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Israeli Elections and Netanyahu’s Return
Considering the cost. Binyamin Netanyahu (Ronen Zvulun/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli Elections and Netanyahu’s Return

Al-Etihad, UAE, September 25

Binyamin Netanyahu appears to be back in power as prime minister after Israeli President Reuven Rivlin charged him last week with the duty to form a new government. The decision came after negotiations between political parties to form a unity government failed. Before the Israeli president settled the scene and tasked Netanyahu with forming a government, there were three main possibilities: Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White bloc, which won 33 of 120 seats, would form a coalition of Israeli political and Palestinian-Israeli lawmakers. The second possibility is that Netanyahu, head of the Likud bloc, which won 31 seats, could form a counter-coalition from the political right with Jewish fundamentalists. The third scenario is that the two major blocs (Likud and Blue and White) would form a coalition despite the profound disagreements that exist between them. Some observers have suggested that Gantz might form a government with the support of Palestinian lawmakers, although it may weaken his popularity among Israelis who are hostile to Palestinians and who see their presence in the Knesset as an act of treason. On the other hand, the Palestinian presence in the political coalition will give the peace project that US President Donald Trump is planning to put on the table additional opportunity for success and acceptance among Palestinians and Arabs. Despite Netanyahu’s return to power, his era is over and he will not be able to continue his previous policies that dominated Israel and the region for nearly 13 years. Of course, the next Israeli government will remain fragile and vulnerable because it will inherently rely on a small parliamentary majority and different and even dissonant political groups and blocs. However, the elections certainly provide important indications of the political, social and cultural transformations in Israel and in the region as well. These elections may very well expose the predicament of the political Right that began to rise in the 1990s, and then won political and electoral victories in various parts of the world, especially after the global financial crisis that took place in 2008. As this crisis was brought about through globalization and liberal values, the counter-movement was that of nationalism and political conservatism. Despite the economic and political progress they have made over the past seven decades and the strength of the army and the country’s major economic, social and cultural institutions, the Israelis have not been able to form a national and social integration that accommodates all Jews belonging to diverse cultures, languages and ethnicities. Wars, conflicts, existential fears and threats seem to have helped Israelis unite in the face of danger and neutralize or postpone internal conflicts. But as most of Israel’s wars have come to an end, major fears have dissipated. The consequent result was the rise of sub-identities in Israeli society, similar to what is happening in other countries around the world. – Ibrahim Gharaibeh (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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