In my last post I discussed Israel’s lack of a true strategic dimension in policy thought and mentioned the difficulties Netanyahu faced gathering a government together. It now seems that Bibi has managed to cobble together an alliance of sorts that will allow him to head a government finally. Notably missing from the coalition are religious parties, such as Shas, that have often been necessary to any attempt at forming a workable coalition. However, the current group does not bode well for an evolution towards a more strategically minded Israeli policy.
The new coalition will be, broadly speaking, between four parties – Netanyahu’s Likud, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Naftali Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi, and Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah. While this coalition does give Bibi the votes necessary to govern the Knesset, it is an alliance that will be very difficult to contain. Of key importance will be the push and pull between Yesh Atid and Bayit Yehudi. Lapid has, in the past, made his preferences known that he prefers negotiations with the Palestinians towards the goal of a two-state solution. Bennett, while not explicitly turning against a two-state solution, has proposed full annexation of the parts of the Occupied Territories termed “Area C” by the Oslo accords. If this plan went ahead, a map of the Occupied territories would look something like this:
This plan does not leave the Palestinians with an effective territorial basis within which to form a state (although Bennett does propose naturalizing those Palestinians resident in “Area C” in order to avoid charges of apartheid). While Lapid does favor maintaining control of most settlements, this plan is far outside of what he has proffered in the past.
Suffice it to say this is a major difference of opinion. While Bennett’s suggestion is unlikely to ever come to fruition anytime soon, any attempt to wade into solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is nearly certain to raise significant strains in the current government. Both Livni and Lapid favor new negotiations, Bennett is less so inclined. For the time being, priorities will likely lie on the domestic front, tackling issues such as fiscal responsibility and lowering the cost of living.
However, some analysts have suggested that the Palestinians may be headed for a new intifada. If such a struggle breaks out it may be impossible for the Israeli government to avoid dealing with the Palestinian issue.
To return to my point from earlier in the week, all this finagling and inward turning will make it extremely difficult for Israel to formulate any sort of strategy. Not only is the stability of the current coalition dubious, it is highly likely that Israel will retain its tactical approach and eschew any serious strategic rethink.
Please note that the views expressed in this piece do not represent the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.