Israel post-election political deadlock deepens with no end in sight


by Keren Setton

Almost a month after Israel’s third consecutive election within a year, the political deadlock is still not close to being solved.

Israeli parliament speaker Yuli Edelstein, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, resigned on Wednesday, refusing to comply with a Supreme Court order which asked him to convene the parliament to vote on his replacement.

The resignation was unprecedented in Israeli parliamentary history and drew criticism from outside and within the right-wing bloc.

“The speaker’s actions over the past few days and his refusal to act in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling are bringing us dangerously close to anarchy,” read a statement by Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute.

Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White party, has until mid-April to form a government. However, his chances of forging a coalition are slim. Aside from opposing Netanyahu, wide divisions exist within members of the bloc.

“Since Gantz is unable to form a government, his way to make progress is by gaining control of the parliament, taking a supervising role and thus maintaining contact with the public,” said Gayle Tal Shir of the Department of Political Science of the Hebrew University.

“The path to a unity government is not really clear, as developments in recent days reflects a severe deterioration in the relations between the government branches and between the political blocs,” Tal Shir added.

Besides, the lengthy political deadlock comes amid the spread of the COVID-19 across the country. Under a series of emergency executive measures, Israel is almost under a complete lockdown.

Netanyahu’s opposition accuse him of taking undemocratic measures such as allowing GPS surveillance of citizens and suspending the parliament because of restrictions on large gatherings.

“There is nothing inherently illegitimate about these measures,” said Jonathan Rynhold, a professor of the Political Studies Department at Bar Ilan University.

“However, when they wanted to close the parliament, they took away parliaments’ oversight of these extraordinary powers, which was a real challenge to democracy,” he added.

The resignation of Edelstein and the subsequent takeover of the parliament by Gentz’s greater political bloc is a blow to Netanyahu who has been in a battle for his political survival since his government fell over a year ago.

This may push Netanyahu to agree to a unity government with Gantz, a move he was less reluctant to make after the last two elections.

“It is the first time that there is a possibility for the prime minister has to leave his position,” said Tal Shir. “It is the first time he realizes that a unity government is better for him.”

But the distrust between the two sides seems too large to overcome.

“The default will support a Netanyahu-led minority government for six months,” Rynhold told Xinhua.

“This is the path of least resistance. It is not desirable, but it may be the only one that is doable,” the Israeli professor concluded. Enditem

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