End of an era: Israeli Knesset closes out Netanyahu's 12-year run

It wasn’t over until the raucous Knesset sang, and that finally took place late yesterday — after two years of elections, attempts at partnerships, and finally a war with Hamas. For the first time in twelve years, Israel will have a prime minister not named Benjamin Netanyahu, thanks to a narrow 60-59 vote approving of a new government. At the moment, Naftali Bennett’s main mandate appears to not be Netanyahu, but to still govern like him:

The moment of victory got tainted for the new government as Knesset members heckled speakers. The two men at the top of the coalition ended up using their time to scold the Knesset and declare themselves embarrassed by their behavior:

A raucous parliament, interrupted frequently by shouts of “shame” and “liar” from outgoing conservative lawmakers, voted by the narrowest of margins — 60 to 59 — to give power to an unlikely coalition of parties from the right, center and left of Israel’s spectrum. The votes elevated Naftali Bennett, an Orthodox leader of Israel’s religious-nationalist movement and a former Netanyahu ally, as the country’s new prime minister.

“We are incapable of sitting together — what is happening to us?” Bennett pleaded before the vote over boos and catcalls as his own children flashed him heart symbols from the visitors’ gallery. “I am proud of sitting with people who have very different opinions. We have decided to take responsibility.” …

[Yair] Lapid scrapped his own speech and instead apologized to his 86-year-old mother for the heckling.

“I assumed you would be able to get over yourselves,” Lapid told his fellow lawmakers. “Instead, she and every other Israeli citizen is ashamed of you and reminded why it’s time for you to be replaced.”

Well, it’s no secret that the Knesset is a raucous body even among parliaments. It’s also no surprise that it’s bitterly divided, as the election results showed over the last two years. It does make history for becoming the first non-Muslim-majority country to have an Islamist party within a coalition government, an oddity among other oddities for Israel’s new governing coalition.

Netanyahu promised, “I’ll be back!” In truth, he might never leave — or at least his policies might not. His rightward policies have been popular in Israel, especially on national security. It’s Netanyahu himself that’s been the biggest problem, not so much among voters but among former political allies. He ran out of people to put trust in any partnership, which is why this very disparate group of parties got together in the first place. With Bennett in the lead, we can expect to see mainly a continuity of those policies — and a collapse if Bennett and/or Lapid diverge too much from them.

Israel has a new government, in other words, but it’s anyone’s guess just how long it will last. Perhaps long enough to ensure Netanyahu stays on the sidelines? Maaaybee, but I wouldn’t bet against Bibi in the long run. This era may be a long way from being over.