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New chapter for Israel?

15 JUNE 2021: As a new Israeli coalition government was sworn in under far-right technocrat Naftali Bennet - ending Benjamin Netanyahu's hold on office since 2009 (he was PM 1996-1999 too - world and Asian opinion was sharply divided. Cobbling together a diverse group with seriously conflicting interests, the government has inherrent wobbles.

Said the conservative Wall Street Journal, "Four inconclusive elections since 2019 have left the country deeply polarized, and Mr. Bennett and his allies must mend those rifts while confronting a swath of divisive issues, ranging from the construction of new settlements and empowering the country’s Arab citizens to state assistance for ultra-Orthodox Jews."

Liberal The New York Times, wrote, "Yair Lapid, a centrist leader, is set to take Mr. Bennett’s place after two years, if their government can hold together that long. They lead an eight-party alliance ranging from left to right, from secular to religious, that agrees on little but a desire to oust Mr. Netanyahu, the longest-serving leader in the country’s history, and to end Israel’s lengthy political gridlock."

UK's The Guardian took a softer approach, touching upon the inclusion of an Arab party for the first time as a tempering influence. "The party’s leader, Mansour Abbas, is seen as a pragmatist and said he had secured guarantees from hard-right coalition partners for greater rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, including on discriminatory housing policies, as well as several billions of pounds for infrastructure in Arab areas." This can only be good news for the country's harassed Arab population that has felt a growing squeeze over the years. The paper added, "Crucially, agreements suggested the new government could advance legislation that would limit any prime minister to eight years in office, potentially putting paid to Netanyahu’s plans for a future run for office."

Long-running Israeli newspaper Haaretz (in Hebrew and in English), found something to cheer: "After having dedicated his political career to the destruction of any prospects of peace, Benjamin Netanyahu’s departure won’t be mourned by many worldwide, with the exception of his friends Orban, Bolsonaro and the team behind President Trump’s Deal of the Century'. "

The Haaretz asks: "And the real question now is whether the new Israeli government is merely a name-change, or if it has any intention of ending that racist colonial legacy for the sake of a comprehensive and just political solution with the Palestinian people."

Middle East voice Al Jazeera, feels Biden has been handed a big break. It quoted analysts to say, "The change in government could help set the stage for limited agreements with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority while allowing for expansion of economic accords with Arab states, which would be wins for a Biden administration more focused on challenges elsewhere..."

Arab News hailed Netanyahu's departure as a "great achievement" but cautioned, "The new government does not have a strong base in the Knesset and within Israeli society." It does not see great strides in progress ahead, adding, "Israel has imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas took control of the area in 2007. The coastal strip has witnessed four wars and a rounds of fighting since then. Hamas does not expect any change in its relationship with Israel following the inauguration of the new government."

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper said, "Netanyahu has portrayed himself as a world-class statesman, boasting of his close ties with Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. He has also cultivated ties with Arab and African countries that long shunned Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians. But he has gotten a far chillier reception from the Biden administration and is widely seen as having undermined the long tradition of bipartisan support for Israel in the United States."

- AC