End of Netanyahu era draws near as coalition seals deal
A new Israeli government signed its final coalition agreements on Friday, in a move that is spells the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12-year tenure as prime minister.
The new government, set to take office on Sunday, will include for the first time a party from Israel's Palestinian minority, as well disparate elements ranging from the far-right to the left.
Bennett, of the right-wing Yamina party, and Yair Lapid, of the centrist Yesh Atid, had announced last week they had reached a deal to form a coalition.
In the final days of his premiership, he is ratcheting up allies to pressure Knesset members against voting in favour of the new government, conjuring conspiracy theories and lashing out at his opponents.
The longest-serving prime minister said he was the victim of a "deep state" conspiracy and accused his opponents of betraying their voters.
"They are eradicating the good and replacing it with the bad and dangerous," Netanyahu said in a televised interview with Channel 2 this week. "I worry about the fate of the country."
Similarly to his American ally, former President Donald Trump, Netanyahu blamed his electoral debacle on fraud and other external causes and lashed out at an array of perceived enemies, including the media, the judiciary and the police.
"We have witnessed the biggest election fraud in the country’s history," Netanyahu said at a Likud meeting this week.
In a tweet published on Thursday, the Likud group said Netanyahu’s remarks were not aimed at the counting process and that the party fully trusted the electoral process. "There is no doubt about the peaceful transition of power," it said.
When PM Netanyahu speaks about "election fraud" he isn't referring to the vote counting process in Israel in which he has complete confidence. There is also no question about the peaceful transition of power.— הליכוד (@Likud_Party) June 10, 2021
Likud supporters held a threatening rally outside the homes of parliamentarians who joined the new government. Some lawmakers said they and their families received death threats, and one said she was recently followed by a car while driving.
Online hatred became has become so widespread that some members of the new government were assigned bodyguards or moved to secret locations.
The head of Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, warned of the risk of political violence and asked all parties to refrain from verbal assaults. Argaman said he was concerned that the “serious rise and radicalisation of violence and inflammatory speech” on social media could lead to violent attacks.
Netanyahu’s popularity has been largely tarnished by a trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Using terms that echo those of Trump, Netanyahu referred to his the trial as a "witch hunt" fuelled by "fake news".
Likud and its ultra-Orthodox allies view Bennett as a threat to their religion. Some called on him to take off his kippa, the brimless cap worn by devout Jews.
Bennett responded by saying that a “violent machine” has been set in motion and urged Netanyahu to admit defeat. "Let go and allow Israel to move forward," he said.