Israeli turmoil gives political lifeline to besieged Prime Minister Netanyahu
TEL AVIV – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is pushing for an aggressive campaign against Hamas, targeting its leadership, strategic infrastructure and military sites to deter the militant group from continuing its attacks on Israel. The operation could help Mr. Netanyahu’s other vital objective of staying in power.
A week earlier, Mr. Netanyahu’s opponents were set to topple him and form a new government, potentially ending the reign of the country’s oldest leader as he faces corruption charges. He denies wrongdoing.
But the last six days of national unrest has offered the Israeli prime minister a political lifeline. When Arab parties and a right-wing politician withdrew from talks this week to join or support a rival coalition, the threat to topple Mr. Netanyahu appeared to crumble.
“Netanyahu has always thrived in environments of uncertainty, chaos and crisis,” said Mitchell Barak, an Israeli pollster and director of Keevoon Global Research, who worked as an assistant to Mr. Netanyahu in the 1990s. essentially goes from crisis to crisis. ”
Even before the recent conflict and internal tensions, Mr. Netanyahu had to cross the country through a difficult year. Israel had one of the worst coronavirus rates per capita before a successful vaccination campaign; its economy has been hit by shutdowns linked to a pandemic; and he confronted Iran, hitting his allies in Syria and his ships at sea.
On Saturday, Israel and Hamas continued to exchange heavy fire. In Gaza, around 140 people have been killed since Monday, including 39 children, according to the Gaza health ministry. Eleven Israelis died in rocket and missile attacks, including a child. Israel said it killed at least 75 Hamas operatives.
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Violence between Jews and Israeli Arabs also continued overnight, with a 12-year-old Israeli Arab boy hospitalized after being hit with a Molotov cocktail in Jaffa, Israel, according to a spokesperson for Sheba hospital. . Demonstrations are planned for Saturday in the West Bank on the occasion of Nakba Day, the annual event marking the displacement of Palestinians in 1948, as well as on the Lebanese and Jordanian borders. Eleven Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank on Friday.
Amid the turmoil, Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party re-launched negotiations with Yamina, the party of right-wing politician Naftali Bennett that has moved away from a potential unity government with centrist Yair Lapid and Arab parties in support. Mr Bennett has changed course amid the community violence sweeping the country, according to a person close to him.
“Given the current emergency in mixed cities of Israel, the government of change … would not be able to cope with the situation,” Bennett told Associates, according to the person.
Mr. Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, has a mandate to form a government until June 2. He said he was still looking to concoct a government and would support a fifth election, if necessary, to replace Mr. Netanyahu.
“Bennett is wrong,” Lapid said after his former political partner changed course. “I will continue to turn every stone to form a government.”
If Mr. Lapid fails, the mandate goes to the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The Knesset would then have three weeks to present a candidate for prime minister. If that also fails, Israel will head for a fifth election in two years. In the meantime, Mr. Netanyahu will remain in power for at least several more months.
Mr Netanyahu has an added incentive to stay in power, as testimony in his trial on charges of corruption, fraud and breach of trust is ongoing. He sought to build a right-wing religious coalition that could help him pass a law to better protect him against these accusations.
Even with Mr Bennett’s return to his camp, Mr Netanyahu faces the same challenges he faced after the March vote – he does not yet have the numbers to form a majority coalition of 61 seats.
Mr Netanyahu is hoping to convince Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz, who formed a short-lived unity government with him after a vote in March 2020. Analysts noted the close cooperation between the two during the military operation as a basis for future collaboration. So far, Mr. Gantz has kept his promises to no longer join Mr. Netanyahu.
Mr. Gantz is among Israeli leaders across the political spectrum who have aligned themselves against Mr. Netanyahu, leaving him in much the same place as before the recent fighting. Mr Netanyahu failed to form a government after the last election, and since then he has been unable to come up with a new formula that would allow him to remain prime minister even if he had the chance to try again said Dahlia Scheindlin. , pollster and political analyst.
“Developments on the ground are getting more extreme but the same political quagmire or Gordian knot remains,” she said. “Nothing is over until it’s here.”
Write to Felicia Schwartz at email@example.com
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