JERUSALEM – The news of Israel’s collapse was only an hour later, but Benjamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader and former prime minister, had already said he was returning to power.
“My friends and I will form a national government,” he said. Netanyahu said in a video posted hastily online Monday night, before Prime Minister Naftali Bennett even made an official resignation speech.
“A government that will take care of you, all citizens of Israel, without exception,” Netanyahu added.
His claim was premature. New elections – Israel is fifth in less than four years – will not be held until the fall and may end without a single bloc winning a majority. Parliament has also not yet been dissolved and is unlikely to do so until next Monday.
And as a breakup before the election campaign, lawmakers could pass a law banning defendants from becoming prime minister. This may affect Mr. Netanyahu, who is in the middle of a a long process of corruption.
However, the possibility of Mr. Netanyahu’s return to power is stronger now than ever since he left it last June.
Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Mr. Netanyahu, now has the chance to add to his previous 15 years in office a mandate in which he shapes contemporary Israeli discourse and priorities more than any other figure. During his previous duties, he pushed Israeli society to the right, encouraged people’s distrust of the judiciary and the media, and accelerated Israel’s admission to the Middle East, while watching the failure of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Like Donald J.’s supporters. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu’s base did not abandon him even after he lost power.
In new elections, according to opinion polls, Mr. Netanyahu’s right-wing party, Likud, could easily win more seats than anyone else. His wider union of right-wing and religious parties, albeit without a general majority, will still be the largest in parliament. And some right-wing lawmakers who refused to bring him back to power last year may change their minds in the fall, giving him control of parliament.
For his supporters, this would herald the return of a strong right-wing government in Israel after a turbulent year in which the country was ruled by a fragile coalition of eight ideologically incompatible parties – including Jewish and Arab lawmakers – united only to oppose Mr. Netanyahu himself.
For his opponents, however, the prospect of his return is worrying. Netanyahu’s new government is likely to depend on the support of a far-right party that can seek control of the ministry that controls the police in exchange for its loyalty.
Mr. Netanyahu’s own party has spent the last year undermining the concept of a Jewish-Arab partnership, hinting at radical changes in the judiciary and sometimes even promising revenge on its political opponents.
Mr. Netanyahu himself has denied using his return to the government to disrupt his prosecution, suggesting he would be happy to stand trial – a process expected to continue for several more years – as he runs the country.
But a Likud lawmaker and loyal to Netanyahu, Shlomo Karhi, said earlier this year that he would work to replace the attorney general, a senior government official who oversees Mr. Netanyahu’s accusation. Another Likud lawmaker and former minister, David Amsalem, said earlier this month that “anyone who does not intend to change, above all, our sick and biased judiciary, has nothing to look for in Likud.”
“Once we break the bones of the left wing, we will explain to them that we know how to run this country a little better.” Amsalem said in a separate radio interview this month.
At Ben Caspit, a biographer of Mr. Netanyahu, this kind of rhetoric raises concerns about the prospect of a new government led by Netanyahu. “Israeli democracy would really, really be in danger,” he said. Caspit, political commentator.
“All he cares about is stopping the process,” he said.
Some of Netanyahu’s allies dismissed the conversation as alarmism.
“False predictions,” said Tsachi Hanegbi, a Likud veteran MP and former minister. “They cannot blame Netanyahu for security or the economy,” he said. said Hanegby. “So what can they talk about?”
Meanwhile, for some leftists and many Palestinians, a new Netanyahu government would not be much worse than the current one.
Prime Minister Bennett has a unifying manner and formed a governing alliance with an independent Arab party for the first time in Israeli history. But on many fundamental issues, he agrees with Mr. Netanyahu. Former leader of the settlers, Mr. Bennett opposes a Palestinian state, maintains a blockade of the Gaza Strip and approves the construction of thousands of new settlement units in the occupied West Bank.
In the end, Mr. Bennett said he had decided to overthrow his own government to prevent this collapse of a two-tier legal system on the West Bank, which distinguishes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians. Some liken it to apartheid.
Hassan Khatib, a Palestinian political analyst and former Palestinian minister, said: “The current government may be different in certain views and positions, but in practice it was not different at all.”
“They had the same political attitude: not of a Palestinian state, not of negotiations,” he said. “And they continued to expand the settlements as quickly as possible.”
Understand the collapse of the Israeli government
The current and former governments have also had similar approaches to the wider Middle East. Both sought to build new diplomatic ties with Arab countries that had long isolated Israel, and both opposed US-led efforts to ease sanctions on Iran if Iranian officials agreed to ease their nuclear enrichment program.
But for many Israelis, there is a clear difference between the right-wing government led by Mr. Netanyahu and the diverse current coalition led by Mr. Bennett and his centrist partner Jair Lapid, who is due to become caretaker prime minister during the election campaign.
Although he comes from opposing political camps, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Lapid built a partnership based on compromise and courtesy, which supporters saw as a stark contrast to Likud’s bullish disagreements.
During their speeches on Monday to announce the collapse of the collapse, the two men showed respect, love and admiration for each other, even as they ended their joint project. “I really love you,” he said. Lapid told Mr. Bennett at an unrecorded moment.
In practice, their government also made Israel move again after a period of paralysis under Mr. Netanyahu, who has lacked a large enough parliamentary majority in his last two years in office to perform some key government functions.
Mr. The Bennett administration passed Israel’s first national budget for more than three years; tried to reduce food costs by eliminating customs duties on food imports; began to liberalize the regulation of beehive food; and filled several key vacancies in the upper echelons of the civil service, which were left vacant with Mr. Netanyahu.
The Bennett government has chaired one of the quietest periods in Gaza for several years, encouraging extremists there to limit their rocket fire in southern Israel by offering thousands of new work permits to Gaza residents.
The government has also improved relations with the Biden administration, while opposing some administrative goals, such as the Iranian nuclear deal or the reopening of a US consulate in Jerusalem to the Palestinians.
Mr. Netanyahu is not a candidate for the next prime minister, as in the four elections from 2019 to 2021. Each time he failed to form a majority coalition with other parties or failed to meet their commitments to them when I did.
These new elections may not be different, said Professor Gideon Rahat, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“We have been to this film four times and we can achieve similar results for the fifth time,” said Professor Rahat.
The right-wing parties, which previously refrained from sitting in Netanyahu’s government, may go with him this time, but experience shows that such partnerships do not end well, he added.
“Netanyahu has a problem with trust,” said Professor Rahat. “He can make 1,000 promises, but no one believes him. “Netanyahu is not bad at electoral politics, but when it comes to building a coalition, he has no merit.”
The reporting was contributed by Myra Novek from Jerusalem and Gabi Sobelman from Rehoboth, Israel.