The Government of Impossible Balances: Scenarios and Policies

This paper addresses the scenarios after the Knesset and the left-wing Meretz Party member, Ghaida Zoabi's, resigned from Israel's government coalition, then retracted her resignation, as well as the

  • Publisher – STRATEGIECS
  • Release Date – Jun 8, 2022


As soon as the Israeli Knesset recess ended on May 7, 2022, Naftali Bennett's government managed to escape two no-confidence motions submitted by Likud and Shas, thanks to a vote of no-confidence in the Joint Arab List, which was keen to "prevent Benjamin Netanyahu's return to power". However, such temporary survival mainly came amidst a political crisis that is plaguing the ruling Coalition, after the decision of Yemina Party member in the Knesset, Idit Silman, to withdraw from the Coalition in order to maintain Israel's "Jewish identity" according to her, protesting the Israeli Ministry of Health violation to the teachings of Jewish Law at Easter. This decision was highly welcomed by the opposition leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, who described this decision as a return to "the Land of Israel and the national camp".

Silman's withdrawal puts Israel's government Coalition in a state of swinging, because the Coalition lost the absolute majority, as 60 out of its 120 members of parliament remained. This withdrawal also opened the door to increased possibilities of no-confidence motion in the government headed by Right Party leader Naftali Bennett, consequently, heading towards early elections, which, if held, would be the fifth in three years.

But the issue is not only on Silman's resignation. Knesset member of the Left-Wing Meretz party, Ghaida Zoabi, announced on May 19, 2022, her resignation "on ideological grounds" related to the escalation of violence on the Temple Mount, as well as the harsh methods used by the Israeli police at the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shirin Abu Aqla, as indicated in Zoabi's resignation letter. This resignation was retracted three days later "after great pressure from Arab authorities leaders" in Israel, as Zoabi noted.

Zoabi's resignation then her retraction reveals the fragility of the government Coalition, a situation that may be repeated at any moment, given the readiness of Netanyahu's opposition to submit proposals to dissolve the Knesset, which was expected to happen if Zoabi did not withdraw her resignation, the matter that places the government Coalition in front of two scenarios in the next stage.

Next Stage Scenarios

The first scenario is that the opposition, in the near future, will not be able to overthrow the government, which may maintain the support of 60 MPs, especially after Mansour Abbas announced at a press conference that his list "will give the government another chance to cooperate", and that "the Unified Arab List does not want another round of elections". This may be enhanced after Zoabi retracted her resignation.

Therefore, the current government seems remaining, but in a “status of paralysis” due to its inability to pass new legislations as per the Knesset law. This will ignite the crisis again when the current government may submit a new law draft. As for the second scenario, it is the success of the opposition in passing dissolving the Knesset draft law, as a result of the escalating disputes within the government Coalition. In this case, we may see a transitive government, headed by Yair Lapid, for a period of no less than six months.

In the first scenario case, a question is raised regarding the government’s policies during the next period. Those policies are governed by a set of detriments resulted by the nature of the ruling Coalition, mainly:

First: the detriment related to right-wing Yemina Party, with its seven seats in the Knesset, supported by the settlers, and led by Bennet, who is the former general director of Settlements Council. Yemina Party suffers a severe internal crisis after the Knesset MP, Idit Silman withdrew from the government Coalition, and after suspending the MP Amichai Chikli from the Party. In addition to the increase of disputes with the Minister of Interior, Ayelet Shaked, her deputy, Avira Chra, and MP Uri Urbach, who have far right and severely criticizing stances against the Party’s leader and the prime minister.

Second: The detriment related to the Unified Arab List, headed by Mansour Abbas, which has four seats in the Knesset. It is a subsidiary of the Islamic Movement/South Wing, which, despite its participation in the coalition to serve "the interests of the Arab community on, socio-economic, political, and educational various issues " faced a major internal crisis after the events at the Al-Aqsa Mosque took place, after which its membership in the Coalition was frozen by a decision of the Islamic Shura Council during the last Knesset recess.

Third: the detriments related to the rest of the Coalition parties, and their ability to meet their demands and satisfy their voters, like: the liberal party (Yesh Atid) Party, headed by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, which holds 17 seats in the Knesset. The center-right Blue and White Party, headed by the Defense Minister Benny Gantz, which holds eight seat. The right wing nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, headed by Finance Minister Avigdor Limber, which holds seven seats. The center-left Labor Party headed by Mirav Michaeli, which holds seven seats. The center-left Labor Party, headed by Mirav Michaeli, which holds seven seats. New Hope Party, a center-right liberal party headed by Likud defector Ghadoun Saar, which holds six seats. And the left-wing Meretz party headed by Nestan Horovic, which holds six seats.

Impossible Balances

Due to the nature of the current coalition in Israel, the government's policies seem closer to be of impossible balances between its divergent components. The recent events at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in addition to the previous, the accompanying, and following events of the continuation of settlement measures in the West Bank, have shown that satisfying everyone is "an end that is not realized". It also show and that the common goal of the coalition parties is to block Benjamin Netanyahu's way back to the prime ministry, who proved to be insufficient to face the crises and maintain coalition cohesion.


What are the Coalition's options in light of the current crisis and its fragile situation?

The options for attempting to maintain the impossible balances seem to be the closest, with the government expected to proceed with its policy within several parallel tracks, aiming of satisfy its components, and also to ensure the leadership of Bennett at the current stage-the one who has the greatest interest in those two aims. These tracks are:

First: the political track based on the idea of (reducing the conflict) and what that may indicate regarding the refusal of a two-state solution. Moreover, the work on providing life facilities for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as responding to the agenda of most Coalition partner parties.

Second: the path of promoting settlement in the West Bank, including Jerusalem. On May 12, 2022, the Israeli government approved the construction of 4,000 new settlement units in several settlements in the north, central, and southern West Bank, in response to the programs of right-wing partner parties, led by the right-wing party itself.

Third: the tract of providing facilities to the Palestinian community within Israel, particularly in cases of budgets of local authorities, crime control, and unrecognized Arab towns in the Negev. The last episode of which was the announcement of the Unified Arab List on May 16, 2022, concerning reaching a new agreement with the Government of Bennett, with regard to these towns. The Government decided not to demolish buildings that are up to 70 meters, or impose fines on its owners, in response to the programme of left-wing parties partnering in the Coalition; mainly the Unified Arab List, which such demands are their main lever to justify their participation in that Coalition.

Fourth: The track of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which embodies an impossible balances, where it is difficult for the Government of Bennet to combine the divergences of his government’s parties, when it comes to the al-Aqsa Mosque file. The government tends to support the calculations of the right and settlers at the expense of other partners. The track of providing facilities to the Palestinian community, within Israel only, is no longer sufficient to convince the Unified Arab List to carry on their support to the coalition. Especially after the recent meeting between His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Hussein and the President of the Unified Arab List, Mansour Abbas, at the beginning of May 2022, and Mansour Abbas's statement: "The demands and positions regarding the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem are determined and managed by King Abdullah II, the custodian of the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and religious holy sites in Jerusalem".

Here also appears the fragility of the government Coalition, and the difficult task facing its president, Bennet, in managing those impossible balances, that carry the risk of collapse at any moment, sometimes unexpectedly, as happened in the case of Knesset member Ghida Zoabi. Besides what may happen with some Knesset members from the Right party, or other right-wing parties, in the coalition if Bennet would make any concessions in Al-Aqsa Mosque file at the other side.

This is what Bennett tried to avoid - so far at least - in his response to Mansour Abbas's remarks, after Abbas’s meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah II, where Bennet said that any "decision for the Temple Mount will be taken by the Israeli government, which is subject to the city's sovereignty, without taking into account any other considerations. And we certainly reject any foreign interference by the decisions of the Israeli government, and a unified Jerusalem is the capital of only one state - the State of Israel". It is no secret that the intention of foreign intervention is the Jordanian role stems out from the decisions of the Israeli government. From the Hashemite guardianship of Jerusalem and the Holy Places, such statements were preceded by Bennet’s confirmation to the USA that the survival of his government is totally related to the continuation of settlement construction.


What about a Government Headed by Lapid?

If the scenario of dissolving the Knesset is realized, and a transitional government headed by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, leader of the liberal Party (Yesh Atid) with 17 Knesset seats, is formed, then will not be more able than its predecessor to create new policies on issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but it would only be within a small margin more inclined to control the actions of settlers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is because of the nature of the government's transition period, which is an opportunity for Yair Lapid to strengthen his party power, and increase his chances in the upcoming elections, as this is, in any case, will remain governed by the same determinants, stemming from the nature of the ruling coalition, as in the case of the current Prime Minister Bennett.


The Israeli political arena will remain in constant anticipation in the coming days and weeks, waiting the possible outcome of the contradictions of the government Coalition components on one hand, and the efforts of the right-wing opposition, led by Netanyahu, to pass the draft of dissolving of the Knesset on the other. The policies of the Israeli government will remain governed by the way it manages the impossible balances between its partisan components, whether Bennet remains a prime minister, or whether Lapid would come to the office after him. In any case, these are balances that tend to favor the right forces, in issues of "reducing the conflict", settlement continuation, and attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, in exchange for some improvements in the daily living conditions of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, with little more improvements for Palestinian society within Israel. All of that will not mark a milestone in the political settlement track that has been absent for years.


Policy Analysis Team