The swearing-in of Naftali Bennett, the leader of the far-right Yamina alliance and Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party as the incumbent and alternate prime minister of Israel respectively has been a moral victory for Israelis longing for governmental reform and national leaders with both political credibility and integrity; an unprecedentedly ideological compromise in the Knesset; and a brand new diplomacy test for Israel’s allies, especially the Biden administration, who is committed to keep their tough stance on the two-state solution. On the other side, the new coalition government has been a candid narrative among the supporters of Palestinians and the two-state solution, due very much to Naftali Bennett’s track record.
Naftali Bennett, whose ideology is further to the right than his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, has taken a harder stance on Palestinians. An ultra-nationalist Orthodox Jew who hardly opposes the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state, Bennett was once head of the Yesha Council, a representative group that promotes Israeli settlements, and has outspokenly advocated for the settlement in and annexation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem (BBC News, 2021). In 2010, he co-founded a right-wing political movement named My Israeli with Ayelet Shaked whose main objective was to promote an Israel-friendly narrative on Wikipedia by means of workshop (The Guardian, 2010). To make it sound more pessimistic, Bennett stated in June 2013 that Israel must learn to live with the burden inflicted by its conflict with Palestinians without resort to the two-state solution. He said, “I have a friend who's got shrapnel in his rear end, and he's been told that it can be removed surgically, but it would leave him disabled. So he decided to live with it. There are situations where insisting on perfection can lead to more trouble than it's worth." (Haaretz, 2013). Earlier in January 2013, he also said, "There is not going to be a Palestinian state within the tiny land of Israel. It's just not going to happen. A Palestinian state would be a disaster for the next 200 years." (The Guardian, 2013).
Bennett’s track record does merit our concern, but the current narrative on Israel’s coalition government needs to change by giving it the benefit of the doubt. To avoid the echo chamber, do keep in mind that the rotation government entitles both Bennett and Lapid to a veto power over each other’s proposed policy (Haaretz, 2021 & The New York Times, 2021). The deal also puts the position of the alternate prime minister stronger than that of the acting prime minister; and several policies by Bennett require the approval of Lapid. And taking Lapid’s ideology into account, he can be a redeeming virtue of the ideologically irreconcilable coalition, a remedy for the relationship between Fatah and Hamas, and a defender of the current Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
A leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, a secular, and an advocate for the two-state solution, will likely veto any policies that can provoke conflicts between Israel and Palestinians. Moreover, the coalition’s political platform to unite the previously divisive Israel outweighs Bennett’s religious-nationalist ideology. Bennett and Lapid have stated that they would focus on domestic matters such as economic policies, national recovery from Covid-19, reforms in education, health, and other issues that are not ideologically at odds; such as the role of religion, same-sex marriage, and Palestinian conflict. Bennett also promised not to annex and set up new settlements in the West Bank; however, he does not intend to call off any constructions in existing Jewish settlements (The Times of Israel, 2021).
The new coalition government entails a quid pro quo in the Knesset and trickle-down effect for Palestinians. History proves that Jewish Zionist parties had never resorted to an alliance with Arab parties even when they were unable to form a government (Time, 2021). However, Ra’am, a Hebrew acronym for the United Arab List, the only Arab party representing Arab citizens of Israel, has joined the current coalition, having turned Netanyahu down to form a government. The head of the party, Mansour Abbas, is also currently serving as Deputy Minister of Arab Affairs in the Prime Minister’s office (Al Jazeera English, 2021). So, in return for his party’s backup, Abbas will likely propose policies that will remedy all discriminatory allocation of public funding and employment that have marginalized Arab citizens of Israel.
Even though Ra’am only controls four seats in the Knesset, it is obvious that Abbas takes possession of bargaining power to demand policies that will prioritize Arab Israelis, and should Bennett and Lapid break their promise, that is to say, increasing government spending on Arab sector up to 35 billion shekels in infrastructure investment; Abbas can withdraw its party from the coalition (Time, 2021). Furthermore, the inclusion of Ra’am in the coalition can remedy the relationship between two peoples, Arabs and Jews.
Another redeeming scenario will be the comparatively political advantage relished by Palestinians. Although the current coalition government has already provided a glimpse of the likely moderate governance to the far-right supporters; it already gives Palestinians redeeming four years for taking care of their internal conflict between the two conflicting powers, Fatah and Hamas. Both sides will soon need to sit down together and meet each other halfway. For the next four years, Bennett and Lapid will not decide on issues that are ideologically at odds, one of which is the Palestinian issue; taking into consideration that Bennett opposes the two-state solution while Lapid is an advocate for it; so it’s about time that Fatah and Hamas put peace above everything. Leaders of both sides need to postpone the ambition they have been trying to achieve. Otherwise, it will only lead the status quo to conflicts, conflicts to wars, wars to treaties, treaties to truce, truce to wars again. And both sides shouldn’t want that; because politically, they should be now dying to show the international community that they are capable of being united in spite of irreconcilable differences, just as what’s happening in Israel.
Fatah and Hamas need to take on the same approach and same the objective, to maintain peace among Palestinians. So both sides are not going to find common ground unless they are willing to undermine the very irreconcilable elements of each other’s ideology. There needs to be something to lose if peace were to be maintained among Palestinians. And the key is to win together politically, not to split up, and lose ideologically.
But the worst case scenario will be deadlock if Hamas were to be indisposed toward negotiation. The difference between Fatah and Hamas is that Hamas has nothing to lose and will not make any concessions; they probably believe that jihadism outweighs the aggregate of physical, social, economic, and environmental casualties they have inflicted. But Fatah has too much to lose; their power, credibility, and dominance. It aims to resolve the conflict, both because it owes Palestinians too much and to win politically.
How Fatah and Hamas see and feel about the coalition government in Israel doesn’t matter; but whether both sides realize the opportunity to finally work on what needs to be done between them and for their people, and how both of them are going to cooperate, are what matter the most. What is happening in Israel shouldn’t stay in Israel. It should be a precedent for both Fatah and Hamas to set aside their respective political platform to save what should be above everything; good governance. It provides them the slightest glimpse of the possibility what different philosophies, different teachers of morals, different religions, different denominations, and different sacred scriptures, can find commond ground: unity. That’s what a coalition is for. The unity that is built, the peace that is maintained and the trust that is gained within the next four years between Fatah and Hamas will be the turning point for both sides when encountering the next Israel’s premiership, no matter how far right it will be.
Because it is always better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. Buddha said that.And sometimes the greatest lesson you can get is one that comes from your enemy. This is why Fatah, Hamas, Palestinans and all people who support the two-state solution should realize that both our view and narrative on what’s happening in Israel can influence the peace process between Fatah and Hamas, and the continuity of peace among Palestinians.
Halpern, O. & Qana, K. (2021). “‘It’s possible to do things differently.’ The Arab kingmaker who joined Israel’s far-right to oust Netanyahu”. Time. https://time.com/6073019/mansour-abbas-arab-israel-coalition-government/
Hoffman, G. (2021). “Ra’am head Mansour Abbas: ‘We are fully in the coalition’”. The Jerusalem Post. https://m.jpost.com/israel-news/raam-head-mansour-abbas-we-are-fully-in-the-coalition-670952
Lis, J. & Tov, M. H. (2021). “Coalition deal between Bennett and Lapid gives both veto power”. Haaretz. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/elections/EXT-LIVE-knesset-speaker-set-to-formally-present-new-government-moving-closer-to-swearing-in-1.9880704
“Naftali Bennett: The rise of Israel’s new PM”. (2021). BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-56969598
Rosner, S. (2021). “Did Israel just have a constitutional revolution?”. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/14/opinion/israel-government.html
Shabi, R. & Kiss, J. (2010). “Wikipedia editing courses launched by Zionist groups”. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/aug/18/wikipedia-editing-zionist-groups?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
Sherwood, H. (2013). “Naftali Bennett interview: ‘There won’t be a Palestinian state within Israel’”. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jan/07/naftali-bennett-interview-jewish-home
Smith, A. (2021). “Biden committed to two-state solution between Israel and Palestinians, Blinken says”. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/joe-biden/biden-committed-two-state-solution-between-israel-palestinians-blinken-says-n1268289
Tov, M. H. (2021). “These are the deals signed by the parties in the Bennett-Lapid coalition”. Haaretz. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/elections/what-s-in-the-deals-signed-by-the-parties-in-the-bennett-lapid-coalition-1.9896709
Verter, Y. (2013). “Bennett’s 'shrapnel’ comment may have been blunt, but his message was clear: No two-state solution”. Haaretz. https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-bennett-s-clear-no-two-state-solution-1.5284027
“Who is Yair Lapid, the opposition leader challenging Netanyahu?”. (2021). Al Jazeera English. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/31/who-is-yair-lapid-the-opposition-leader-challenging-netanyahu
“Who’s who in Israel’s new patchwork coalition government”. (2021). Al Jazeera English. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/14/whos-who-in-israels-new-patchwork-coalition-government
Winer, S. & Staff, T. (2021). “Islamist Ra’am said ready to give crucial support for a Lapid-Bennett government”. The Times of Israel. https://www.timesofisrael.com/islamist-raam-said-ready-to-give-crucial-support-for-a-lapid-bennett-government/
Teks: Aulia Shifa Hamida (FIA UI)
Foto: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP
Editor: Syifa Nadia
Pers Suara Mahasiswa UI 2021
Independen, Lugas, dan Berkualitas!