If Benjamin Netanyahu Ousted, What Next For US-Israeli Relations?

Benjamin Netanyahu has been the face of Israel on the international stage for more than a decade. As Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu Ousted, was a partner for American presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

But that is unlikely to be the case with Vice President Joe Biden.

Netanyahu is on the verge of being toppled by a ruling coalition of right-wing, centrist, and left-wing parties, including, for the first time, an Arab party, after 12 years in office. The broad collection of opponents was drawn together by a desire to replace Netanyahu, who is facing corruption charges, and to halt a destabilizing cycle of Israeli elections following four inconclusive ones in just two years.

“There was a Jewish state here two thousand years ago that collapsed due to internal strife. This is not going to happen again, not on my watch “Naftali Bennett, a far-right ultranationalist who stands to benefit the most from the new administration, declared as much. He will become Israel’s prime minister for the next two years at the age of 49, succeeding his one-time mentor Netanyahu, whom he most recently served as defense minister. Bennett will hand over the leadership to Yair Lapid, a moderate, for the next two years.

The end of Netanyahu’s term and the ascent of Bennett’s diverse cabinet may influence Israel, but it’s unlikely to have a significant impact on US-Israel ties. During Israel’s recent 11-day confrontation with Hamas in Gaza, Biden reaffirmed his steadfast support to Israel’s security, despite mounting criticism from the world community and the liberal side of his own party.

The White House and State Department are emphasizing that the US-Israel connection will stay strong in the post-Netanyahu era as they watch the political transition unfold in Jerusalem.

“Regardless of what happens, regardless of what government is in place, our unwavering commitment, our unbreakable commitment for Israel will continue,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said during the visit of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Thursday.

According to numerous Israeli commentators, the unstable coalition government, which alternates between right-wing and center-right prime ministers, maybe more subservient to Biden because it lacks a strong right-wing leader in charge and able to push back. Bennett may be overtly more right-wing than Netanyahu, but he will find it impossible to wield the same political and foreign policy power that his predecessor did. Bennett’s right-wing Yamina party will have just seven members in parliament, while Netanyahu’s Likud party would have at least four times as many.

lgnews-Benjamin-NetanyahuIn any event, it is likely that the incoming Israeli administration would prioritize internal matters. As the country recovers from the coronavirus epidemic, the focus will be to enhance economic recovery, invest in infrastructure, and heal political fissures that threaten to bring this so-called “change” administration down quickly.

“The only thing that all of the possible coalition partners can agree on is that they don’t want Netanyahu to be Prime Minister. This government will not be formed without Netanyahu,” said Assaf Shapira, director of the Israel Democracy Institute’s Political Reform Program, adding that its success “depends primarily on the nature of the relationships between the leaders and the parties — and the willingness to work together.”

Bennett, a former computer entrepreneur, opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and favors the annexation of the West Bank by Israel. Before joining national politics, he served as the chairman of a body representing West Bank settlers and positioned himself to the right of Netanyahu.

Despite Bennett’s ultranationalist leadership, liberals in Israel, the United States, and throughout the globe perceive progress in his administration. A minor Arab Islamist party will join the government for the first time in Israeli history. It’s a new degree of political collaboration, if not a merger, in the halls of power.

Following the March elections, it was Benjamin Netanyahu who initially courted the Arab Party Ra’am, which needed four seats. Following his 2015 demonization of Arabs for political advantage, Netanyahu’s U-turn aided his opponents in taking the historic step of including them in the cabinet. The Arab party will be part of a centrist-left coalition in the cabinet, which will include Lapid’s big Yesh Atid party and is anticipated to limit any far-right actions against Palestinians in the West Bank.

According to David Makovsky, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, this implies “no great jumps on Palestinian concerns, but no lurches to the right either.”

That would be welcomed by the Biden White House, especially after dealing with a Mideast crisis so early in its tenure and demonstrating a strong aversion to intervening in the intractable, decades-old Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Liberal advocacy organizations are already encouraging the administration to utilize its “stronger clout” over the next government to discourage settlement construction, seek concessions with the Palestinians, and avoid inflaming tensions by evicting Arab inhabitants from East Jerusalem. The current wave of fatal conflict between Israel and Hamas was sparked by an eviction order in the Sheikh Jarrah area. The Arab families’ petition will be heard by Israel’s supreme court later this month.

“While we have reason to hope that it will be far more moderate and reasonable than its predecessor in many areas,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal Jewish advocacy organization in the United States, “we also cannot expect it to act to end the intolerable, unjust, and deteriorating status quo of endless occupation and recurring violence.”

Some members of the new coalition, such as Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White party and Netanyahu’s defense minister, have been less public about their opposition to Biden’s diplomatic attempts to re-establish the Iran nuclear agreement, a position he will keep in the new government. If sanctions on Iran are lifted, that softer tone might provide Biden with much-needed political support in the United States, but only if his administration continues to address Israel’s security concerns as well.

To that end, the United States will continue to provide unrestricted military assistance to Israel “especially when it comes to the Iron Dome’s replenishment. Even if there is a change in administration, nothing will change “The price has been confirmed.

Some progressive Democrats, on the other hand, have called for a stop to US military aid and for Israel’s bombings in Gaza during its fight with Hamas last month to be probed for war crimes. A bipartisan group of US congressmen suggested a $1 billion military package for Israel just last week.

“Israel is America’s eyes and ears,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., as he stood next to Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday. “Our friends in Israel do more to safeguard America from radical Islam than anybody else.”

While the debate inside the Democratic Party in Washington has altered, one way Bennett’s administration may differ from Netanyahu’s administration is by restoring strong bipartisan support for Israel. Netanyahu’s 2014 speech to Congress denouncing Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran left wounds. Trump, guided by Netanyahu, shifted US backing for Israel to the right, acknowledging Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights and Jerusalem as its capital and deciding that Israeli settlements were not fundamentally unlawful.

Lapid, on the other hand, has spoken frequently about mending fences with Democrats and restoring bipartisan support for Israel, and he would find a partner in Biden in doing so. As Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on Wednesday, Biden has been a longtime friend of Israel in Congress, working with every Israeli prime minister since Golda Meir, Israel’s fourth.

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