On top of all the challenges that new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has already faced to try to hold together an unlikely, ideologically diverse ruling coalition, analysts say he must also deal with a concerted attempt by his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu to sabotage the work of government and bring it down.
On June 13, the Israeli parliament was sworn in new coalition of eight parties government – led by right-wing nationalist Bennett – introduced an alliance of left-wing, centrist and right-wing parties, as well as a party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel.
It brought an end to the 12-year-old prime minister of Netanyahu, the most dominant Israeli politician of his generation, who had failed to form a government after the March 23 Israeli elections – his fourth in two years .
Netanyahu is in the running corruption process, for accusations he denies, has only deepened his desperation to return to power, and as the new opposition leader of the Knesset and the leader of the Likud, the largest party in parliament, he and the his allies have used a series of political tactics to frustrate the government.
“Netanyahu and Likud are determined to undermine the ability of this government to function properly,” Robinson Divina, an emeritus professor at Morningstar of Jewish Studies at Smith College, told Al Jazeera.
“They are implementing every rule and procedure of the Knesset to oppose everything the government proposes.”
“They have added to the disorder in what is typically not an entirely civil discourse. So Netanyahu’s approach is to put in place all sorts of obstacles to the reforms and legislation that the coalition wants,” he said.
“Netanyahu has embraced three strategies in his desperate attempt to allow his own return to power and by doing so, perhaps, escape once again by facing an assortment of criminal charges against him,” Ian Lustick, Professor of Science Politicians at the University of Pennsylvania told Al Jazeera.
He said the first strategy is to use a variety of procedural devices, insults and personal stripes to create an image of the new government as illegitimate or fraudulent.
“This includes disrupting Knesset sessions, refusing until recently to leave the prime minister’s house, and insisting that his followers continue to refer to Netanyahu as prime minister,” Lustick said.
Netanyahu also undermined Bennett’s authority by acting as if he was still in power, even when he recently informed the public that he had called on the CEOs of pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Moderna to acquire new doses of COVID vaccine for Israel.
Afterwards, Lustick said Netanyahu and his allies were trying to use filibusters to frustrate and delay government legislation and to create tensions in the governing coalition by presenting a succession of bills on controversial issues aimed at exploiting their divisions. ideological; particularly among Bennett, a former colonist leader and hard-right religious nationalist who demanded the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank, and other parties.
“Legislative and political maneuvers are being deployed to create tensions in the governing coalition by raising issues related to issues such as establishments, the rights of [Palestinian citizens of Israel], or how vehemently he opposes the spread of the United States to Iran, which have the potential to tend the coalition by forcing it to unite on a position that both its left and right sides – or both – find difficult to be accepted, ”Lustick said.
Third, the opposition is also making efforts to cajole or invite coalition members, including Defense Minister Benny Gantz, to desert it in favor of an agreement that would result in a new government with Netanyahu.
United by ‘virulent antipathy’
The margin for error by the coalition is narrow and it has already suffered some major defeats in the Knesset, including lack the extension of a law which denies the rights of citizenship and residence to Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip who marry Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Netanyahu had previously supported the law but opposed its renewal during the vote in early July.
On the other hand, since he is a government of relatively inexperienced politicians, he made several mistakes during his first month in office – such as when Knesset President Mickey Levy accidentally voted against a project backed by the government.
“The coalition will have to become much more adept at working with procedures to demonstrate that it can govern,” Divina said.
“There is every incentive for all of them to quickly climb the steep learning curve if they want a political future in Israel.”
However, Lustick says the new government has also proven to be reasonably adept at challenging Netanyahu’s sabotage attempts and has sidelined controversial issues that could widen the fissures in the coalition.
“Although the coalition contains elements that occupy very different positions on the Israeli political spectrum, the problems that have traditionally defined that spectrum – what to do with the [occupied Palestinian] territories … and if you negotiate a two-state solution – they have been entirely removed from the agenda, ”Lustick said.
Crucially, the coalition was united by its common resentment towards Netanyahu.
“Government parties are united by a virulent antipathy to Netanyahu, by fear of the consequences of Likud’s return to power with his ultra-Orthodox allies, and by his desire, after so long in the political wilderness, to enjoy the benefits and power to occupy ministerial positions, ”Lustick said.
Uriel Abulof, an associate professor visiting Cornell University, told Al Jazeera that the coalition not only successfully navigated the traps and challenges posed by the opposition, but also had some success in explaining its own political agenda.
The coalition has launched bills aimed at advancing plans to tackle corruption and nepotism, alleviate the draconian limits of the agricultural sector and reform the trade bureaucracy.
“He not only survived, but he began to change the agenda and set some ambitious goals, explaining many much-needed reforms,” Abulof said.
“However, some critical mistakes – such as increasing the defense’s balance sheet – may compromise its prospects and appeal.”
The coalition will face a crucial test of return in November when the new budget needs to pass the Knesset – for which it requires a simple majority.
Abulof said Israel’s political system, while shaken after four elections in two years, has long faced aggressive tactics – even from Netanyahu himself as part of the opposition in the 1990s, when his conduct was “much more aggressive, and pejorative” – and the post-Netanyahu era offers opportunities to move to a less resentful, divided way of doing politics.
“Tribalism has reached its peak under Netanyahu. However, tribalism may begin to decline now, but much depends on the coalition’s ability to survive and offer a fresh and exciting vision for Israel, which embraces both. tribe and open a common path, ”Abulof said.
But Netanyahu should be able to continue to seek a return as prime minister, if possible, especially with the threat of imprisonment hanging over him.
“He will do everything he can to regain power,” Abulof said.