JERUSALEM, March 17 (Xinhua) -- With the January 22 election results, it appeared that Benjamin Netanyahu is one of the strongest prime ministers in Israeli history, second only to the legendary David Ben Gurion, founder of the Israeli state, after heading to be appointed as Prime Minister for the third time.
Netanyahu's election for the prime minister's role for the third time corresponds only to Ben Gurion's three-terms in power. Yet it seems that Netanyahu is much weaker than previously envisioned.
Netanyahu's party, Likud-Beytenu, won 31 seats out of 120 seats and it soon became apparent that Netanyahu would be the only politician able to form a coalition. However, the results of the elections were a double-edged sword for the leader who Time Magazine termed "King Bibi" earlier this year.
THE REAL WINNERS
The true winners of the elections, it seems, were not Netanyahu and his runner-up Avigdor Lieberman, both expecting at first to receive more than 40 seats in the Knesset (parliament) combined.
It seems that political newcomer Yair Lapid, a former journalist, together with the new prominent leader of the Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennet, were in fact the actual winners of the elections and have had a lot to do with shaping the new government that will be inaugurated on Monday.
Or in other words, as the Ha'aretz daily newspaper's political pundit Yossi Verter put it in his March 15 column: "this is not the government Netanyahu has been praying for."
"Netanyahu has done everything within his powers to avoid such a government, he did not pray for these partners. He did backflips in order to keep them out of the coalition but they schooled him," Verter wrote.
THE NEW GOVERNMENT'S CHALLENGES
First and foremost, according to the signed agreements, it seems that the first issues that the new government will take care of is drafting a conscription bill for young ultra-Orthodox to incorporate them in the army and work force as well as facing the cost of living in Israel.
"The government would operate to lower the costs of living by all means to its disposal, by strengthening the free competition and reducing the centralization in the Israeli market," it says in the government's fundamentals' outline.
The task at hand will not be easy as the new finance minister Lapid will have to face a 10.5 billion U.S. Dollars in deficit and cuts across the board for all ministries expected at 4.5 billion at least U.S. dollars, as well as tax hikes.
With the looming visit of American President Barack Obama on March 20 in Israel, the question of the Israeli Palestinian conflict is again on the table, where the new government will definitely come up with difficulties.
Netanyahu appointed former foreign minister Tzipi Livni to be in charge of the future negotiations with the Palestinians. Livni, who had started her path in the Likud, pulled towards the center- left in the 2000's and is one of the biggest advocates of promoting the peace process.
Lapid, who had also insisted that the peace process should be resumed, complying with the wishes of moderate Israelis, will be on board with resuming the peace talks.
However it is not apparent how Bennet, whose party is filled with settlers and his vision includes one Israeli state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, would agree to make the needed concessions for a peace process to take flight.
According to the coalition agreements between the Jewish Home and the Likud, relinquishing of territories as part of the peace process would be decided upon by having a referendum, limiting Livni's powers in future negotiations.
More tensions are expected to erupt over a controversial bill advanced by the Jewish Home to make the state's democratic character subservient to its Jewish character, with the country promoting Jewish settlement in the country rather than that of other ethnicities.
The bill was then reversed by former Kadima chief Livni, who will now be the Justice Minister and will be able to put such a bill on halt if it is found unconstitutional.
IS THERE A FUTURE FOR NETANYAHU?
After Lapid's impressive achievement in the elections he was interviewed to an expose and in-depth interviews show on Channel 2, where he used to host in the past.
When asked about future aspirations, Lapid said that he seemed himself as being elected as the prime minister in the next elections.
In polls held throughout the duration of the negotiations, pollsters found that if the elections were to be held again, Lapid 's party would have received 30 seats in comparison with the Likud, which would get only 25 seats.
That is apparently the main reason for Netanyahu caving in to Lapid's demands. The thing Netanyahu feared most was being thrown out of the premiership and it is safe to assume that the fear would consummate him and influence his decision-making on his third round as prime minister.
Netanyahu, previously an undisputed leader in Israel, has been challenged. His popularity immensely dropped and the Israeli people have made their voices heard that they are looking for a different kind of politics.
With animosity from within his own party lines and tensions with his major coalition partners, with Obama on his second term on the one hand and the Israeli settlers who have received great power in this election through the Jewish Home party on the other, it would be an understatement to state that Netanyahu has his work cut out for him.
Will his new government last four years? Most pundits and analysts believe that the answer to the question is no. Without the support of the ultra-Orthodox, who tipped the scale in Netanyahu's direction in previous governments, it's hard to believe the government could last that long with such tangible differences in its members' ideologies.
It's not certain what the cards will hold for this upcoming government. What is certain is that in elections 2013 the Israeli people have marked that the old right-left wing politics is over and that the security agenda is secondary to the socioeconomic one and Netanyahu will have to fall into line or else his glory days will soon be behind him.