The Contemporary History of Israel Part III
Party political development
In other words, with the second Palestinian intifada, Ariel Sharon returned to the top of Israeli politics. Sharon won the prime ministerial election over Barak in 2001, and in 2003, when the change of law on direct prime ministerial elections had been reversed, he won again with Likud. But then, in November 2005, Sharon broke with Likud and established the party Kadima (“ahead”). This was first and foremost a move to consolidate their own power in the party and carry out its plans to evacuate the Israeli settlements on the Gaza Strip. Before Sharon managed to lead Kadima to the polls, however, he suffered a massive stroke that sent him into an eight-year coma from which he never woke up. Although the party’s front figure suddenly disappeared, Kadima did well in her first election in 2006 under the leadership of Ehud Olmert, becoming Knesset’s largest party.
Only a few months after the election, however, came the Second Lebanon War. Just as it was impossible for Golda Meir as incumbent prime minister to wonder about the responsibility for handling the war in 1973, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert couldn’t help but be hit by the Winograd evaluation in 2006.
In the next election, in 2009, Kadima was no longer led by Olmert, but by Tzipi Livni. Under her leadership, the party managed to maintain its position from the 2006 election. But 2009 was most of all that election year when Likud made his comeback; the party more than doubled its support. 2009 was not only an important comeback year for the Likud party, but also for its leader, Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to Allunitconverters, Netanyahu’s second government came into effect at the end of March 2009. In addition to Likud, it consisted of Yisrael Beiteinu, Shas, Mapai and the newly formed Jewish Home Party (Habayit Hayehudi). Jewish Homes was an Orthodox National Religious Party established in the fall of 2008 and a few years later became Likud’s most ardent challenger in the struggle for the national religious voters and settler movement.
In May 2012, Netanyahu announced the establishment of yet another national unity government, which also included Kadima. With its 94 seats (out of 120), this was the broadest coalition government in the country’s history. However, Kadima’s days in government were limited. Already in July 2012, the party broke out of the Netanyahu government, partly because of disagreement over the military duty of ultra-Orthodox Jews.
At the 2013 election, Tzipi Livni posed as a representative for a new list – Hatnuah. Hatnuah entered the Knesset, but only with six representatives. Once again it was Likud who came out the best, this time as part of a joint list with the Russian immigrant party Yisrael Beiteinu. In total, the 31 of the seats in the Knesset won, and thus gained enough support for Benjamin Netanyahu to form another coalition government – his third so far. Likud, however, lost many votes in the 2013 election for the new center party Yesh Atid (“It’s a Future”), led by former TV profile Yair Lapid. However, it became a turbulent and short-term government project. Following a loud breach with Netanyahu and Likud, including over the issue of the Jewish nation state law and over the war on the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014, Israel’s 33rd government was disbanded in December 2014.
Fragile coalitions and corruption charges
After a marginal election victory, Netanyahu again became prime minister after the 2015 election. It became the fourth Israeli coalition government led by him. Israel’s 34th government stayed together until December 2018. Again, it was the question of serving conscription to the ultra-Orthodox that triggered the government crisis.
New elections were announced, and on election day April 9, 2019, a total of 40 parties voted for election. Of these, eleven were above the threshold of 3.25 per cent, and of these, Likud was again leading. Netanyahu and Likud won 35 of the total 120 seats in the Knesset in April 2019. Just as many seats were won by a new party list – Kahol Lavan, (the “blue and white party”). For the first time in several years Likud got real competition for being the largest party. Kahol Lavan (a list of two different parties), was led by former IDF Defense Secretary Benny Gantz, in close collaboration with Yesh Atid’s leader Yair Lapid. Although Likud and Kahol Lavan won the same number of seats in the Knesset, Benjamin Netanyahu had a total of more supporters in the other parties. That is why President Reuven Rivlin Netanyahu was charged with establishing the 35th Israeli government.
This proved easier said than done. With serious corruption charges hanging over him, and with the new challenger Benny Gantz in opposition, a strained Netanyahu entered coalition negotiations. After protracted negotiations, Netanyahu finally had to give up the attempt to get a new government in place. At the end of May 2019, Knesset members voted to dissolve the National Assembly, and another new election was announced.
New Election Day was set for September 17, 2019 – making it the first time in Israeli history that two elections were held in the same year. But this election ground was also not concluded with a new government, and a third new election was therefore printed until March 2020 – the third election in the country in 11 months.
After over 500 days without an elected government, Israel’s 35 government was announced on May 17, 2020. The result in the third election was not unlike the previous two – and no clear winner could be proclaimed. But the country’s situation had changed completely, and this had major consequences for the composition of the government. The global corona epidemic also hit Israel with strength, and the solution to the governance problems was that the two opponents Benyamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz agreed to jointly form a national unity government with a rotating state ministry system. Netanyahu will lead the government for the first 18 months, before a written negotiated agreement states that Gantz will take over as prime minister in November 2021. Until then, Gantz will assume the role of Netanyahu’s defense minister. The trial against incumbent Prime Minister Netanyahu is set to begin on March 24, 2020 in Jerusalem.