Since no single party in its 73-year history has ever received a majority of votes, Israel's parliamentarian, multi-party system relies on the formation of coalition governments, which are always made up of multiple political parties representing different constituencies and agendas. By definition, coalitions are an exercise in compromise with parties joining hands across divides and necessarily forgoing parts of their own platform in the interest of sharing power in a government with other parties whose agenda sometimes differs widely.
In recent years, our coalition system of fragmented parties coincided with Prime Minister Netanyahu's legal tangles. He has thus been unable to leverage the size of his Likud party into a majority coalition of 61 Knesset Members with himself as its Prime Minister. Three consecutive rounds of elections failed to bring about a stable coalition led by either Netanyahu or the opposing parties.
In April 2020, a coalition did emerge, putting together the two main opposing parties, Likud and Blue & White, on such flimsy grounds that its days were numbered from the very start. It lasted for barely six months before Israelis headed to the voting booths for an unprecedented fourth time in under two years.
Under a cloud of criticism for its handling of COVID, in the months since Likud lost roughly 20% of its voters. Right-wing party leaders, heretofore natural allies in a Netanyahu coalition, realized that voters were looking for change - and for stability. For the first time in a dozen years, a coalition was formed without Netanyahu, without Likud - and without the two Haredi parties in government.
The new governing coalition contains an unprecedented number of partners - eight parties, spanning the political spectrum from the far right to the far left and including, for the first time ever, an Arab party.
The wide spectrum of positions on most important issues will make this government extremely difficult to manage under Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a right-wing leader whose Yemina party only has six members in the 60-member coalition. The flip side of the government's unmanageable nature is the fact that it mirrors Israel's diversity in what is arguably the most heterogeneous government in the country's history.
The Ministers forming this government, hailing from eight different parties, are a microcosm of Israeli society in the 21st Century, and shatter a number of glass ceilings.
Prime Minister Bennett (49), the first Prime Minister born after 1950, is the first-ever kippa-wearer in the position. Although there are no Haredi parties in government, Bennett and other religious Ministers are sure to protect and promote Israel's character as a Jewish (and democratic) state.
This government will have a record-breaking nine women Ministers. Although Israel was among the first nations to have a woman serve as head of government (Golda Meir, 1969-1974), we have not elected another since . With women comprising one third of our Ministers, we are making real, if slow, progress.
This government will also boast for its first Ethiopian-born Minister and two Arab Ministers. For the first time, we will also have a wheelchair-bound Minister (living with from Muscular Dystrophy), while our new Minister of Health is a member of the LGBTQ community.
The new Israeli government is made up of women and men from very diverse backgrounds and political positions. While the initial impetus for coming together under one coalition was a shared desire to replace the 12-year rule of Netanyahu, what will ultimately keep this government together will be its desire to effect necessary investments - in infrastructure, health, education, welfare, and transportation. It is a government that truly reflects Israeli society - vibrant and diverse-and hopefully will bring needed stability, bridging internal differences and forging a new unity .