Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is working to officially dissolve his own government.
In a move seen by many as the climax of one of the most bizarre sagas in Israeli political history, the political coalition that has held a very slim majority in the K’nesset (Israeli parliament) for the past year is seeking to abruptly end its own rule and bring the Jewish state to yet another round of elections in three months.
But why on earth would the Israeli parliamentary coalition do that?
The answer is simple: because Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and his political allies are poised to legally take over the Israeli government and reinstate Netanyahu to his former role as prime minister. By dissolving the K’nesset, Bennett’s coalition is desperately attempting to thwart that move and go to new elections instead.
In order to comprehend this conundrum, the Israeli political model must be understood.
In a nutshell, Israel does not have a bipartisan system with separate chambers of government like the U.S. Rather, the executive (the prime minister) is the dominant member of the legislature (the K’nesset). Dozens of political parties of varying size compete to win as many of the available 120 parliamentary seats as possible.
After the election, the dominant parties (13 in the case of the last election in 2021) work to form a coalition of at least 61 seats to establish the majority. The prime minister is then selected from those 61 or more parliamentary members, called ministers of the K’nesset.
Until 2021, Netanyahu had dominated the K’nesset for over a decade. But last year’s elections were very different.
Although the clear majority (about 60 percent) of the Israeli population had voted for parties that leaned right — especially Netanyahu’s moderate right-wing Likud party — Netanyahu struggled to form a ruling coalition. Instead, the political parties divided themselves into two camps literally coined “the Netanyahu bloc” and the “anti-Netanyahu coalition.”
In a feat of political engineering that shocked the Jewish state, the anti-Netanyahu coalition managed to unify a medley of political parties of wholly conflicting ideologies for the sole purpose of ensuring that the incumbent Netanyahu and his bloc of allies were ousted and a left-leaning government was installed.
Unfathomably, a confederation was formed of parties including left-wing career politicians, far-left radicals, centrist Israel Defense Force generals, secular Russian-Jewish hyper-nationalists, an assortment of right-wingers who had recently turned against Netanyahu, and even Arabs with Israeli citizenship who proudly affiliated themselves with Hamas in Gaza and other terrorist organizations.
And Bennett, after running on a pro-Netanyahu ticket and securing a small number of seats and therefore leading one of the smallest parties in the K’nesset, betrayed both Bibi and his voters in exchange for the premiership.
Thus, although the clear majority of Israelis voted for right-wing candidates, the Israeli left welcomed the poorly performing Bennett into the fold. The result was a choice for prime minister that had most Israelis scratching their heads and that defied the most basic democratic principles of the Jewish nation.
For the past year, Bennett has allied himself with Yair Lapid from the primary left-wing party, Yesh Atid. Together they have struggled to keep the coalition alive through a variety of desperate and even questionable measures.
One such method involved approving funding amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars to the Israeli Arab sector after its political representatives froze their cooperation with the Bennett-Lapid coalition, risking the collapse of the K’nesset.
This is hardly the first time that the Israeli left has engaged in unscrupulous and undemocratic measures to gain or retain control of the Jewish state.
In a scandal only minimally reported in the U.S., the Obama administration provided taxpayer funding through organizations called OneVoice and V15 to meddle in Israeli elections and oust Netanyahu in 2015. The scheme failed (and according to some even backfired). Netanyahu remained in power, and the U.S. Senate investigated the matter and confirmed it as international election interference.
In a strategy that rings oddly similar to what former President Donald J. Trump famously refers to as legal “witch hunts,” Netanyahu was indicted in 2019 for a series of allegations of bribery and breach of trust. But the trial process has dragged on onerously and underwhelmed the Israeli population.
Instead of an eye-popping scandal, charges included Bibi’s rich friends giving him gifts of champagne, cigars and even Mariah Carey tickets. (After her disastrous New Year’s Eve performance ringing in 2017, it’s not clear how said Mariah Carey tickets could ever amount to a “bribe” of any kind.)
More pertinently, in February, it was revealed that the Israeli police illegally spied on Netanyahu’s son and aides by hacking cellphone data. Further, as Netanyahu’s defense deflected the accusations against the former prime minister, the prosecution requested to amend its indictment of Netanyahu to conveniently ignore the exonerating proof presented by Bibi’s defense just last month. The judges overseeing the legal proceedings were far from pleased with the request.
Now, after a year of jerry-rigging a K’nesset coalition, Bennett and Lapid are working to dismantle the government in order to force a new round of elections. Even if Netanyahu can’t secure the premiership beforehand, the former prime minister — who is polling well — very well might return to leadership within three months.
In agitated response, there is now discussion among Bibi’s opponents in the K’nesset of rapidly passing a law prohibiting anyone under a criminal indictment from forming a government — a move clearly designed to keep Netanyahu out of the premiership and/or prohibit the Israeli people from voting for the former prime minister with the longest tenure in Israeli history.
Regarding this proposed law preventing Netanyahu from becoming prime minister again, far-left K’nesset Minister Gaby Lasky declared, “There are times in a democracy when it is justified to impinge on the right to be elected in order to safeguard democracy.”
In other words, the left is seeking to diminish the voting rights of the sectors of the population that oppose them in an effort to “save democracy.”
Hmm… Now why does that sound so familiar?
“Witch hunt” show trials, illegal spying, media smear campaigns, efforts to prevent candidates from running for political office, thwarting democracy in order to “save” it… It appears that the old friends and allies, Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, may have more in common than we realized.