I am not even going to pretend to understand all the complexities of the conflict in the Middle East between the Israeli’s and the Palestinians. However, I am an agnostic who simply is unsure if there is a God or higher power or anything beyond life after death. With that said, I firmly believe that people should have the right to worship in any way which they believe to be appropriate to a God they choose without interference from the government and/or neighbors. As a historian living in Germany, I have visited numerous former concentration camp sites and, I understand why Jewish people want their own homeland. And as such, I am extremely sympathetic to Israel and the Israeli people. With that said, however, I disapprove of a lot of things that Netanyahu has participated in both politically and personally. I find myself in the same situation as many –we think Netanyahu is a crook, and we take issue with many of his policies—most notably the use of settlements, but we are afraid to speak out because we do not want to be labeled as anti-Semitic or anti-Israel.
The fact of the matter is, nothing could not be further from the truth. As a strong supporter of the state of Israel, I want nothing more than for them to be able to live peacefully, and in my opinion, a two state is the most practical way for that to happen. Since I have wrestled with this topic so frequently in recent months, I was relieved to read this exert from the Anne Frank foundation, where they argued even in Israel, people criticize the government’s handling of the Palestinian territories: “Criticism of Israel or of the policies of the Israeli government is not automatically antisemitic. For example, anyone is free to reject or criticize the Israeli government’s policy regarding the Palestinian territories. This happens in Israel, too. Even taking action against Israel or in favour of the Palestinian cause is not automatically hateful towards all Jews and therefore not necessarily a form of antisemitism.” 1
For twelve years Benjamin Netanyahu has served as the prime minister of Israel—longer than any other person in Israel’s history. Over the past several years both his many of his political policies and his own personal misconduct (he has been charged with corruption) has resulted in even more instability in the region. Despite his growing unpopularity from both sides, after four undecided elections in two years, Netanyahu appeared to be invincible—until now. At 11.30 on June 2nd, 2021 (just 30 minutes before the deadline, Israeli politicians announced a coalition had been formed, and pending successful vote in the Israeli Parliament, Netanyahu’s days as prime minister could be numbered. 2
News spread quickly across the world when leader of the far right party Naftali Bennett, tech millionaire and left centrist Yair Lapid, and for the first time, Raam, an Arab Islamist party will serve as coalition members.3 According to the terms of the agreement, Bennett will take on the role of prime minister immediately, where Lapid will assume the role as foreign minister until he assumes the role of prime minister in 2023. 4
To say the coalition is an unlikely combination of politicians with conflicting agendas is an understatement. Bennett a former ally of Mr. Netanyahu’s is considered further to the right than Netanyahu and adamantly opposes a two-state solution. On the other hand, Lapid supports a two state solution, and Raam, pundits believe, will in all probability lobby for better treatment of Arabs in the Arab-Israeli communities. 5 Despite these different ideologies and differences, they share the common goal to unseat Netanyahu. According to Natasha Turak from World Politics, “in the face of sustained intimidation and anger from their base, they have said that they have a responsibility to work with their ideological opposites in order to wrest Israel from a cycle of endless elections and entropy. 6 With that in mind, these party leaders agreed to form a government.
This coalition is contingent on approval from the Israeli Parliament, which could happen in the upcoming days, where Netanyahu has already promised to fight it. Nevertheless, assuming the coalition is successful—at least temporarily what will that mean for Israel? Nobody has a crystal ball and cannot predict exactly what will happen, but based upon discussions from Middle East experts, as prime minister, Bennett’s authority will be limited because it rests on the support of so many other parties of radically different ideologies from his, and any major decision will need to get past Lapid’s veto. Additionally, the coalition will also depend on the active support of Raam, the first independent Arab party in an Israeli government. 7
Many believe the government is too fragile and as such, fear it will fall apart sooner rather than later. As an outsider, I can say that I hope this government succeeds—even temporarily if it helps to restore peace and stability to the region. Moreover, as someone who does not believe anyone is above the law, if this coalition is successful only in that it serves as a vehicle to remove Netanyahu from office and to hold him criminally responsible for his corrupt person activities, then the coalition was worthwhile. The Israeli Parliament still must vote and approve this coalition and assuming they approve, only time will tell if the coalition stands. As MSNBC reporter Rachel Maddow often claims, “Watch this Space”.
On a personal note, Dear Barak: The extraordinary partnership between Barak Obama and Angela Merkel will be published in the United States by Disruption Books and available on October 19, 2021, and the German edition will be published by Novum Verlag and available on August 31, 2021. A two state solution was a cornerstone of Merkel’s foreign policy, and one she and Obama agreed on, and the book spends a fair amount discussing this particular policy and how it impacted the relationship between these two leaders. Go to my website claudiaclarkauthor.com for updates.