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May 29, 2024

Netanyahu’s Grip on Power Slips as Coalition Partners Abandon Him

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Jan 25, 2024

Benjamin Netanyahu’s lengthy tenure as Israel’s prime minister is facing its greatest threat yet, as key coalition partners have abandoned him over his proposed judicial reforms. After 15 years in power, Netanyahu had hoped to secure his position by weakening the Supreme Court’s oversight powers. However, the reforms have sparked mass protests and caused political allies to question his leadership.

Widespread Protests Over Controversial Judicial Reforms

Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition government unveiled sweeping reforms that would give politicians more power over judicial appointments and limit the Supreme Court’s ability to strike down laws. The proposals have drawn outrage both domestically and internationally.

Over 100,000 protesters gathered in Tel Aviv last Saturday to voice their opposition to the plans, which critics have called an attack on Israel’s democratic institutions. It was the largest demonstration against Netanyahu since the protests over economic hardships in 2020. Smaller protests have also taken place on a nightly basis across Israeli cities.

The judicial overhaul has even been contentious within Netanyahu’s own Likud party. Senior Likud lawmaker Yuli Edelstein warned the reforms could “lead us to civil war.”

Key Coalition Partners Signal Break Over Reforms

Two important partners in Netanyahu’s razor-thin 61-59 seat parliamentary coalition have indicated they may bolt over the judicial plans.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism party, said he would only support a scaled-back version of the reforms. Meanwhile, Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri said his Shas party was suspending its backing as negotiations continue.

Losing the support of either faction could rob Netanyahu of his parliamentary majority and force new elections – the sixth since 2019.

Coalition Partner Seats Held Status of Support
Likud (Netanyahu) 31 Support reforms
Religious Zionism (Smotrich) 14 Limited support
Shas (Deri) 11 Suspended support

Fractures Within Pro-Israel U.S. Lawmakers Over Netanyahu

Netanyahu’s close ties with the Republican party in the United States have been a key source of international backing. However, cracks are now appearing among pro-Israel Democrats over Netanyahu’s leadership.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker warned that unquestioning support for Netanyahu was damaging bipartisan cooperation in Congress on Israel. Meanwhile, Delaware Senator Chris Coons said he could no longer trust that Netanyahu shared America’s democratic values.

Professor Yossi Shain, an expert on Israeli diplomacy at Georgetown University, said Netanyahu was burning bridges with moderate Democrats and risking a long-term erosion of support in Washington.

Anger and Distrust Towards Netanyahu Reaches New Highs

Public opinion surveys over the past month have shown Netanyahu’s approval rating sinking to all-time lows below 25 percent. He is now seen as overtly partisan, with little regard for norms or institutions. Many Israelis view the judicial reforms as solely aimed at insulating Netanyahu from his ongoing corruption trial.

Centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid said Netanyahu had torn Israeli society apart with his politics of division and fear-mongering. Even once stalwart Likud loyalists now see Bibi as yesterday’s leader, while maverick hardliners have captured the party base.

There is a sense among commentators that Netanyahu’s marathon rule is reaching its belated endgame. But the wily politician, dubbed “the magician” earlier in his career, has defied expectations before.

What Next for Israel’s Leadership?

If the governing coalition breaks apart in the coming weeks, Israel is likely headed for its sixth election since 2019. However, polls indicate a new vote would not significantly alter the balance of power. The anti-Netanyahu bloc would still lack enough seats for a majority.

Some analysts predict Netanyahu may pre-emptively call elections himself to shore up support before defections bring down his government. But he risks voters punishing Likud for the political chaos.

There is also a small chance that rebels within Netanyahu’s coalition could try to form a new government with opposition members. Netanyahu has accused Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, a former ally turned rival within Likud, of plotting such a “putsch” with assistance from the security establishment.

Ultimately, the survival of Netanyahu’s premiership hangs by an increasingly slender thread. But the craftiest politician of his generation should never be counted out. Israel’s present leadership dilemma may persist for some time yet.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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