There are a lot of firsts in the new government that Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett announced they had succeeded in establishing last Wednesday night.
Bennett, who will go first in the rotation agreement with Lapid, will become Israel’s first kippa-wearing prime minister. Bennett is a product of the national-religious community’s schools and youth groups and will become the sector’s first-ever prime minister.
At the same time, this is the first government in Israeli history that will include an Arab party and not just any, but one that is religious, Islamist and conservative.
It is something that all Israelis should want to see - the active participation of Israeli Arabs in this country’s government. Not just the Knesset where Arab members have filled the pews for decades, but also in the coalition.
Thirdly, is the number of women ministers expected to sit around the cabinet table. While the government is not yet finalized, the number appears to be eight, the largest in Israeli history. It is an important correction to an imbalanced political field going into the March 23 election, when only one party (Labor) was led by a woman (Merav Michaeli).
Instead of celebrating these achievements, many Israelis are in despair. While one might have expect the national-religious camp to celebrate Bennett’s achievement for the sector, it seems that most are upset.
In addition, the integration of Israeli-Arabs in the coalition is another part of this government that could be celebrated as a sign of how Israel is not racist or an apartheid. The contrary has happened. Even though Benjamin Netanyahu was ready to include Ra’am, many see the agreement with the Arab party as a stain on this fresh new government.
A lot can still go wrong before the Bennett-Lapid government is sworn into office in the coming week. There is the possibility that Bennett will lose more members of Yamina to Netanyahu or that violence will erupt somewhere and once again illustrate the complications sitting in a government with an Arab party brings with it.
One potential clash waiting to happen is on Thursday when a number of right-wing religious groups announced they plan to hold a flag March through the Old City of Jerusalem, including through Damascus Gate.
The announcement by the groups - which includes the far-right NGO Im Tirtzu and the National Religious Party led by Bezalel Smotrich and renowned Kahanist Itamar Ben-Gvir - makes it seem like all they are trying to do is make up for the flag march that was cancelled on Jerusalem Day last month due to escalating tensions in Jerusalem and with the Gaza Strip.
It is important to point out: this march is not about celebrating Jerusalem - that holiday has passed - or applying sovereignty in the nation’s capital city.
What it really seems to be about is an attempt to torpedo the new government that Bennett and Lapid have assembled. This is an attempt to stir violence and escalate tensions between Jews, Arabs and possibly even Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for the purpose of trying to stop the removal of Netanyahu from the Prime Minister’s Office.
It comes at the same time that there is a growing escalation in violent rhetoric against Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and other members of the new coalition poised to take office.
All of this needs to be stopped. There is no need for a flag march through Damascus Gate with the sole purpose of picking a fight in an already tense Jerusalem. Should Jews be able to march wherever they want in Jerusalem? Of course. It is Israel’s capital city. But it needs to be done smartly and not just because something is supposedly right.
The coming days will be tense ones for Israel as a transition of power - the first in more than 12 years - moves ahead. This is an opportunity for negative actors to seize the day with either a flag march that is not needed or political violence directed against a politician or a state symbol like what happened at the US Capitol on January 6.
It is time for vigilance and delicate handling. It is time to be careful.