Members of the new Israeli government put together by Naftali Bennett, the new prime minister, have referred to their coalition as a “government of change.” But a big question is whether there will be changes in Israel’s foreign and defense policies, which have been almost exclusively controlled by Benjamin Netanyahu since 2009, when he began his last term in office.
Most of the members of the Bennett security cabinet have served in the past as senior members of the various Netanyahu cabinets over the past 12 years, and have backed the outgoing prime minister’s policies: Mr. Bennett was Mr. Netanyahu’s defense minister; Avigdor Lieberman was foreign minister and defense minister; Yair Lapid was finance minister; and Benny Gantz was defense minister, and before that, the chief of staff of the military.
Moreover, the new government, composed of parties across the wide political spectrum, is not expected to initiate significant changes on controversial issues — like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the questions of establishing an independent Palestinian state or continuing to establish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Israel is also unlikely to significantly change its policy of waging a so-called “war between the wars,” on or close to its borders. This includes hundreds of Israeli attacks, almost all from the air, with the aim of preventing the continuation of the military buildup in Syria by Iran and Hezbollah, and the development of advanced precision weaponry for the Lebanese Shiite militia.
The policy was shaped by the new government’s defense minister, Benny Gantz, when he led Israel’s military, together with others. But Mr. Netanyahu’s ability to conduct this war without allowing it to deteriorate to an all-in conflict depended in part on his close ties with President Vladimir V. Putin, which helped prevent clashes between Israeli forces and Russian force in Syria.
Mr. Bennet does not have such a relationship with Mr. Putin, and it will be difficult for him to shape one against the background of the tension between Moscow and Washington.
The new leaders of Israel, however, may want to make some changes to distinguish themselves from Mr. Netanyahu, diverging from his path in some areas like relations with the Palestinian Authority, which Mr. Netanyahu wanted to weaken.
One possible such shift could be to follow the military’s recommendation at the end of the recent hostilities with Hamas to cut off the flow of funds from Qatar to the Islamist regime in Gaza, and instead direct it to the Palestinian Authority. This could change the balance of power between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
One of the first issues to confront Mr. Bennet is whether to allow a provocative “flag parade” scheduled to be held on Tuesday through Arab areas of Jerusalem by ultranationalist Jewish Israelis.
Security officials have warned that the parade could spark a new round of Arab-Jewish violence, including a possible rocket attack on Israel by Hamas in Gaza, and the predictable Israeli military retaliation.