On Monday, Israel's new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with his former boss Benjamin Netanyahu to start the process of a smooth transition of power.
This comes after the Israeli parliament cast a confidence vote in favour of Bennett's government on Sunday, effectively ending Netanyahu's 12 consecutive years in office.
The new prime minister, who is expected stay in power until September 2023, will need to address a number of burning issues, and Sputnik has compiled a list of challenges that Israel's 36th government will need to overcome.
Internally, he will need to make sure that his government passes the national budget, which hasn't changed since 2019 and eventually led to the collapse of the former coalition.
That budget will need to offer solutions to thousands of people and businesses that have been hurt during the coronavirus pandemic and the three lockdowns that followed in its wake.
It will need to invest funds into the integration of weaker populations like women, minorities and the Ultra-Orthodox community into the workforce. It will also need to address the issue of high crime rates in the Arab community.
According to the coalition agreement, the Bennett-Lapid government has pledged nearly $8 billion to the Arab sector. Much of this money will go into its development and into the struggle to curb crime rates. Now, Bennet will only need to make sure that the budget is passed and that the cash that was promised to Raam, an Islamic party that made that coalition possible, is delivered.
Apart from internal threats, however, the budget will also be needed to overcome Israel's multiple security challenges.
In the south, Israel will still need to deal with rockets sporadically emanating from the Gaza Strip and disrupting everyday life within the country’s southern and central communities, towns and cities.
Even though the recent round of hostilities dealt Hamas, which controls the enclave, a decisive blow, experts are certain that it is only a matter of time until the group re-emerges with even greater force.
The northern front may also give cause for worry. Although Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a Shiite militia linked to Iran, has been facing a number of internal challenges, its weapons arsenal, the outreach of its forces and its intention to harm the Jewish state continue to cause unease in Tel Aviv, where the nation’s military headquarters are located.
Also worrying are the intentions of Hezbollah’s ally, Iran, especially after the 2020 assassination of the Islamic Republic's top scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed in an attack largely attributed to Israel’s spy agency, the Mossad.
Israel Among the Nations
On the international arena, the new head of government will also need to tackle a few burning issues.
These include the shaping nuclear deal between Iran and the US, which aims at putting the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions under tight supervision in exchange for the lifting of Western sanctions that have been suffocating the Iranian economy.
During his 12 years in office, Netanyahu has been an adamant opponent of the previous deal between Iran and the West and has repeatedly warned that the agreement brought Tehran closer to an atomic bomb, which threatened regional stability.
Bennett is also set to reject the shaping deal with Iran, just as he did before, but he will also need to make sure that he doesn't cross a line with the Joe Biden administration, that has been pushing to renew the agreement that Washington left unilaterally in 2018.
Another issue that will surely top Bennett’s agenda is Israel's image on the international arena, and specifically in Europe and the US, which have registered a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the past several months.
Israel's international standing has been damaged due to the Guardian of the Walls operation that erupted on 10 May following a barrage of rockets launched by Gaza-based militant groups. But even before the eruption of hostilities, the Jewish state had been viewed as an aggressor by many liberal groups around the world, that have been expressing their anger at the country's settlement activity in the West Bank and its persecution of the Palestinians.
Bennett and his ministers will need to fight that eroded image of Israel, explain the country's stance and bolster its ties with the European bloc, which has become one of the most staunch critics of the Jewish state's actions.
In Washington, he will also need to do some groundwork. In the past, Netanyahu was accused of getting too close to the Republican Party and of damaging Israel's ties with the Democrats. Bennett will need to regain that trust, not only because of the extensive military aid that the US provides on a yearly basis but also because a nation surrounded by rivals will surely need the superpower's support on the international arena.
However, the US is far from being the only superpower which Israel intends to court for international favour. Under Netanyahu, the Jewish state enjoyed warm relations with China, India and Russia, and Bennett will need to make sure he maintains and bolsters those ties.
Attempts to boost ties will also be exerted with regards to Israel's new friends, namely the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, the two Gulf nations that are reportedly set to invest billions of dollars into the high-tech nation.
Bennett will need to find a middle ground with Abu Dhabi and Manama. On the one hand, he will need to make sure that Israel doesn't strain ties with the Palestinians, an issue that's important for the authorities in the Gulf. On the other, he will also need to ensure that the cooperation between the two nations, including in the sphere of security, continues.
In Israel, many experts are certain that the upcoming months will present a serious challenge for the new PM, but he says he trusts in God and is ready for anything thrown his way.