time, even an Arab group representing a segment of the Arab minority of Israel is now a part of the government in Israel, imparting religious and cultural diversity, besides political and ideological to the coalition.
In short, the coalition represents almost entire political spectrum of Israel. The situation fits into the proverbial saying: politics makes strange bedfellows. It also reminds of the political scenario in India in 1977 when the entire opposition came under the banner of Janata Party and achieved its sole objective of ousting then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, but fell under its own weight within a couple of years.
The coalition culture in Israel is a norm rather than exception. Yet the pertinent question is, will the new government be able to survive long enough? Will it be possible for the coalition to steer clear of its political and ideological differences and adhere to a common agreed plan of action?
On the presumption the new coalition government in Israel manages to stay in power for a while, it would be interesting to watch as to what positions will it be adopting on some of the key foreign policy issues, particularly the issues which have regional dimensions.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is strongly opposed to the idea of an independent State for Palestinians. Such an approach runs counter to the broad international consensus on the Two-State formula under which Palestine and Israel will both co-exist side by side as sovereign and independent States. Bennett is also said to be a hardliner on the issue of occupied territories. No tangible progress towards the resolution of decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict should thus be expected.
Naftali Bennet is also opposed to the prospects of a renewed deal between P5+ and Iran over the latter's nuclear programme. Some continuity in Israel's staunch anti-Iran policy can thus be expected. On the other hand, the probability of a hardliner being elected as Iran’s next President at the June 18 elections is high and this could further complicate the matters. We can therefore expect the stalemate in Israel-Iran relations to continue unabated; it may even worsen.
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In recent years, at the initiative of Benjamin Netanyahu, supported by the former US President Donald Trump, there was notable progress in the normalisation of relations between Israel and Arab countries. Within a span of one year in 2020, Israel established diplomatic relations with as many as four Arab League countries namely UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. The possibility of Israel normalising its relations with Saudi Arabia was also being speculated. Will the new government in Israel continue the process to ease tension in the region is something that remains to be seen.
Benjamin Netanyahu is out of power after an uninterrupted tenure of over a decade. Is this the end of his political career? Netanyahu’s Likud Party with 30 Seats is still the single largest party in Parliament but short of as many as 31 Seats to qualify to form a government on its own or in coalition with others. As a matter of fact, he was the first to be invited to form government after March 2021 elections but failed to put together enough numbers. More than the numbers, Netanyahu is undergoing a trial for charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career thus will depend much on the outcome of the judicial proceedings against him.
India’s relations with Israel have grown steadily, particularly in areas of defence and security, since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1992. PM Modi’s visit to Israel in July 2017 was a landmark event in more than one sense: it was the first-ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel since the proclamation of the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948. Being a standalone visit to Israel, it also signalled India’s decision to make a departure from the hyphenation in India’s policy towards Palestine and Israel. Much of the acceleration in bilateral relations in last five years is often attributed to interpersonal equations between PM Modi and PM Netanyahu.
Personalities do matter in international relations but at the end of the day national interests prevail. And the national interests of both Israel and India at the moment demand a continuity in relations guided by the desire for mutual benefits.
(Disclaimer: The views of the writer do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. Nor does WION or ZMCL endorse the views of the writer.)