The most significant event in Israeli politics in 2021 was the formation of a government that for the first time had an independent Arab party in its coalition. The most significant event in Israeli politics in 2022 was the formation of a government that for the first time had a Kahanist party in its coalition.
Nations don’t change so drastically in the space of just 20 months. The same Israeli electorate that voted in the Bennett-Lapid government in March 2021 also voted in the Netanyahu government in November 2022. And just as some of those who voted for the eight parties that made up the first government were unhappy at the outcome and left frustrated that right-wingers such as Naftali Bennett and Gideon Sa’ar had broken their promise and joined a coalition with “leftists” and the United Arab List, not all those who voted for the Netanyahu bloc two months ago are satisfied now.
According to a poll on Channel 12 last Friday, only 41 percent of Israelis think the incoming government is a good one. Almost half (49 percent) think it’s bad and 10 percent don’t know.
Those who were eager to say a year ago that the kaleidoscope of parties that formed the previous government was the real Israel – a society where right, center, left and Islamists can overcome their differences and work together – were wrong. Israel isn’t there yet. Less than half the country wants such a government, though it was an important precedent that the coalition was formed and lasted a year.
And despite the new government’s majority in the Knesset (which is largely a result of Arab nationalists Balad and left-wing Meretz falling beneath the electoral threshold), most Israelis are unhappy about its ultra-religious and far-right dominance. Nearly one in five of those who voted for the parties now in power would have preferred to see other parties there as well.
The obvious conclusion is that it’s all Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fault. The eight parties in the previous government had only one thing uniting them: trying to keep him out of office. And if Netanyahu wasn’t facing criminal charges, at least some of the center-left parties who have vetoed him would now be sitting in his government, as they have in the past. And Otzma Yehudit would still be in the opposition, if in the Knesset at all.
The ultra-Orthodox parties would also have quite likely been in such a government, but they would have been less emboldened to demand, and receive, what they have in a different coalition – one where Netanyahu would have had more options and the moderating influence of centrists.
These are not hypothetical coalitions. These are the governments Netanyahu has formed in the past, until the impasse caused by his corruption case. If it wasn’t for the allegations against him, we would most likely have had very different governments to the current and previous ones.