Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)
- Benjamin Netanyahu’s rivals reached a deal to oust him as Israel’s prime minister on Wednesday.
- He’s been in power 12 years, longer than any other leader in Israel’s history.
- Naftali Bennett, a far-right nationalist, is poised to take over.
- See more stories on Business Insider SA’s home page.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s opponents on Wednesday reached a deal to oust him as Israel’s prime minister, with the far-right leader Naftali Bennett set to replace him as part of a power-sharing deal with centrist Yair Lapid.
The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, must still ratify the agreement in a confidence vote, which could happen in the next few days.
The fragile coalition formed to boot Netanyahu is made up of eight political parties across the political spectrum and includes an Arab bloc. Despite their diverging interests and agendas, the parties came together to push Netanyahu out after more than a decade in power. The negotiations to form a unity government came down to the wire, with an agreement reached just hours before a midnight deadline. If the parties failed to reach a deal it could’ve pushed Israel into its fifth elections in just two years, prolonging a political deadlock.
Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving leader, has taken a hawkish stance toward Palestinians that’s created tensions with the US at times. In the weeks leading up to Netanyahu’s potential ouster, fighting between Israel and Hamas led to over 250 deaths – predominantly Palestinians – and left parts of Gaza in ruins.
On top of being on the verge of getting pushed out, Netanyahu has significant legal woes. He was charged with bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in 2019 and his trial is ongoing. Netanyahu pleaded not guilty and has dismissed the charges as part of a politically-motivated “witch hunt,” borrowing from the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump.
Trump and Netanyahu had a close relationship. The former president’s approach to US-Israel relations was typified by actions that favored Netanyahu’s agenda and boosted his political profile, including recognising the Golan Heights as part of Israel and declaring that the US no longer viewed Israeli settlements as inconsistent with international law. These controversial moves went against decades of US policy and undermined the US government’s longstanding goal of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.
President Joe Biden’s approach to US-Israel relations has essentially marked a return to US policy prior to the Trump era. Biden has continued to treat Israel as a close ally. During the recent fighting with Hamas, the president touted Israel’s right to self-defense and initially tiptoed around endorsing a cease-fire.
Progressive Democrats ripped into Biden over his response to the fighting, urging him to show more concern for Palestinians. Israeli airstrikes leveled residential buildings in Gaza. The fighting killed 254 Palestinians, including at least 66 children, according to Gaza’s health ministry. Twelve people, including two children, were killed in Israel.
After the cease-fire was implemented, Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to the Middle East and announced the US would provide more assistance to Palestinians and reopen a consulate in Jerusalem to handle Palestinian affairs. Meanwhile, progressives continue to push for Biden to condition aid to Israel in relation to the peace process and Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.
Though there’s a growing rift in the Democratic party over US-Israel relations, the dynamic between the two countries is not expected to change dramatically under new leadership. But if Bennett attempts to move forward with plans to annex much of the West Bank, which would be in violation of international law, it could put Biden in a tough position.