JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year hold on power ended on Sunday after a parliamentary vote on a new coalition government headed by a right-wing hawk.
Embattled Netanyahu earlier vowed that “if it’s our destiny to be in the opposition, we’ll do so with our heads high until we take down this bad government and return to lead the country our way.”
Khaled Elgindy, nonresident fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, told Arab News: “Netanyahu might be down but he’s not out.”
Elgindy said Netanyahu and his supporters “will do everything they can to bring down this highly fragile (new) government whether it takes a week, a month or a year.”
The new Cabinet was cobbled together by centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid and ultranationalist Naftali Bennett.
The latter, a hawkish hi-tech millionaire, is likely to serve as prime minister for two years before former TV host Lapid takes over.
Wadi Abunassar, director of the Haifa-based International Center for Consultation, told Arab News that it is difficult to talk of the “end of the Netanyahu era” because he is expected to be the leader of an aggressive opposition.
“Many things could happen in the Israeli political arena, including the collapse of the Bennett-Lapid government,” said Abunassar.
Celebrations by Netanyahu’s opponents to mark the end of his premiership began outside his official residence in Jerusalem, the site of weekly protests for the past year.
Dimitri Diliani, spokesman for the Democratic Reform Current — a Palestinian movement — told Arab News that the new Israeli government was not born out of a struggle between pro- and anti-peace camps.
“In general, both the previous government and the newly sworn-in one are in favor of expanding settlements and further Israelization of Palestinian Jerusalem, and against the two-state solution,” he said. “Palestinians aren’t placing any hope or expecting any change in policies concerning them.”
Bennett, a former defense minister, has promised that “Israel won’t let Iran have nuclear weapons.”
But Netanyahu said “Iran is celebrating” the prospect of a “dangerous” and weak new government.
It is the most unusual of coalitions, spanning the spectrum of Israeli Zionist parties and including Ra’am, an Arab party.
Mansour Abbas, head of Ra’am, succeeded in getting $16 billion pledged for Arab communities and recognition of a number of Bedouin towns in southern Israel.
Aaron David Miller, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told Arab News: “From his perspective, Netanyahu’s most stunning achievement was his success in expanding Israel’s relations in Asia, Africa, Latin America and with great powers, while expanding settlements and putting the Palestinian issue in the deep freeze.”