Security, High Prices & More: The Challenges Facing Israel as Knesset Returns From Recess

Knesset - Sputnik International, 1920, 09.05.2022
One of the obstacles that the coalition will need to manage is how to handle the security threat coming from Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists. Another is passing the national budget against a backdrop of rocketing cost of living.
Israel's Knesset is due to reconvene on Monday for the beginning of its summer session after weeks of recess.
It won't be an easy ride for the coalition government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Since Idit Silman quit the governing Yamina coalition in early April, his bloc has lost its majority in the Israeli parliament. Although the absence of one parliamentarian made little difference while the Knesset was in recess, now that it is back in session, every vote will count and Yamina cannot afford to lose any other member.
Keeping the alliance intact promises to be the main goal of a coalition which has struggled to stay afloat since it was founded in June 2021. It will want to avoid any more defections, and will try to pass laws to show that it is business as usual. But the coalition's success will largely depend on a number of factors:

Security Challenges

The past couple of months have been exceptionally challenging for Israel's security. Since March, Palestinian and Israeli-Arab terrorists have carried out five major terror attacks within the Jewish state, killing 20 people. Several others have been injured.
Israel blames the surge in attacks on incitement by Palestinian leaders and clerics. Palestinians, however, say their actions have been triggered by the Israeli violations at the Haram al-Sharif, an area in Jerusalem that houses the Al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites.
Raam, an Islamic party in the Knesset that supports the present coalition, has already said that violations at Al-Aqsa would be a red line that shouldn't be crossed. The faction’s leader Mansour Abbas has also warned that if Israel continues its policies, his support for Yamina could be withdrawn, which would cause the government to collapse.
Until now, Bennett and his political partners have been trying to mollify Abbas. In the Gaza Strip, they have expanded the Palestinians' fishing zone and have granted thousands of permits enabling them to enter Israel to work. In the West Bank, they have cancelled the age limit for those who wish to worship at Al-Aqsa and have lifted restrictions on how many are allowed to attend the holy site.
But these concessions haven't helped. In April, Raam froze its partnership in the coalition, and reports now suggest the party is planning to break away altogether, triggering another round of general polls, the fifth in two years.

Rocketing Prices

Security challenges aren't the Knesset's only headache - the high cost of living will pose a challenge too.
Israel has always been considered one of the world's most expensive countries but in the past year the price of basic foodstuffs, bills, fuel and accommodation have rocketed, leading to mass dissatisfaction of the public.
Authorities have been trying to tackle the crisis. The Minister of Finance Avigdor Lieberman introduced a reform aimed at opening the Israeli market up to more competition by cancelling the quotas on some imported goods. Although the move was well received by the general public, it has been heavily criticised by local farmers who have seen their income slashed thanks to the move. Farmers' groups are an important lobby in the Knesset and have heavy representation among the liberal Labour and Meretz parties which will put added pressure on the already fragile coalition.

Budget a Bone of Contention

The budget for 2023 promises to be another friction point; budgets in the past have been able to bring down governments.
Last November, the Bennett coalition managed to pass the national budget, after a three-year hiatus. And they will try to repeat that success as early as this summer, without waiting for the March 2023 deadline that could potentially send them all home. But the question is whether they will have enough parliamentarians to support that move.
According to the law, the passing of the budget requires a simple majority. Theoretically, this is possible but as dissatisfaction within the coalition grows this goal has started to retreat.

Sinking Ratings

The government's ratings are continuing to sink. A recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute revealed that some 63 percent of the public gave Bennett and his minister a "mediocre" or a "bad" mark when it came to their handling of the security challenge. Poor ratings have also been given to them on the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the high costs of living. This means that if the coalition falls, the likelihood that the parties involved can get a high number of seats is diminishing.
Another media survey showed that if elections were held today, Bennett would not pass the threshold to get into the Knesset. Former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his bloc partners are getting stronger now, and this means that Bibi, [as Netanyahu is affectionately known] might make a comeback sooner than expected.
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