Only one thing is clear in Israel’s suddenly chaotic politics. On July 16, Benjamin Netanyahu will become the longest-serving prime minister in Israeli history. But two months later, he may be on his way out of office.
Unprecedented political developments are roiling Israel after Netanyahu was surprisingly unable to form a governing coalition despite another election win in April. A rerun of the vote is set for Sept. 17, and Netanyahu’s fate could look very different by then. It is as intriguing of a domestic political reality as Israel has ever seen, with multiple moving parts and scenarios to contemplate.
The latest among many unprecedented twists came on May 29. Netanyahu had seemed invincible after April’s election, with a smooth path ahead to form a government, all-but securing support from 65 members of the 120-seat Knesset, Israel’s parliament. But with the deadline for announcing a governing coalition just hours away, Netanyahu had only managed to secure the support of parties representing 60 lawmakers. Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the hard-right, ultranationalist party Israel Our Home, or Yisrael Beiteinu, refused to join the government unless Netanyahu rescinded an agreement with ultra-Orthodox parties that would allow their members to indefinitely defer military service. If Netanyahu agreed to Lieberman’s demand, he would lose the ultra-Orthodox vote and fall even shorter of a parliamentary majority.