Israel’s Governing Coalition Struggles with Inexperience and Growing Pains

July 21 2021

Last week, one of the Bennett-Lapid government’s key bills failed to pass by a single vote—because the speaker of the Knesset accidentally voted the wrong way. Previously, an even more important piece of legislation, necessary to maintain the coalition, couldn’t be advanced due to the absence of a quorum. These were just two of several setbacks in the past week, and speak to the fragility of a fissiparous coalition with a thin majority in the Knesset. But that’s not the only reason for these woes, explains Haviv Rettig Gur:

The Likud-led opposition is part of the story. It has adopted a scorched-earth strategy in the Knesset, voting against every bill and measure irrespective of its substance, on the principle that denying the coalition successes is the priority. . . . Yet the failures last week weren’t really the opposition’s fault. The coalition had the numbers, but couldn’t marshal and manage them effectively.

Some of these growing pains are expected. As noted by many, the coalition chair, the Yamina party’s Idit Silman, is one of the least experienced coalition whips in the Knesset’s history. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story. . . . After twelve years of mostly Likud rule, the opposition parties are mostly parliamentary neophytes. New Hope’s cadre of grizzled ex-Likudniks aside, the new government is the first experience in power for most coalition members.

The experience deficit runs from the very top to the very bottom. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid have both spent the past few years famously uninvolved in parliamentary wheeling and dealing. Bennett has been a cabinet minister for nearly the entirety of the past eight years, while Lapid left his party’s legislating to backbenchers. Bennett and Lapid, then, are nearly as unfamiliar with the Knesset’s ways and procedures as the neophyte Silman. There’s a parliamentary leadership vacuum at the heart of the new coalition.

What happened last week wasn’t a strategic setback, only a tactical one. The coalition can make up much of the lost ground relatively easily. . . . Still, there’s precious little wriggle room going forward. There are scarcely two weeks left until the early-August cabinet vote on the state budget law. . . . If the budget law doesn’t pass by November 4, then by law the Knesset dissolves to new elections.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israeli politics, Knesset, Naftali Bennett

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship