By now you’ve heard the news. Israel’s Knesset is in the process of being dissolved, and new elections will be called for the fifth time in the last three years. Unlike the US, Israel is based on a parliamentary system, and when a government loses their majority coalition, it can easily be brought down and new elections called. With several Knesset Members bolting from the coalition recently, it was only a matter of time before this government’s days were numbered.
This last year will go down as one of the most unique and strange time periods in Israel’s political history. Naftali Bennett, once considered a strong conservative politician, will be remembered as someone who broke his promises, catered to the liberal and Muslim parties, and accomplished next to nothing during his one-year tenure as prime minister. With reports of an early retirement from political life, it is clear that Bennett will have difficulty salvaging his reputation in the months and years to come.
One of the most troubling aspects to Israel’s Knesset dissolving will be the unknown of the next four months before elections are held. According to the original coalition agreement that Bennett made, Yair Lapid (current Finance Minister and head of the Yesh Atid party) will immediately become interim prime minister following the dissolution of the government. This means that he will be the leader who will receive US President Joe Biden during his visit to Israel in several weeks. With Yair Lapid’s left-wing political positions, and his declared support for a two-state solution, this visit could be a disaster when combined with Biden’s troubling middle eastern policies.
The US Administration has already confirmed that Biden’s trip, including a stop in Israel on July 13th, will continue as planned even though there has been a change in Israel’s government. According to some analysts, Biden views Yair Lapid as a moderate, and therefore, views him more favorably than Naftali Bennett.
Among other things, agenda items on Biden’s visit are: the Iranian threat, a security alliance between Israel and Gulf states, reopening the US consulate in Jerusalem, and discussions about Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas.
An obvious concern is the Iran topic. The US Administration has proven that their main goal was to broker a new nuclear agreement with Iran, one which decidedly failed. Until now, Israel has made preparations for dealing with Iran on a military and security level. However, with Yair Lapid in power and pressure from the US to present a soft hand to Iran, it is unclear whether or not Israel will have the boldness needed to strike Iran if necessary.
Another concern on Biden’s agenda is the discussion about reopening the US Consulate in Jerusalem. The US State Department has already signaled that they have reopened the “US Office of Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem.” There is great concern that President Biden will pressure Yair Lapid and Israel to approve the official opening of a US Consulate for Palestinian Affairs, which would in effect be an embassy for the Palestinian Arabs.
This discussion would be 100% politically motivated. After all, when former President Trump moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, he was following through on a law that was unanimously passed by Congress in 1995. When you bring it down to a practical level, Trump was simply doing something that should have been done more than 25 years ago. With the new American Administration’s official policy being the support of a two-state solution, if a US Consulate for the Palestinians is reopened in Jerusalem, the US would be signaling their first steps towards pressuring Israel to create a Palestinian state.
While Lapid has expressed his support for a two-state solution, he also recognizes that it is impractical and currently impossible given the political climate and the refusal of the Palestinian Authority to even come to a negotiating table. Opening a US Consulate for Palestinians Arabs however, would be a dangerous first step towards the two-state solution, and the Palestinian Authority is not even needed to make this happen.
Not only would this be disastrous for Israel, but it would be disastrous for America and the limited democracy in the middle east.
With Israel’s Knesset being dissolved and elections scheduled for late October or early November, Yair Lapid will have nearly four months to make several very critical moves when it comes to an Iranian policy, a two-state solution, catering to the Palestinian Authority, and making the right decisions for Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. He will have barely had time to settle into his new office before welcoming the president of the United States of America on an official visit, which could easily set off a string of very bad political decisions, given the current state of Biden’s Israel policy.
Let’s pray that not only will Yair Lapid make the right decisions needed for Israel at this critical juncture, but that a strong, right-wing government will be brought to power with the next elections, including a prime minister who will stand firmly in support of sovereignty in all of the land of Israel.