Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett when they took office in June 2021. (Photo/Forward-Getty Images)
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left) and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett when they took office in June 2021. (Photo/Forward-Getty Images)

Why the Israeli government failed but isn’t a failure

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Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced on Monday the end of their governing coalition, which had just recently marked its one-year anniversary. Lapid will assume the premiership until the formation of a new government after elections, the fifth in three years.

The possibility of losing a vote of no confidence in the Knesset later this week, combined with the failure to extend emergency regulations that enable Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank to live under Israeli law appeared to be the main impetus for this decision. Once the Knesset dissolves, it will have done so on the initiative of the government, always a better appearance for the incumbent parties heading into an election. The dissolution will also result in an automatic seven-month extension of the West Bank regulations, which were set to expire on July 1.

The short lived Bennett-Lapid government will be justly remembered for two things: removing from power Benjamin Netanyahu, who had become singularly obsessed with using his office to thwart his corruption trial; and being the first Israeli government to include an Arab party, Ra’am, in its coalition.

Yet it would be a mistake to view this government’s accomplishments in such purely negative and symbolic terms. Stopping Netanyahu and showing that Arab-Jewish partnership is possible were certainly important, but the coalition, despite its narrow and often shaky majority, made concrete advances toward building a shared society for Jewish and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel.

One of the most pressing domestic issues for Arab citizens of Israel has been rampant crime and violence in their communities. While international audiences are used to seeing violent police responses to Arab demonstrations in Jerusalem and other major cities, a very different problem has been taking place elsewhere in the country. The police have neglected Arab cities and towns for years, where gangs and mafias proliferate.

An American Israeli woman casts her vote at a polling station in Jerusalem, on March 17, 2015, in the Israeli general elections for the 20th parliament. (Photo/JTA-Miriam Alster-Flash90)
An American Israeli woman casts her vote at a polling station in Jerusalem, on March 17, 2015, in the Israeli general elections for the 20th parliament. (Photo/JTA-Miriam Alster-Flash90)

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid announced on Monday the end of their governing coalition, which had just recently marked its one-year anniversary. Lapid will assume the premiership until the formation of a new government after elections, the fifth in three years.

The possibility of losing a vote of no confidence in the Knesset later this week, combined with the failure to extend emergency regulations that enable Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank to live under Israeli law appeared to be the main impetus for this decision. Once the Knesset dissolves, it will have done so on the initiative of the government, always a better appearance for the incumbent parties heading into an election. The dissolution will also result in an automatic seven-month extension of the West Bank regulations, which were set to expire on July 1.

The short lived Bennett-Lapid government will be justly remembered for two things: removing from power Benjamin Netanyahu, who had become singularly obsessed with using his office to thwart his corruption trial; and being the first Israeli government to include an Arab party, Ra’am, in its coalition.

Yet it would be a mistake to view this government’s accomplishments in such purely negative and symbolic terms. Stopping Netanyahu and showing that Arab-Jewish partnership is possible were certainly important, but the coalition, despite its narrow and often shaky majority, made concrete advances toward building a shared society for Jewish and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel.

One of the most pressing domestic issues for Arab citizens of Israel has been rampant crime and violence in their communities. While international audiences are used to seeing violent police responses to Arab demonstrations in Jerusalem and other major cities, a very different problem has been taking place elsewhere in the country. The police have neglected Arab cities and towns for years, where gangs and mafias proliferate.

But the experience of the last year should inform future progressive strategies. Something different and positive took place this last year, and it would be foolish to pretend as if nothing has changed.

Abe Silberstein
Abe Silberstein

Abe Silberstein is the Associate Director, North America, of The Abraham Initiatives, an Israel-based NGO working to achieve equality between Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. He tweets @abesilbe. He has written on Israeli politics and U.S.-Israel relations for The New York Times, Haaretz, the Forward and The Jerusalem Post.

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