Israel’s conflict with Hamas and unprecedented inter-communal violence at home have further complicated efforts to form a government, raising the specter of yet another general election, experts say.
This could be a political hindrance to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose best hope of extending his record 12 straight years in office could hang on to what would be the fifth Israeli election since April 2019.
However, the ideologically divided anti-Netanyahu camp still has a narrow window to reach a deal that would oust the premier. The centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid’s 28-day mandate to form a government will expire on June 3.
“Most analysts regard the fifth election as the most probable outcome,” said Toby Greene, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University.
“But there are ten days left, and that is a very long time in Israeli politics.”
It was widely expected that any deal reached by Lapid would have to bring onboard both Naftali Bennett’s right-wing nationalist Yamina party and at least some pro-Palestinian and non-Zionist Arab lawmakers.
But hopes for any such deal were dealt a severe blow this month as Hamas forces in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza entered into a conflict with Israel, while a wave of inter-communal violence gripped multiple mixed Jewish and Arab communities inside Israel.
This has forced Bennett to “reconsider his choice to form a government together with Arab-supported parties,” said Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute think tank.
Before a conflict flared with Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad on May 10, Netanyahu’s political future looked precarious.
Netanyahu, who is on trial for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, had failed in a March 23 vote to secure enough seats with his allies to build a majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament.