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New Israeli Government Gets Mixed Reviews

Israelis are in disagreement about the efficacy of the new rotation government, just a month and a half into its term.

After the fourth Israeli election in two years, a rotation government was approved on June 13, appointing Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid as rotating prime ministers, with the Yamina and Yesh Atid parties leading a coalition of eight disparate political parties representing the right, center and left of Israeli politics. Bennett was appointed to serve as Israel’s prime minister until 2023 after which Lapid will assume the role. However, the Israeli population appears divided in its opinion of the new government.

Bennett, who has been involved in politics since 2006, served in several political roles for former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, including as his chief of staff, and then as minister of economy and minister of religious services until 2015, after which he was appointed as education minister. After losing his seat in the Knesset in April 2019, Bennett was dismissed by Netanyahu until he regained his seat in September 2019 and subsequently took over as defense minister.

Since 2018, Bennett has led the New Right and Yamina parties and now has assumed the role of prime minister. However, despite his continuous involvement in politics, opinions vary about Bennett’s ability to run the country and work within a rotation government.

Efrat Even, a local resident of Jerusalem, said of Bennett that she “can only admire what he did” and told The Media Line that “Bennett’s actions can be a great lesson for the younger generations, showing them the concept of compromise and teamwork.”

Efrat Klein, 19, from Jerusalem told The Media Line that “Bennett is good, although he has represented the right in the past, he is now trying to find a balance between the right and left and represent the Israeli population rather than his own agenda.”

Naftali Bennett at his desk in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 14, 2021. (Amos Ben-Gershom /GPO)

Bennett is viewed by many as an ambitious individual and, according to Gideon Rahat, a professor of political science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a senior fellow on the Political Reform Program at the Israel Democracy Institute, “Bennett and his acts are with Israel’s best interests in mind. His success depends on whether or not he is successful enough at gathering all the different views within the government together.”

Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid is considered the “most influential” figure in the government by 26% of Israelis, and Bennett 19%, according to the Israel Democracy Institute’s Israeli Voice Index for June 2021, which interviewed a representative sample of 606 men and women in Hebrew and 155 in Arabic between July1-4.

Lapid, a former journalist and previous minister of finance of who is now serving as foreign affairs minister in the new government, is chairman of the Yesh Atid party – the centrist political party he founded in 2012.

The new rotation government has many strengths. One of these strengths, according to Rahat, is that “it combines numerous different political and social forces together.”

This, however, can also act as a challenge. Despite the great support for the new government, there are numerous concerns regarding its ability to function smoothly.

“The government’s success depends on whether they will be able to calm down the political sanctions and how they go about coping with the pandemic and the resulting social and economic implications,” Rahat told The Media Line.

He also said that Bennett’s and Lapid’s success “will also be shown by whether or not they can return Israel to a normal political path – whether they can hold for three years or a whole term.”

Yair Lapid arrives at the President’s Office in Jerusalem to receive the mandate to form a new government on May 5, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

The glue holding the government together, he said, “is the threat that Netanyahu will return,” which in turn encourages compromise between the conflicting parties.

Even told The Media Line that many “are concerned about the government’s ability to reach agreements due to their contradicting opinions regarding crucial topics such as security, peace and minorities” among others.

Another Jerusalem resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Media Line that he “foresees a bad future with the current government” and that there are fears that “the left side of the government will support terrorist groups,” namely Hamas, and that “the government will face challenges when it comes to issues surrounding the Arab sectors.”

Candice Jebreel is a student at IDC Herzliya and an intern in The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program.