A seismic shift in Israeli politics occurred Wednesday. A commensurate shift in policies is unlikely, however.
That's because the coalition cobbled together to topple Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister for the last 12 years (15 years total), is unwieldy, ranging from the far right to the far left of the political spectrum. It includes support from an Arab Islamist party, Raam, which mostly opposes policies of the Yamina Party, home of Naftali Bennett, set to be the new prime minister.
While Yamina only won seven seats in the 120-member Knesset, Israel's Parliament, Bennett's split from his former mentor Netanyahu was enough to garner the required 61 seats needed to form a government (with the remaining hurdle of a parliamentary vote of confidence within one week). Bennett has entered into a power-sharing agreement with center-right party Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid, who will become prime minister in two years.
That is if the government lasts that long. Some may find the incongruent coalition undesirable, if not unworkable, and try to gain a right-wing majority at the ballot box in an election not dominated by Netanyahu, who has been indicted on three charges of corruption (which he denies).
While the new coalition includes conservatives more extreme than the Likud-led cohort under Netanyahu, the more moderate and leftist elements may stall controversial policies such as the annexation of portions of the West Bank and an official scuttling of the current policy of the two-state goal — positions generally favored by Bennett but opposed by Lapid.
The paralysis may also keep Israel from reckoning with the acute, even existential questions it must contend with, like how to deal with an increasingly hostile Hamas, let alone the broader question of some kind of accord with its Palestinian population. Regional relations with Arab countries, Iran's potential nuclear-weapons program, the growing rift with erstwhile European and even American citizens who were long supportive of Israel but now are more openly questioning, if not contemptuous, of its policies are also significant, unresolved issues.
Instead, the "change" government will attempt to tackle a national budget, judicial reform and infrastructure, among other important, but not transformative, issues. Even this may prove difficult, however.
"This government is being called, I think rather ironically, a 'change' government, but nothing could be less aptly named," Ronald R. Krebs, a University of Minnesota professor of political science, told an editorial writer.
"It would certainly change the figures of the head of the government, but one cannot imagine a government less well-suited to bringing about any significant change on the challenges Israel faces ahead."
It's a government that could be called "ABN" — "anyone but Netanyahu" — Krebs said. "It is a government that is designed to do one and only one thing: and that is get 'Bibi' Netanyahu out of office."
That's a profound event for Israelis, Palestinians, regional adversaries and allies — including the U.S., if President Joe Biden seizes upon the fresh start with initiatives that strengthen the bilateral relationship while pushing the peace process forward, however incrementally.