July 31, 2021

In Israel, a government of strong individualities

In its excessiveness, its tensions, its dizzying diversity, the new Israeli government is representative of Israel. The vote of confidence in Parliament that gave birth to it, Sunday, June 13, confers only limited legitimacy: 60 votes out of 120 plus one abstention. No one knows how long this coalition of eight parties, which range from the extreme right to the left, will be able to live together.

It will surprise if it holds until 2023, when its point of equilibrium, the centrist Yaïr Lapid, for the time being Minister of Foreign Affairs, must succeed Naftali Bennett. The agreements they finalized on Friday do not set a program, but a vague gallery of aspirations. Already they are divided on a limit of the office of the Prime Minister to two terms or eight years, a measure that would prevent the return of Mr. Netanyahu. The veto rights they grant each other risk endangering the coalition at any time, or deprive her of leeway to manage day-to-day affairs.

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Pluralist access to the Western Wall

However, it is obvious to these 27 ministers, including nine women and at least one Arab – Issawi Frej, member of the left-wing Meretz party -, the Islamists of Mansour Abbas still having to decide on the modalities of their participation: Israel has not seen such a number of strong individuals, capable of influencing the government, since the second term of Benyamin Netanyahu (2009-2013).

The centrist general Benny Gantz gave up his ambition to succeed him, to remain in the ministry of defense. At his side, right-wing dissidents are carving out a good place for themselves. Avigdor Lieberman, the most experienced of them, promises to be the head of the finance ministry. This inflexible is in contra-employment: it will be up to him to negotiate within four months a two-year budget, which the country has lacked since 2020. “Only then will the Likud understand that it is in opposition”, notes a leading executive of Mr. Netanyahu’s party.

Mr. Lieberman, a secular activist, will also try to adopt a historic compromise on pluralist access by believers to the Western Wall, which Mr. Netanyahu had renounced in 2017, under pressure from his ultra-Orthodox allies. Strongly attacked by these parties, the government could open an investigation on Monday into the tragedy of Mont Méron, a place of pilgrimage where a stampede left 45 dead in April. But no one waits for him to fundamentally question the relationship between the State and the religious sphere.

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