Israel History After 2001

By | December 22, 2021

The unilateral choice of A. Sharon

The elections for the re-election of the prime minister in 2001 recorded the lowest percentage of voters ever in Israel. A. Sharon, the Likud leader after Netanyahu’s resignation in 1999, formed a broad government of national unity, which Labor also joined. After the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and in Washington the government gave a hard political and military line to its action, responding to the wave of suicide attacks launched by the Palestinians against Israeli cities and settlements with a blockade on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with offensives on Palestinian cities and villages and stepping up targeted executions against Palestinian leaders. In 2002, the construction of a defensive security barrier along the entire West Bank began, which would have led to a sharp decrease in the number of suicide bombings in Israeli territory. The end of 2002 marked a dead end in the peace process. Israeli civil society was forced to deal daily with the reality of terrorism, which absorbed every instance of the internal political debate.

In April 2003 the road map, the plan agreed by the Bush administration with Russia, The UN and the European Union which envisaged a series of gradual steps of pacification until the birth of a Palestinian state, was approved by both sides, but the reservations expressed by Israel, not convinced by the Palestinian accession, seemed to dismiss it as impracticable. In 2004, Sharon’s decision to withdraw Israeli troops from Gaza and dismantle Jewish settlements was also connected with the debate that developed in the country about the Jewish and democratic identity of the state, threatened by Arab demographic pressure, hence the need to ensure to Israel a Jewish majority. In 2005, the implementation of the disengagement from Gaza, with the dismantling of settlements in the Strip (and 4 in the north of the West Bank), tore the country apart and was boycotted by his own party; also did not favor the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians, who saw in the initiative the Israeli will to act unilaterally. Faced with the growing opposition in the Likud ranks, Sharon resigned and made known the decision to build a new political force with the aim of going through the stages of road map even without Palestinian collaboration. For Israel democracy and rights, please check

Fragmentation of the political framework

The early elections of 2006 were won by the new party, Kadima («Avanti»), however no longer led by its founder, who suffered a stroke and forced out of political life, but by E. Olmert. The coalition government’s intentions for dialogue with Palestinians received a severe blow from Hamas’ victory in the Palestinian elections. In the following months, due to the critical situation in Gaza, the Israeli army returned to the Strip, which was also subject to an embargo ; on the border with Lebanon, Hezbollah’s military action led to the invasion of the south of the country until September. Olmert, weakened by criticism of the war in Lebanon – which cost a lot in terms of human losses – and also involved in a financial scandal, in September 2008 lost the leadership of Kadima, passed to the Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and resigned.. In a fragmented and aggravated political scenario, mirroring the divisions in Israeli society, Livni failed to form a coalition government, and early elections were called for February 2009. The elections had an uncertain outcome (Kadima had 28 seats, Likud 27) and only after long negotiations a new executive led by Netanyahu was formed and born from an agreement with E. Barak’s Labor. Even after the 2013 elections, the knesset split into two camps of equal strength, center-right and center-left, and Netanyahu was called to form a new government, having to enter into negotiations with parties that were not part of the previous executive but that have imposed themselves in the elections, as the center party Yesh Atid (“There is a future”). After the election in June 2014 of the tenth president of the country, R. Rivlin, a member of Likud, in the following December heated internal differences over central economic policy issues and the approval of a law, wanted by Netanyahu, which he would have defined Israel as a “nation-state of the Jews”, they pushed the prime minister to dissolve the coalition and call early elections to broaden the base of consensus; the consultations, held in March 2015, recorded the clear affirmation of the Likud, which obtained 30 of the 120 seats in the knesset, while the formation of the united Zionists, made up of Labor and Livni centrists, gained 24. The party of the outgoing premier also won the elections for the renewal of the Knesset held in April 2019, winning 35 seats at the same way of the Blue and White political formation of the former Chief of Staff B. Gantz, while Labor got only 6 seats, the worst result ever. As Netanyahu failed to reach a majority of 61 deputies to form a new government within the terms of the exploratory mandate, in May the Knesset voted its own self-dissolution and the calling of new elections, set for the following September. Although in the consultations the Likud was overtaken by one seat (32 against 33) by the Blue and White party, the the impossibility of forming a national unity government, President Rivlin has entrusted the outgoing premier, who can count on a larger coalition than that of Gantz, with the task of leading the new executive. After a further unsuccessful attempt by the outgoing premier to form the government, in October 2019 Rivlin entrusted Gantz with the task of finding a majority in the Knesset, but the following month, having found the impossibility of reaching broad agreements, the man politician has renounced forming a government coalition and resigned his mandate; the new consultations of March 2020 saw the Likud return to the country’s first party with 37 seats, however not enough to avoid government coalitions, while the centrists of Gantz’s Blue and White party obtained 32 seats. In the same month of March Rivlin entrusted the task of forming the government to Gantz, whose party in the consultations received the endorsement of 61 deputies against the 58 obtained by Netanyahu; this attempt also failed, in April Netanyahu and Gantz agreed to alternate at the helm of the country, the first holding the position of prime minister for the first 18 months, the second taking over for the second part of the legislature, but in December yet another crisis policy led to the launch of new consultations. Not even having the elections of March 2021 allowed to obtain a government majority, the following month Rivlin entrusted Netanyahu with the task of forming a new executive, but the politician resigned the mandate by inducing the president of the country to entrust him to Y. Yesh Atid Party Lapid. The signing in May 2021 of a coalition agreement between Lapid, the leader of the right-wing coalition Yamina N. Bennett and the head of the Islamic formation M. Abbas, received a vote of confidence from the Knesset, effectively ousted Netanyahu from the political scene; since June the office of premier has been held by Bennett, who after two years will hand over the mandate to Lapid. In a continuing political stalemate, the violent clashes that erupted in May 2021 following the removal of some Palestinian families from a neighborhood in Jerusalem have caused a resurgence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, during which mutual artillery clashes and protracted air strikes resulted in the deaths of around 200 individuals. The truce between Hamas and Israel was reached at the end of May, when a ceasefire was agreed between the two sides, both claiming victory. In the same month, the Knesset elected Labor Israel Herzog as president of the country with 87 votes.

On the external relations front, a historic agreement was reached in August 2020 with the aim of establishing formal diplomatic ties between the United Arab Emirates and the country, which agreed to suspend the process of annexation of part of the West Bank. The following month Israel, the United Emirates and Bahrain signed the Abrahamic Agreements for the normalization of diplomatic relations and commercial and economic cooperation between Israel and the two Gulf countries at the White House.

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