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For Israeli normalization with Saudi Arabia, Netanyahu needs new coalition

Israeli and US officials assess that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to get on board opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz, if he wants to neutralize his coalition’s extreme members and reach a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia.
A picture shows a electoral banner for Israel's National Unity bloc, which includes the Blue and White (Kahol Lavan) led by Defence Minister Benny Gantz (R), and a portrait of Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu (L), in Tel Aviv on October 27, 2022, ahead of the November general elections. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP) (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images)

TEL AVIV — Following a US senior delegation trip to Riyadh last week, multiple reports have suggested some progress in US efforts to rope Saudi Arabia into normalizing ties with Israel, but even optimistic Israeli officials know that prospects of such a move taking place under the hard-line Netanyahu coalition are slim at best.

Still, the more intriguing question is whether these prospects improve under a completely different Israeli government, for example, one led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but with centrist leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid replacing the ultranationalists in the current government? Such a scenario could go a long way to advancing the long-stalled normalization efforts.

The Biden administration would clearly welcome such a dramatic change in Israel, as expressed in private conversations by outgoing US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides and US special envoy to the Middle East, Ambassador Dan Shapiro. Both know that the current Israeli government bodes serious trouble for Israel and the region. 

Would Netanyahu abandon the far right?

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