Benjamin Netanyahu has been prime minister of Israel since 2009. He previously served three terms as prime minister in the 1990s.
Now it appears that his time in office may be over.
In what is being called “a seismic event in Israeli politics,” Mr. Netanyahu’s rivals announced yesterday the creation of a coalition government that would replace him. Yair Lapid, who leads the centrist Yesh Atid party, and Naftali Bennett, who heads the right-wing Yamina party, will team up with six other parties.
Mr. Bennett will serve as prime minister for two years, followed by Mr. Lapid, who will first serve as foreign minister. Blue and White’s Benny Gantz will be defense minister; New Hope’s Gideon Saar will be justice minister; Yisrael Beiteinu’s Avigdor Lieberman will be finance minister; and Yamina’s Ayelet Shaked will be interior minister.
However, some of the coalition agreements are not yet final. They will need to be presented to the Knesset (the Israeli parliament) within twelve days.
How is Israel governed?
The Knesset is composed of 120 members. No party has ever won a sixty-one-seat majority in an election, so the party that wins the most seats is given a period of time to build a governing coalition with other parties. Mr. Netanyahu’s party won the most seats in the recent elections, but he was unable to build such a coalition.
Mr. Lapid, whose party came in second, was then given this opportunity. Yesterday, he announced that he had built such a coalition. However, his coalition is far from stable, as it includes members from a wide variety of parties. For the first time, the Islamist Ra’am party chose to join, making it the first Arab party to enter an Israeli government.
Mr. Netanyahu is warning that this new coalition is a dangerous government that will not be able to confront Iran or meet other security challenges. He is expected to try to sabotage the coalition by pressing several of its right-wing members to defect.
Since the coalition has only sixty-one seats, the defection of a single member would bring it down and lead to another election.
Why was Mr. Netanyahu in office for so long?
George Friedman, a geopolitical analyst, has made popular the concept of a “metanarrative.” This is a guiding worldview, a set of priorities and agendas that form and explain behavior. Individuals, organizations, and countries all have metanarratives. When we identify a nation’s metanarrative, we are better able to understand its past actions and predict its future behavior.
The metanarrative of the State of Israel has been clear from its formation on May 14, 1948: to provide a homeland for the Jewish people. This metanarrative is tied directly to the security of the country. From its inception, Israel has faced adversaries who seek its destruction.
Its War of Independence was fought against a coalition of forces from Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. In the years since, Israel has fought against these countries as well as forces from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Algeria, and the Palestine Liberation Organization. In recent years, it has faced attacks from Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
As a result, Israel expects its prime ministers to put national security above all other priorities. To the degree that Mr. Netanyahu has been viewed as successful in this regard, he has been able to retain his position of leadership. However, he is currently under indictment for corruption, causing many potential coalition members to refuse his invitation to join his government. His handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent conflict with Hamas have come under criticism as well.
How can we pray for Israel?
How can you and I “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” in these historic days (Psalm 122:6)?
One: Pray for the protection of Israel and cessation of violence in the region. It would not be surprising for Iran and Israel’s other enemies to try to take advantage of this leadership transition. Make Paul’s prayer yours: “May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Two: Pray for the new leaders (if they do take office) to build a better future for Israel and the Palestinians. With God “there is neither Jew nor Greek” (Galatians 3:28). He loves each of us so much that his Son died for each of us. Pray for his best for the Jews, Arabs, and others who inhabit the Holy Land.
Three: Pray for ways to build relationships with the Jewish people you know. Paul had “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” for the Jews who had not made Jesus their Messiah (Romans 9:2). Like him, we should grieve for every Jewish person who does not know our Lord and seek to share his love and grace with them.
How can we repay the debt we owe?
Jesus was a Jew. So were each of his apostles. So was Paul. Every book of the Bible (except possibly for Luke/Acts and Hebrews) was written by a Jew. Christians owe a tremendous debt to our Jewish sisters and brothers.
How can we repay it? By praying for them daily, forging relationships with them built on mutual respect and appreciation, and giving them the opportunity to know their Messiah.
Can Jesus use you to introduce his people to him?
NOTE: For more on God’s sovereignty over time and life, see my new website article, “Is an iPhone depicted in an 1860 painting? Time travel and the truth of God.” For more on the power of sacrificial relationships, see my new article, “Woman donates kidney to husband’s ex-wife two days after wedding: How to find the community we need.”