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The government of Benjamin Netanyahu is no more after 12 years in office. A coalition of opposition forces, of what some see as unlikely allies, has unseated the Netanyahu government in a parliamentary election on Sunday. The new alliance will see Naftali Bennett, as Prime Minister and Yair Lapid, former TV journalist-turned politician, the Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. Netanyahu will now serve as Opposition Leader, claiming that he was “cheated.”
Netanyahu is known for his hardline position and is seen as a war hawk. He is even considered divisive in some corners. Under his leadership Israel has asserted itself in the Middle East by expanding further into Palestinian territory. The tension that has operated between the two nations makes the region a tender pox for ongoing violence and fear of the spread of Netanyahu has been a complex leader, liked by some and hated by others.
His relationship, particularly with the United States (U.S), has been enhanced by strong Jewish-American influence, supported by Congress and the White House. Undoubtedly Israel has been America’s strongest ally in the Middle East and there has been a sense that regardless of what Israel does America will stand by Israel.
Within recent years some leading Americans have become more vocal in calling for a different approach to Israel and the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Leaders and sections of the media have not been afraid to express disapproval with actions considered wrong by the Israeli government. One notable critic is Senator Bernard “Bernie” Sanders, a Jew himself.
Senator Sanders has made no secret he’s no fan of Netanyahu, who he has called a “racist” and accused of cultivating “racist nationalism.” He wrote a scathing piece, in the New York Times (May 14, 2021), following Israel bombings on Palestine, based on Netanyahu’s claim that he had evidence Hamas, which is categorised a terrorist group, was hiding out in Palestine. Among the instances he cited for his disagreement with Netanyahu’s rule is probably summed up with the following:-
“Over more than a decade of his right-wing rule in Israel, Mr. Netanyahu has cultivated an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism. In his frantic effort to stay in power and avoid prosecution for corruption, Mr. Netanyahu has legitimised these forces, including Itamar Ben Gvir and his extremist Jewish Power party, by bringing them into the government. It is shocking and saddening that racist mobs that attack Palestinians on the streets of Jerusalem now have representation in its Knesset.”
Senator Sanders concluded that, “I strongly believe that the United States has a major role to play in helping Israelis and Palestinians to build that future. But if the United States is going to be a credible voice on human rights on the global stage, we must uphold international standards of human rights consistently, even when it’s politically difficult. We must recognise that Palestinian rights matter. Palestinian lives matter.”
U.S President Joe Biden has extended congratulations to the new government, stating the U.S is fully committed to Israel and working with the country to “advance security, stability, and peace for Israelis, Palestinians, and people throughout the broader region.” The Bennett/ Lapid coalition has its own internal differences to overcome and operate a functional government, including working to bring about peace with Palestine. Netanyahu doesn’t think they will succeed and said he will “be back soon.” Time will time.