- Norberto Paredes @norbertparedes
- BBC News World
An eight-party coalition achieved this Sunday what seemed impossible just a couple of weeks ago: overthrowing Benjamin Netanyahu, who was in command of Israel for twelve years.
While the alliance is led by Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Yamina party, the new coalition – which has been described as historic because it includes almost the entire Israeli political spectrum – has a member who has attracted the attention of many and has raised several questions.
It is the United Arab List party, known by its Hebrew acronym Ra’am, which has become the first Arab political group to come to power in Israel’s history.
Bennett, who will serve until September 2023, promised that his government “will work for the good of all people“.
But the inclusion of the Ra’am and non-Arab Israeli left-wing parties suggests that there could be disagreements on both political and social issues.
While some within the coalition want to further promote the rights of the Israeli LGBT + community, such as recognition of same-sex marriages, the Ra’am, a party that defines itself as Islamist, strongly opposes such an approach. .
On the other hand, Yamina and Nueva Esperanza, another right-wing party, are staunch defenders of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, something the Ra’am strongly condemns.
Representatives of the Palestinian Authority have assured that the appointment of Bennett as the new prime minister is an internal Israeli matter, but they have reiterated their position on the Palestinian issue.
“What we want is a Palestinian state with the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem as its capital, “said shortly after the news of the formation of the new government, a spokesman for the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.
For his part, Netanyahu gave a farewell speech in which he disparaged the coalition and assured that it would be unable to maintain its record of economic growth and relative peace.
“I will return,” promised the now ex-president before the chamber of legislators.
“Try to ruin our wonderful economy as little as possible so we can fix it as quickly as possible when we get back.”
The government of change?
For some, the new coalition represents a hope that Israeli Arab citizens, who make up about 20% of Israel’s population, can have more voice and vote in the political life of the country.
The leader of the Ra’am, Mansour Abbas, had previously said that it would support the new government only if it granted more resources and attention to the Arab minority.
But most international observers do not believe that will happen, for now.
During the negotiations to form the new government, the issue of the people in the West Bank or the peace process did not come up, nor was there talk of stopping the advance of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
“In terms of the so-called peace process, nothing is actually expected,” sums up Issam Ikirmawi, editor of the BBC’s Arab service and a former correspondent in Jerusalem.
“The members of the coalition focused on discussing internal social issues in the negotiations. The main problem for this new government was get rid of Benjamin NetanyahuThat is why they christened it ‘the government of change’ “.
For many it will be just a change of government. Hopes for change regarding the treatment of Israeli Arabs could disappoint many enthusiasts.
“A groove in the first concrete wall”
However, some celebrate that it is a first step.
According to journalist Merav Batito, from the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, the inclusion of Ra’am in the agreement represents the possibility of a return to normality of the local society.
“A slot has been made in the first concrete wall built between Arabs and Jews by Parliament, deep within Israeli society,” he wrote.
But for Issam Ikirmawi, Ra’am was called into the coalition “only because they needed the numbers.”
The Israeli Parliament approved the formation of the new government by just 60 votes in favor and 59 against. Without the four seats of the Ra’am, a change of government would not have been possible.
This tight result indicates that the Bennett administration will have to be cautious and will not be able to take highly controversial action.
According to the journalist, it is a government that hangs by a thread and that could collapse “at any moment” before any disagreement.
Previously, Israeli Arabs held 15 seats in Parliament under a political alliance that was dubbed the Joint List, made up of the four largest Arab parties.
They became the third most important political force in Parliament.
“Not an inch of Earth”
But at the beginning of the year, one of its four members, the Ra’am, decided to make a separate list for the March elections, obtaining the 4 seats that now served the coalition.
For its part, the Joint List won six seats and is quite critical of the coalition.
“The Ra’am was invited out of sheer necessity, not because they intend to give Israeli Arab citizens greater equality“, insists Issam Ikirmawi.
Most international observers agree that in reality the measures and policies of the Bennett government will not be much different from those of Netanyahu.
“Bennett shares the same position on the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, on the Jewish identity of the state, and many other things,” explains Ikirmawi.
Bennet is known for his intransigence, for opposing a Palestinian state, supporting more settlements in the occupied territories, and he does not intend to give the Palestinians any kind of concessions.
In February of this year, he assured in an interview that “as long as he has some power and control”, he will not deliver “a centimeter of land From Israel”.
This Sunday many celebrated the announcement of Netanyahu’s departure on the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, dreaming of “the beginning of a new Israel”, but Bennett’s rhetoric – so similar to that of his predecessor – seems to indicate that, if there are changes, they will not be so profound.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.