More Unites the Parties of Israel's New Government than Divides Them | Opinion

A new Israeli government has been sworn in. This new government does not include former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his Likud Party, which has ruled Israel with few exceptions for the last 44 years. And both Bibi's supporters and his opponents will need to adjust to a whole new world in which, to paraphrase President Richard Nixon, they won't have Netanyahu to kick around anymore.

The question remains as to how long this new world will exist. Many pundits predict a quick demise of the new government. The ideological differences within this new coalition are vast; it includes Meretz, an adamant left-wing party, and Yamina, a definitively right-wing party, to say nothing of the Islamist party Ra'am.

And yet, this assessment is little more than wishful thinking on the part of Likudniks. No doubt, a sizable ideological gap between the different parties exists, but what unites them is far more significant than what divides them.

First and foremost, almost all the parties in the coalition are committed to good governance and understand that this is their chance to prove they can actually accomplish something. And this can be a powerful motivating factor to focus on the possible and actually govern well. Meretz voters who care about the state of the occupation have no illusion the current government will bring about peace, but they will be thrilled if their representatives can make significant improvements in Israel's healthcare system. Meretz will also run the Environmental Ministry, another area where change is necessary and possible. Peace in our time may be unachievable, but major strides to improve Israel's environment are imminently achievable.

This desire and drive to realize tangible goals cuts across all the ministries and members of the coalition, who are all united by having something to prove. Moreover, all the members of the new coalition understand that five years during which Prime Minister Netanyahu and his various representatives have attacked the police, the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General, and the judiciary have resulted in a precipitous loss of faith of the public in those institutions. The new coalition's existential mission for Israel's democracy is to restore the confidence of the people in the institutions of government.

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This combination of pictures created on June 2, 2021 shows (Top L to R) Israel's opposition leader Yair Lapid, Israeli former Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, Israeli former Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar, Israeli ex-Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, (bottom L to R) Israeli politician Nitzan Horowitz, Israeli alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, head of Israel's conservative Islamic Raam party Mansour Abbas, and leader of the Israeli Labour Party (HaAvoda) Merav Michaeli. EMMANUEL DUNAND/THOMAS COEX/JACK GUEZ/MENAHEM KAHANA/AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images

There is also a strong understanding that after 12 years of Netanyahu's leadership, which subsisted on an ever-deepening hatred of the other ("the left," "the media," "the Arabs")—the new coalition is charged with working to unify rather than divide the mainstream of Israeli society.

Moreover, the government has a mandate to bring the marginalized into the fold, an assignment that's already begun; the historic participation of an Arab Israeli party as part of the coalition is groundbreaking. Israeli politics will never be the same. And the willingness of the Ra'am Party to be part of the government, as well as the readiness of the right-wing members of the government to accept Ra'am, will in and of itself help bring Arab Israelis closer to Israel's mainstream.

The one big issue that divides the new coalition's members is what to do with the occupied parts of the West Bank. And yet, that issue is not likely to become a significant controversy for any of the parties. If President Trump were still in the White House, the right-wing would push for the annexation of the Jewish settlement in the West Bank. But such a campaign is a non-starter with the Biden Administration.

A final reason I believe this coalition will last is that its members have no place to go if the government fails. They will have accomplished their goal of removing Netanyahu from Balfour Street, but unless these leaders can show they have the flexibility to work together for the common good, their political careers will be effectively over. That is powerful incentive for common sense and good government to triumph over the divisive rhetoric that could tear the coalition apart.

Israel has become a wealthy country that faces many challenges. For the past three years, its politics have been dominated by the short-term needs of a Prime Minister embroiled in his own legal morass, unable to even to pass a state budget. The new government is not the first to bridge vast ideological gulfs. Will it be able to succeed in the current hyper-partisan age, flamed by social media? Only time will tell. But I believe it will.

Marc Schulman is a multimedia historian.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.