The ’Three Musketeers’ of the New ‘Israeli’ Right-wing
By Sarkis Abou Zeid
Yair Lapid, the head of the Yesh Atid party, who is in charge of forming the ‘Israeli’ government, announced that he had succeeded in agreeing on a government coalition with eight ideologically different parties, in the last moments of the legal deadline given to him to announce its formation agreement. Until the end of the trust session, the new coalition headed by Netanyahu's opponents cannot definitively speak about a future government, because Netanyahu will do all he can to prevent a vote of trust by luring members of the Knesset to vote against their parties’ options.
Who are the stars of this coalition? We will talk about the most prominent members, the Three Musketeers post-Netanyahu era.
In the new government coalition, which is a mix of left, right, and center, Yair Lapid stands out as number 2 in the rankings of the last election after Netanyahu, and far-right Naftali Bennett, who agreed with Lapid to alternate prime ministerial positions and was given a golden opportunity to become prime minister, even though his bloc does not exceed eight seats. Additionally, there is Mansour Abbas, the head of the Islamic Movement, which is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his bloc constituted the major force in the Knesset. It is the first time in the history of the ‘Israeli’ entity that an Arab has appeared in the presidency of the Coalition. In this regard, Naftali Bennett, who will share the premiership with Lapid, said Netanyahu is "fooling the people" and inciting against forming a coalition with the Islamic movement. “He is underestimating people's minds. Everyone knows that he was the first to negotiate an alliance with the Islamic movement.”
1- Yair Lapid
Lapid was born in November 1963 in Tel Aviv, where his support is concentrated. His father, Tommy Lapid, was a journalist before he became Minister of Justice. His mother, Shulamit, is a famous detective writer who has published a series of investigations starring a journalist. Yair Lapid started working for the "Maariv" newspaper, and later for the "Yediot Ahronoth" newspaper - which made him become well-known. At the same time, he continued his sporadic activities, but it was television that allowed him to impose himself as a model for a normal ‘Israeli’ person. Lapid’s television talk show in the 2000s gained the largest audience. Since his centrist party became second in the legislative elections of 23 March and won 17 representative seats, Lapid has set himself the stated goal of ousting the Prime Minister and he became the leader of the opposition.
2- Naftali Bennett
Bennet was born in Haifa with immigrant parents from San Francisco. He is a devout Jew and now lives with his wife Gilat, and their four children, in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ra'anana. Like Netanyahu, he speaks fluent English with an American accent, and spent part of his childhood in North America with his parents. Bennett, 49, the son of American immigrants, belongs to a generation which is younger than the 71-year-old Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Bennett is a former Special Forces soldier who named his eldest son after Yoni, Netanyahu's brother who was killed in an ‘Israeli’ raid to free kidnapped passengers at Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976. Bennett had a long-term relationship with Netanyahu that was often tense.
Bennett got into politics in 2013, renovating a pro-settlement party, taking over as War Minister and as Education and Economy Minister in Netanyahu's various governments. The ‘Israeli’ politician Naftali Bennett, who is likely to be the next prime minister, has built himself into a tech millionaire and dreams of annexing most of the occupied West Bank. He says that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be suicide for "Israel", due to security reasons.
But the leader of the religious right-wing of the ‘Israeli’ entity, who is a staunch supporter of the Jewish settlements, said that he would cooperate with his political opponents to save ‘Israel’ from a political catastrophe. After the fourth election in two years was held in March, Bennett, who leads the far-right Yamina party, said that holding a fifth election would be a national tragedy, and got engaged into talks with the center-left bloc that represents the main opposition to Netanyahu. Bennett, a proponent of economic liberalization, expressed support for reducing government bureaucracy and lowering taxes. Unlike some of his former allies on the religious right, Bennett is relatively liberal on issues such as the relationship between religion and the State, in an entity where hardline rabbis have considerable influence.
3- Mansour Abbas
Abbas belongs to the town of Maghar, near Lake Tiberias, whose population is composed of Muslims and Druze. His party is the political wing of the southern branch of the Islamic movement in the ‘Israeli’ entity, which was founded in 1971 and its origins go back to the Muslim Brotherhood. Before the approval of the coalition agreement, Abbas requested the approval of the Islamic Movement Consultative Council. Abbas' party split from the main Arab coalition in the enemy entity [the Joint List] before the March 23 elections, after it called, without any success, to work with Netanyahu and other right-wing factions to improve the living conditions of the Arabs. Many Arabs criticize Abbas' approach and wonder how he would justify belonging to a government that imposes a military occupation on the Palestinians in the West Bank and a siege on the Gaza Strip. Abbas, 47, brushed aside his differences with Naftali Bennett, the next Prime Minister in the new government and former leader of a large Jewish settlement organization, and one of the defenders of the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank. Abbas, a dentist, says that he hopes to improve the situation of Arab citizens who complain about discrimination and government negligence.
In a message to his supporters after signing the coalition agreement, he said that his faction decided to join the government in order to change the balance of the political power in the entity, and that when the government is based on the support of the Arab faction, it will be able to influence it and make achievements for the Arab community. It was a historic shot that brought together an Islamic politician in the ‘Israeli’ entity, as he stood smiling next to a far-right Jewish leader and his allies, moments after agreeing to take over as prime minister and granting him a ruling majority in Parliament. The participation of both sides in the goal of standing up to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu helped propel Mansour Abbas to the political stage, as the small Islamic faction achieved a simple majority for Jewish parties hoping to isolate Netanyahu. The United Arab List will become the first Arab party to represent 21 percent of the ‘Israeli’ entity's population and participate in an ‘Israeli’ government.
Will the Three Musketeers succeed in sidelining Netanyahu and building a new right? The coming days will decide.