© Reuters. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett holds the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 12, 2022. Maya Alleruzzo/Pool via REUTERS
By Maayan Lubell
JERUSALEM (Reuters) – One year after ending the record reign of Benjamin Netanyahu following months of political turmoil, Israel’s fragile coalition government is teetering on the edge of collapse, raising the prospect of a snap election in the coming months.
Pointing to achievements including boosting economic growth and eliminating the budget deficit, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Sunday vowed to fight for the survival of their unlikely coalition of right-wing, liberal and Muslim Arab parties.
“We’re marking a year since the establishment of the national salvation government. Any honest person would admit that this is one of the country’s best governments, which leans on one of the most difficult coalitions the Knesset has ever known,” Bennett said in broadcast remarks at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting.
“We will not despair and we will not break.”
The hawkish Bennett, 50, and 58-year-old centrist Lapid ended Netanyahu’s record 12-year reign in June 2021 after the fourth election in two years.
But with a razor-thin majority, and deeply divided over major issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the coalition has struggled to hold together, and analysts predict a resounding crash.
After losing the support of two members of his own right-wing Yamina alliance over the past year, Bennett found himself in control of only 60 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers, with another member now wobbling.
And since a flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence in March, Lapid has been struggling to contain tensions in his camp with two Knesset members from Israel’s Arab minority, many of whom identify with the Palestinians.
The result has been a series of defeats in key parliamentary votes, most recently on rolling over a law ensuring that Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, formally under military jurisdiction, are covered by Israeli civil law.
The measure, which is likely to be brought back, would normally enjoy broad support and the loss underlined the fragility of the government; Bennett’s own party is close to the settler movement.
The most likely scenario may be an election between December and April, according to public broadcaster Kan’s leading political analyst, Yoav Krakovsky, who has described the government as “passing the time for the sake of buying time”.
Netanyahu, now leader of the opposition, is at present on trial for corruption, an allegation he denies. A final verdict is unlikely in the coming year and he has vowed to make a comeback despite his legal troubles.