Monday, June 27

Benjamin Netanyahu: Change in Israel | Opinion

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset (Parliament) on Monday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Knesset (Parliament) on Monday.MENAHEM KAHANA

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The pact of government reached in Israel by a heterogeneous coalition of eight parties constitutes for multiple reasons a healthy milestone for Israeli democracy. In the first place because, if the investiture is confirmed, the coalition would represent the departure of the Executive of Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 consecutive years as prime minister with a murky balance; secondly, because the pact revolutionizes a negative state of political paralysis that has forced four elections in just two years, exacerbating a terrible bloc polarization. Parties from the nationalist right, the reformist center, the classical left, and in an unprecedented and highly important development, also an Arab formation, converge in the coalition.

There is no doubt that the new governmental majority, in view of such ideological heterogeneity, will have enormous difficulties in its journey. It should not be ruled out that the resulting government, which will be presided over in a first period by the nationalist Naftali Bennett and in a later period by the centrist Yair Lapid, will finally be short-lived. In the event of survival, no substantial capacity for action can be expected on the essential issues of the Palestinian conflict, about which the allied parties hold different views. The reasonable thing is to expect an Executive focused on economic recovery and little else.

But the simple fact that all those parties have been able to crystallize with their agreement the conviction of the significant damage that Netanyahu was causing the country and its institutions constitutes an element of democratic hygiene that should be celebrated. The right-wing president – prosecuted for bribery, fraud and abuse of power – has twisted to the limit the normal institutional functioning of the country with the sole purpose of maintaining immunity from the courts. It will be good for Israel to answer in court, and it will also be good for Israel to leave behind a political action that, under the illusion of selling security – along with real economic progress – has fueled a dangerous frustration of the Palestinian population (which Hamas takes advantage without scruples) and a damaging deterioration of the international image of the country, won by the deepening of a practice of illegal occupation, with a discriminatory law of sovereignty and highly questionable military operations.

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As the repeated elections have shown, Israeli society is fragmented into a myriad of identity options with disparate approaches to the secularism of the State, the resolution of the Palestinian conflict or the role of the Arab-Israeli minority in society. The clashes between Arabs and Jews in different cities in Israel during the recent escalation between Israel and Hamas were disturbing. Therefore, we must celebrate the arrival of an Executive formed by such different sensitivities that it reactivates a culture of internal dialogue, that takes the country out of a constant campaign dynamic that has exacerbated differences and resentments.

We have to be realists. Netanyahu’s departure and the historic formation of a government – pending the vote in Parliament – so diverse and with an Arab party will not lead to a Copernican turn. But it is an opportunity to move away from a dark political stage and reconsider approaches that, contrary to what Netanyahu maintains, have not benefited Israel.

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