Posted by News Express | 18 June 2021 | 500 times
By JOHN NWOKOCHA
A pall of fear covered Israel and its surrounding neighbours in the Middle East once again, on Sunday, following the ouster of Israeli strongman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister under the right-wing Likud party.
He could not bear to relinquish power which he held for 15 years. After the confidence vote was announced, Netanyahu went and sat back in the prime minister’s chair in the Knesset chamber.
During Sunday’s debate in the parliament in Jerusalem, the defiant Netanyahu promised: “We’ll be back,” according to agency report.
The change of government has one way or the other raised unprecedented talks about Israel’s place on global politics. Israel’s political crisis is both epic and absorbing.
At home, there is endless struggle for power. With their neighbours, Israel is relentlessly contending with aggressive forces, mainly over occupation of ancestral lands, occasioning concerns in global politics.
Unfortunately, the incessant nature of their conflicts sometimes causes world powers to keep a dangerous prolonged silence.
The opposition had struggled for 12 years to come into limelight, a fight they found very tough, because of Netanyahu’s firm grip on power, playing a ruthlessly hardliner’s politics of non-compromise. In April, 2019, Netanyahu, a political tactician, called an election but failed to win enough support to form a new coalition government. Two more inconclusive elections followed that attempt.
But after the third effort, he formed a government of national unity with then opposition leader, Benny Gantz, but the deal collapsed and Israel went back to the polls in March.
His party, Likud, emerged as the largest party; nevertheless, he was again unable to form a government. This time around the task passed to Lapid, whose party came second.
When Benjamin Netanyahu mounted the saddle as prime minister, the first time in 1996, he left the whole world to speculate about his ambition for Israel.
When Netanyahu returned to power in 2009, the Middle-East and the entire world could tell he was bent not only on changing the Israel-Palestine relationship, but also the narratives about the nation. I could recall I wrote then that the world should watch out for the powerful man - who when he coughs the Middle-East would catch cold - in the Sunday Vanguard International page. He would not cede any parcel of land of their forbears in Israel.
Netanyahu built a powerful Israel. Together with Donald Trump, former American president, Netanyahu returned Israel’s capital to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.
At the time of his second coming, the problems confronting Israel on international fronts were many. They included: Jerusalem (Judea and Samaria) as birthright and so capital of Israel, West Bank and Golan Heights. Particularly, Israeli policies towards Palestinians, Arab, generally, Gaza conflicts and Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank have remained largely unsolved issues.
Although Netanyahu’s reign witnessed unprecedented violence, stand-offs fuelled by unprovoked terror attacks, his political agility saw him pull Israel out of tight and dangerous situations. For instance, his last days in power was dominated by mortal conflicts in the Gaza Strip. The bombardments of Gaza must have been intended as enduring parting gift to put paid to the Hamas and other groups of violence-thirsty groups constantly provoking Israel, even though his methods will be debated for many years to come.
Netanyahu’s reign ended with a razor-thin 60-59 votes and one abstention. The narrow victory of coalition cleared the space for Naftali Bennett’s emergence as the new Israeli prime minister.
He is the leader of the Yamina party (yamina in Hebrew means right. Right in the context of right and left, not right as in good). The self-made millionaire, the new prime minister, was a one-time ally of Netanyahu. He will be prime minister until September 2023 as part of a power-sharing deal.
The 49-year old prime minister joined the Israeli Parliament eight years ago. Certainly, Naftali will face the challenge of reconciliation and rebuilding Israel. He must be ready to whip up militancy against the terror groups. He must play international politics with the delivery of master of the art. He must not foreclose any chances of establishing diplomatic relationship with the Asians. Sustaining relationships with the West will be a wise one.
Israelis, and indeed the world, are watching how he will handle Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters’ threats in and around the region. Any step towards repelling terror and de-escalation of violence in the region will be commendable. Israel is surrounded by Arab nations with a clear domination agenda. Israel cannot take any of these countries for granted. These nations are strong. Many of these countries have tasted wars. They are smart in international politics, and could manoeuvre super structures of global powers. The Asians are not particularly friends of Israel. The Asian world is friendly with the Arabs.
In his seeming inauguration speech, Naftali has said: “He considers the West Bank, Jerusalem (Judea and Samaria) as birthright of Israel.”
Also, he reportedly said that the Golan Heights belongs to Israel. And that he is against the two-state solution. He, therefore, vows that as long as he has any power, that he will not cede any parcel of Israeli land to anybody.
The mood in Palestine following the development is that of no-let-off, even as they are wondering what kind of leadership Naftali will bring to the table.
A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, had said: “This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”
It remains to be seen how Naftali will hold Israel together to fight a common enemy or accommodate their enemy.
His coalition government is expected to make its first significant steps to give the world an idea of the direction his leadership may be headed for.
•Nwokocha is News Express Managing Editor, Nation’s Capital.
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