Politics, World, Middle East

Netanyahu faces challenge to form coalition at dawn of possible 5th election

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc has failed to win 61 seats in Knesset required to form a government

Burak Dag   | 26.03.2021
Netanyahu faces challenge to form coalition at dawn of possible 5th election

ANKARA 

As Israel's fourth election in two years is over, Netanyahu finds himself facing another challenge to form a coalition to prevent the fifth election.

Describing the new equation in Israeli politics as "Plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose, namely 'the same old story'," Fatih Semsettin Isik, the deputy researcher at the TRT World Research Centre, said: "It seems that Netanyahu is less happy than his previous victories since he still needs to receive support from other parties, which is a matter of question."

To prevail against his rivals in the coalition talks, Isik said that Benjamin Netanyahu would do his best to convince Yamina leader Naftali Bennett to join his cabinet.

Leading the right-wing Yamina Party, which backs the annexation of West Bank, Bennett had been in Netanyahu's coalition cabinet that was collapsed in 2018.

However, the main question is whether Netanyahu will resort to talking with United Arab List (Ra'am) leader Mansour Abbas for the missing one or two seats to achieve a majority to form the coalition he said.

Such a scenario, which is risky for Netanyahu, would be opposed by Netanyahu's natural allies Shas, UTJ and Religious Zionism, Isik added.

He went onto say that Israel's longest-serving prime minister, for this reason, "may try to convince some possible defectors from other parties like Sa'ar's New Hope."

Surprisingly, the election results pushed Ra'am, which was founded on Jan. 28, 2021, after splitting from the Joint List, into Knesset.

Pointing out that although it is a challenging task for Netanyahu to come through coalition talks, Isik underlined that Netanyahu's cabinet "would probably be the most right-wing government in Israel's history, which further complicates the Palestinian issue."

Anti-Netanyahu bloc's chances of forming coalition

Touching upon the anti-Netanyahu bloc's chances of forming a coalition, Isik said that the only thing all anti-Netanyahu parties have in common is their opposition to Netanyahu.

"They need more common points to run a government for at least 2-3 years. You cannot rule a whole country by just defaming Netanyahu and you have to create policies for running an effective government," he said.

Furthermore, these parties lag behind the parliamentary majority to form a coalition and need the support of the Joint List and Ra'am, he said.

He underlined that some party leaders in the anti-Netanyahu camp, like Lieberman, see Arabs as "the enemy of the state", and Benny Gantz would oppose seeking Arab parties' support.

"If anti-Netanyahu bloc can miraculously form a government, this will be an interesting government with parties from center, left and right, which might not be a long-serving one," he added.

Drawing attention to Religious Zionism and Benny Gantz's Blue and White, both overachieved in the elections, Isik said Religious Zionism has won more seats than expected in the polls and became a significant component for determining the future of a right-wing cabinet in Israel.

He said that by getting ahead of Bennett, Sa'ar and some other leaders from the anti-Netanyahu bloc, Benny Gantz proved that "he has a strong voter base in Israeli society despite his frustrating strange partnership with Netanyahu in the previous government."

Regarding Sa'ar's performance in the election, who is in the anti-Netanyahu camp, Isik indicated, "Sa'ar seems as he couldn't protect the momentum during the initial stages of his journey with New Hope."

"Bennett, meanwhile, introducing himself as "prime minister candidate," possibly understood that he still needs Netanyahu's approval for his dream."

Israel's foreign policy

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Selim Han Yeniacun, researcher at the Shanghai University's Center for Global Governance, also said that the new coalition government would highly likely be under the leadership of Netanyahu.

"Although this last election shows that Netanyahu maintains his position, the excessive division in the pro-Netanyahu front raises questions about how he will establish a government," he said.

Yeniacun also underlined that it wouldn't be wrong to say that Netanyahu supporters have never let down Israel's longest-serving prime minister in the last two years.

Ra'am, participating in the election as the United Arab List by breaking up from the Joint List, was the only fraction that Netanyahu supported in the name of splitting the left and Arab bloc before the election, it turned into a party that Netanyahu has to negotiate to reach 61 seats, he said.

Regarding the possible changes in Israel's foreign policy, Yeniacun said that issues related to the government's stabilization would determine the steps to be taken in the foreign policy.

"If we assume that Netanyahu will try to recruit a few deputies from the left-wing and if this not happens, he will include Ra'am into the game, it is possible to say that a more stable foreign policy will be pursued compared to the previous government. The most important reason for this is the fact that the foreign ministry and the prime minister's offices will be managed by the elements that will act jointly in foreign policy," he said.

Yeniacun also said, "Frankly, if you consider the presence of Ra'am in a possible coalition along with the UAE influence in the Palestine elections -- which is rumored for a while -- it will allow Netanyahu to draw a much more positive image to the international public."

Turkey-Israel relations

Yeniacun also indicated that in the case of a more stable Netanyahu-led coalition, the steps could be taken to normalize the relations.

If Netanyahu doesn't have another early election fear, he will stop exploiting Turkey as an election material, Yeniacun stressed.

Regarding the relations between Turkey and Israel, Isik also said, "Israeli security-elite still wants to increase cooperation with a NATO-ally Turkish army that proved his capacity and efficiency in Syria, Eastern Mediterranean and other regional conflicts."

Preliminary results of Israel's general elections show that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bloc has failed to win 61 seats in Knesset (Israel's parliament) required to form a government.

According to exit polls, the pro-Netanyahu bloc won 52 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

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