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He is Israel’s longest-serving leader, having been in power for 12 years. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tenure could come to an end with far-right party leader Naftali Bennett saying he will support a “unity government". Mint looks at the recent twists in Israeli politics:

The background to the political drama

No political party has managed to win a clear mandate in last four elections in the span of two years. In the last elections held in March 2021, 71-year-old Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party led with 30 seats in the 120-member parliament. However, he failed to form a governing coalition after far-right partners refused to work with Arab factions. Former finance minister and an ex-TV personality Yair Lapid’s centre-left party Yesh Atid (which means ‘There is a Future’) came second with 17 seats. Wednesday is the deadline for Lapid, who was given four weeks to form a government.

What are the odds of a “unity" government?

The chances of the opposition forming a unity coalition of 61 lawmakers brightened after far-right politician Naftali Bennett whose Yemina (“Rightward") party has seven seats, said he would join hands with Lapid. The ex- Netayahu aide said his decision was aimed at preventing Israel from sliding into a fifth poll in two years. News reports, however, warn that an anti-Netanyahu alliance would be fragile and require backing by Palestinian-Israeli MPs who oppose much of Bennett’s agenda. It includes settlement expansion in occupied West Bank and its partial annexation.

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political instability

Who besides Bennett could join Lapid’s coalition?

A Lapid government would also include the centrist Blue and White party of Netanyahu’s rival Benny Gantz and the hawkish New Hope party of Gideon Saar. Avigdor Lieberman’s pro-settlement Yisrael Beiteinu party, as well as historically powerful Labour Party and the dovish Meretz party, are also expected to join.

So, is it curtains for Netanyahu?

Hard to say. Netanyahu faces trial on fraud, bribery, and breach of trust charges. The cases concern his ties between 2008-2017 with businessmen: Arnon Milchan, a Hollywood filmmaker, Australian billionaire James Packer, Arnon Mozes, who controls Yedioth Ahronoth media group, and Shaul Elovitch, controlling shareholder of Israel’s biggest telecom firm Bezeq. Under Israeli law, a sitting PM is not obliged to resign when charged—only when convicted. He could still split Lapid’s coalition to form a government.

The challenges before the new government

Post-covid economic recovery for one. Dealing with the new US administration’s policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran are others. Ties with India are unlikely to change whoever becomes prime minister in Israel, say analysts, citing the breadth and depth of the relation-ship two nations have forged since 1992. Last week, India abstained on a UN resolution calling for a permanent commission to probe human rights violations in Gaza, West Bank, and Palestine.

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