Conservative Years to Come?

By Mikaela Tenner Source: BBC

On May 7, within minutes of the legal deadline, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scraped together a government coalition. Netanyahu’s recent ideologically conservative stance made it highly difficult for him to form such a coalition, which ended up being composed of primarily extreme-conservative and religious parties. Netanyahu now moves into his third term with the smallest political coalition in Israeli history.

Israel is a parliamentary democracy system, with the government consisting of a Prime Minister, nine Deputy Ministers, and 12 Ministers. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has the power to dissolve the government at any time by a majority vote. Since dissolutions of the government occur irregularly, the terms of Israeli Prime Ministers have ranged from two months to four years. Upon election, Prime Ministers are given a set amount of time to form a coalition that passes the set threshold of votes.

Typically, the winner of the election is able to easily secure the minimum coalition. They often do so by promising Minister positions within their government to the leaders of ideologically similar parties, and by making policy concessions. However, although one in four Israelis voted for Netanyahu, forming a coalition did not come as it easily as it has in the past.

Over the course of his most recent term, Netanyahu became increasingly conservative, concerning some of the more central and left wing parties in Israel. He has expressed his opposition to the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state, a policy that he once supported.  He also encouraged the continued building of Israeli settlements, and advocated for official annexation of parts of the Palestinian territory. These issues sharply divide the Israeli public, as well as Israeli and Jewish individuals worldwide. The problem for Netanyahu is that these conservative views do not coincide with many of the other mainstream parties in Israel.

The Zionist Union, a more moderate party that gained 18 percent of the vote in the election, would have been an ideal party to join Netanyahu’s coalition. However, their primary platform in the recent election was to renew negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and to create permanent borders for Israel after these negotiations. Their goal is to base these borders off the combined “call for peace and good relations with our neighbors with the unambiguous definition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.”  Based on Netanyahu’s recent statements, it does not appear that he would work with the Zionist Union toward such a policy. In early May, it became clear that they would not join Netanyahu’s coalition. Former Zionist Union candidate for Prime Minister, Tzipi Livni, ruled out joining Netanyahu’s coalition, saying that her goal as a politician “is not to assume any kind of ministerial position, but rather to pursue an ideological path.”

Netanyahu’s conservative coalition could very likely be indicative of what is to come for Israel’s politics in the coming years. As his coalition stands, this could potentially mean no future talks with the Palestinian Authority and the continued building of Israeli settlement. Although these policies will surely please his conservative allies, Netanyahu needs to consider the implications that this could have on the future of the entire Israeli state. Without renewed negotiations, frustration and violence in the region will only continue. This past year, Israel has experienced countless terrorist attacks on their citizens, and without negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, these acts will likely only increase in number. The potential for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority should be seriously considered, not immediately rejected by the Israeli government.  If Netanyahu’s government really does want to see Israel work toward a more peaceful and secure future, then they desperately need to reevaluate their policies.