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Netanyahu on Verge of Losing Power

Left and right team up to oust the man who has ruled Israel for twelve years.

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a security check point in the West Bank, February 6, 2020 (GPO/Haim Zach)

Benjamin Netanyahu is finally on the way out after clinging to power through four elections in two years.

The Likud party leader has been Israel’s prime minister since 2009 following a three-year term in the 1990s.

He is facing trial on three charges of bribery and fraud, has disparaged journalists, vilified prosectors and judges, and politicized Israel’s vital relationship with the United States. Republicans adore Netanyahu, but Democrats have become less unanimous in their support of his country.

It’s why I’ve urged his rivals to do a deal with Arab parties, who have been largely excluded from power in the Jewish state. To deny Netanyahu a sixth term requires breaking that taboo.

Hodgepodge

The United Arab List, or Ra’am, holds the balance of power in the Knesset with four out of 120 seats. It is seeking additional funding for public services in the Arab-dominated cities of northern Israel, as well as protections for Bedouin living in the Negev desert, in return for its support.

The anti-Netanyahu coalition would consist of seven parties in addition to Ra’am, spanning the political spectrum from far left to hard right: the liberal Yesh Atid with seventeen seats, the centrist Blue and White with eight, the right-wing Yamina, Labor and conservative Yisrael Beiteinu with seven each, and the center-right New Hope and far-left Meretz with six each.

Under the tentative agreement, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, a former Netanyahu ally, would serve as prime minister until September 2023 before handing the reins to Yesh Atid‘s Yair Lapid. Although it is doubtful their hodgepodge coalition will survive that long.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, the former Israeli army chief, would remain defense minister.

Desperate

A desperate Netanyahu offered Bennet and New Hope leader Gideon Sa’ar, a Likud defector, a three-way rotating premiership on Sunday. Both turned him down, but Netanyahu needs to pry away only one of their lawmakers to deny Bennett and Lapid a majority.

That still wouldn’t give Netanyahu a majority of his own. The Joint List, the more left-leaning Arab party, with six seats, has refused to join either coalition. They could support the liberal Lapid, but not the nationalist Bennett, who is a defender of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Netanyahu has the support of Jewish Orthodox parties as well as the xenophobic Religious Zionist Party, giving him 52 seats.

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