Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confidently told supporters on Saturday at a traditional Moroccan-Jewish celebration called Mimouna – marking the end of Passover - that his Likud party would soon be back in power, given the current coalition crisis in the Bennett-led government.
In response, the pro-Netanyahu crowd chanted “Long live Bibi, King of Israel,” while Netanyahu made promises of renewed hope.
“This year’s holiday has a new flavor, the flavor of hope, a lot of hope,” declared Netanyahu.
“I meet a lot of citizens who are full of hope, who are hoping and believing that we’ll bring the Israeli government back on the right track, the secure track, the track that will promise security and attainment for all of Israel’s citizens. This is a Mimouna of faith and hope, and we’re coming back soon,” he added.
Simcha Yosipov, former mayor of the city, Or Akiva, expressed his excitement concerning the prospect of Netanyahu returning to the Prime Minister’s Office.
“He’ll come back to become prime minister and I’ll be mayor,” said Yosipov referring to Netanyahu. “We’re coming back together. That’s what he told me,” emphasized the former mayor.
As the longest serving prime minister in modern Israel’s history, Netanyahu sat in the prime minister’s chair in Jerusalem for 12 consecutive years from 2009 until June 2021. In addition, Netanyahu served as prime minister during the period 1996-1999.
After an unusually chaotic cycle of four inconclusive elections in two years, Naftali Bennett eventually emerged as Israel’s new prime minister last June, pushing Netanyahu into the political opposition.
During the past ten months, Netanyahu and his Likud party have systematically tried to undermine the incumbent government led by Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. Until recently, Bennett’s coalition government surprised pundits with its resilience, despite being politically diverse and ruling by a razor-thin majority of only 61 seats in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset.
However, in early April, the government lost its fragile majority after MK Idit Silman, a member of Bennett’s conservative Yamina party, announced that she was leaving her post. At the time, Silman articulated her dissatisfaction with the current Bennett government.
“I will not abet the harming of the Jewish identity of the State of Israel and the people of Israel. I will continue to try to persuade my friends to return home and form a right-wing government,” stated Silman. “I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Another government can be formed in this Knesset,” she added.
Bennett, nevertheless, hinted that Netanyahu and his Likud party had been using a combination of carrots and sticks to make Silman to leave the government. Whether political disagreements or opportunism, Silman’s dramatic decision has paved the path to a renewed struggle over Israel’s current and future political direction.
The Bennett-led administration continues to face serious, daunting challenges. Last week, the Arab Islamist Ra’am party, which is part of the government coalition, declared it would freeze its coalition and Knesset membership to protest the rising tensions between radical Muslim rioters and Israel security forces on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Unsurprisingly, the political opposition – led by Netanyahu – increasingly senses the opportunity to return to power.
Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the far-right Religious Zionist party and a Netanyahu ally, recently requested an urgent meeting to vote on dissolving the Knesset. Smotrich addressed the issue to Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy.
"As you probably know very well, after the withdrawal of your partners from the Ra'am party from the coalition, the government and the coalition do not have a majority," stated Smotrich.
"The current situation, in which the government is in fact a minority government that does not hold a majority in the Knesset, critically harms democracy and as a result also public trust," he added.
The Knesset is currently in recess, with the summer session opening on May 8.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.