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Strange bedfellows

How Arab Israelis could seal Netanyahu's defeat

A diverse coalition of eight political parties is preparing to take over Israel's government from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as soon as the Knesset, or parliament, gives it the green light. But "as any Israeli will tell you, it is still too soon to celebrate — or mourn — the downfall of the man beloved by his base as 'King Bibi,'" Yardena Schwartz writes in Politico Magazine. "Given Netanyahu's canny political skills and determination to undermine the coalition, anything could happen in the roughly eight to 10 days before the Knesset votes on the fate of the new government."

Netanyahu is publicly urging his supporters to pressure lawmakers to sink the "fraudulent" and "leftist" government, which would be led for two years by hard-right religious-nationalist Naftali Bennett, a former Netanyahu protégé. But Netanyahu has also been working behind the scenes, calling coalition members and urging them to defect — and at least one member of Bennett's Yamina party is reportedly considering doing so, Schwartz reports from Tel Aviv.

"With such a small majority — 61 out of 120 Knesset seats — the fragile coalition cannot afford a single defection," and with a group that includes both the Arab-Islamist Raam party, leftist Meretz, and Bennett's pro–Israeli settlement party, it's easy to imagine at least one coalition lawmaker peeling away, Schwartz writes. The Joint List, a group of majority-Arab parties not in the coalition, is considering sitting out the vote, however, allowing the "change" government a more comfortable margin to get a simple majority in the Knesset.

"By helping the coalition withstand Netanyahu's efforts to pull it apart before it comes into being, Arab-Israeli citizens could play a crucial and perhaps ironic role in ushering Israel out of Bibi's shadow," Schwartz notes. In the meantime, "Netanyahu is doing what he does best: anything he can to stay in power." Read more about the fight for Israel's political future at Politico.