Will Netanyahu return?
The parliamentary math means that the right-wing parties have to make the hard choice between sticking with Netanyahu and finding partners from the center and the left. There is no conservative majority without Netanyahu’s Likud party — and there are large ideological differences between the right and the center-left, especially on Palestinian issues.
Those differences help explain why it took so long to arrive at last night’s outcome. Israel has held four elections since 2019, with the first three ending in failed attempts to form a lasting government.
“The political crisis in Israel is unprecedented on a global level,” Bennett said in a speech on Sunday. “We could end up with fifth, sixth, even 10th elections, dismantling the walls of the country, brick by brick, until our house falls in on us. Or we can stop the madness and take responsibility.”
Over the last few days, factions from the right, center and left decided that they wanted to be done with Netanyahu. They agreed to a power-sharing agreement in which Bennett and his nationalist Yamina party would hold the prime minister’s position for the first half of the four-year term, to be followed by Yair Lapid, of the centrist Yesh Atid party, who would hold it for the second half.
To keep the coalition together, they have vowed to avoid new policies on Israeli-Palestinian issues at the beginning and to focus on areas where compromise seems more plausible, like education and infrastructure. “The roads are snarled in traffic, the intensive-care units were overwhelmed even before the pandemic, the schools are among the developed world’s worst,” David Halbfinger, a former Times Jerusalem bureau chief, says.
Personal ambition also plays a role. Bennett and Lapid each get the chance to become prime minister, even though their parties won only seven and 17 seats, respectively, in the 120-seat Parliament, known as the Knesset.