Updated: June 5, 2021 9:45:29 am
Benjamin Netanyahu, who has served five terms as Israel’s Prime Minister, has finally been outmanoeuvred from office by a coalition of rivals and opponents, heralding both change and more uncertainty in the region. The leader of the Likud Party was unable to stitch up enough numbers for a majority in the 120-member Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, after a third inconclusive election in March. As Opposition leader Yair Lapid started putting together a coalition to replace Netanyahu, it was believed the 11-day war with Gaza would help tilt the scales in favour of the prime minister. But after more than a month of shifting allegiances and compromises, Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party and Naftali Bennett of the right-wing Yamina have joined hands together with six other parties including the leftist Labor, an Israeli Arab party pushing for gay rights, and another headed by the present defence minister Benny Gantz among others. This ideologically diverse coalition already has more critics than any new government should have to deal with. Security for Bennett, the prime minister designate, has been increased. The coalition will take office on June 14, and a week is a long time in politics.
From what is known about the coalition, the prime ministership is to be shared by Bennett and Lapid for two years each. While Bennett opposes the two-state solution and favours the annexation of West Bank, Lapid believes in a two-state solution. The Palestinians are understandably unimpressed. After the trauma of the 1948 partition in which they were virtually evicted from their own home, they have seen their territory shrink and turn into a patchwork of Jewish settlements. The Palestinian Authority had severed ties with the Trump Administration for its identification with Netanyahu. Not having to deal with “Bibi”, at least for now, must be a relief for the Biden administration. But a fractious Israeli coalition is hardly the ideal stage for a revival of the peace process. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has already made his first visit to Israel. The wider region, including Iran, is watching.
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will miss his “good friend” Bibi, but no government is forever, and Delhi will have its diplomatic leg work cut out with the incoming dispensation. It may help that some of its leading lights were also members of the last government. India does a clumsy balancing act between Israel and Palestine, as its abstention at the recent voting at the UN Human Right Council shows. Both sides see it for what it is.
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