ISRAEL FORMS NEW GOVERNMENT, ELECTS NEW PM AFTER YEARS OF POLITICAL STALEMATE
On Sunday 13 June, Israel formed a new government, as new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett unseated Israel’s longest-serving leader Benjamin Netanyahu in a Knesset (Israel’s parliament) vote of 60-59, with one minister abstaining. The change in leadership comes after two years of political stalemate, in which the country held four inconclusive elections. Mr Bennett’s ‘Change Government’ is made up of a coalition of eight political parties with little in common other than the desire to unseat Netanyahu. Mr Bennett, who previously served as Netanyahu’s chief of staff, will serve in the role of prime minister for two years before handing the position over to Yair Lapid, a former finance minister, for the last two years of the four-year term. The coalition brought together parties from the right, left, and centre, and includes an Arab conservative party (Ra’am), marking the first time an Arab party has been included in the ruling government. Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Ra’am political party called the creation of the coalition a “historic moment.” There is hope that this will incentivise other Israeli Arab parties to do likewise and focus on using their positions in the Knesset to promote the wellbeing of their communities within Israeli society. The coalition will hold off on making decisions on controversial issues such as West Bank settlements, and instead, focus on “mending the many rifts dividing Israeli society.” After the loss, Netanyahu assured his supporters that he would be back in power “sooner than you think.” To his supporters, Netanyahu was seen as a “defender of Israel” who improved the country’s economy and strengthened relationships with other countries. To his opponents, he was a polarising figure who increased tensions between Jews and Arabs. Many opposition leaders voiced concern over his ability to remain in office while on trial for corruption.
From a Christian perspective, the new Israeli government is the most representative governing body the country has seen, and one of its intentions is to bring the people together. In his speech after the victory, Mr Bennett addressed the topic of bringing unity to the people of Israel, thanking Netanyahu for the work he did to help include Abbas and his party. “We will open a new page in the relations between the State of Israel and the country’s Arab citizens. The Arab community will be represented in the coalition by Mansour Abbas and his party. This is a process [for which] I must give credit to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who held a ground-breaking series of meetings with Mansour Abbas, who extended a hand. This was the right thing to do. We understand the plight and needs of the Arab society. The fight against crime and violence, the housing crisis, the gaps in education and infrastructure—will be addressed.” Some observers have expressed concern that the international evangelical community’s support will drift away from Israel’s new government, as it focuses on uniting groups within Israel. However, Joel Rosenberg, an American-Israeli author, spoke to the issue in a piece for All Israel News: “While evangelicals do highly respect and appreciate Netanyahu, their love for Israel is not tied to one man, but is based on the Abrahamic covenant and the biblical command to bless Israel and the Jewish people. Christians of course know that at some point Netanyahu will move on, but they sincerely want to bless and strengthen Israel for the long haul regardless of who is in power. Thus, I believe evangelicals will generally be inclined to support and pray for the new Israeli government.”
According to an INcontext contact in Israel, a government department to watch will be the Minister of Interior, which controls whether Gentile believers can remain in the country and whether Messianic or Gentile believers can immigrate to Israel. The benefits the ultra-Orthodox community had under Netanyahu’s government could face revision, and the evangelical church could be presented with newfound opportunities and challenges under Mr Bennett. Regardless of who is in power in Israel, or what policies may come with the new coalition, may the global Church continue to pray for Israel’s transition, its leaders, and for the salvation of every person living within its borders.
“I pray to God that He grant me wisdom and understanding to lead the State of Israel. Heavenly Father, Rock and Redeemer of Israel, bless the State of Israel, the first flourishing of our redemption, guard it in your abundant kindness, spread over it the shelter of Your peace. Send forth your light and truth to its leaders, ministers and advisers, and grace them with Your good counsel. Strengthen the hands of those who guard our holy land, grant them deliverance and adorn them in victory. Give peace in the land, and grant its inhabitants eternal happiness.” – Naftali Bennett (‘Prayer for Peace in the State of Israel’ recited in his inauguration speech)
Please pray with us for the following:
- For a continued peaceful transition of power and for Israel’s new leadership to be led by Godly wisdom
- For greater opportunity for believers, both Messianic and Gentile, to enter the country, enriching the body of Christ in Israel
- For Israeli believers to be encouraged and to find new ways of bringing the hope of Christ to all Israelis
Image: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun