Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking at the White House last year.
Credit…Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

JERUSALEM — Through three inconclusive Israeli elections in 2019 and 2020, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu managed to keep his opponents at bay and remain in office. He clung to power by exacerbating divisions within the ideologically diffuse opposition, ensuring that although he could not build a majority coalition, neither could they.

Yet on Wednesday night, more than two months after an equally inconclusive fourth election, there were several of his opponents, signing an agreement that would — if barely — make them the government, assuming they win a vote of confidence in the Parliament. For the first time in 12 years, Mr. Netanyahu would be out of power.

The question of what changed, and why, has several answers, both systemic and circumstantial.

One factor was the dexterity of the centrist opposition leader, Yair Lapid, in constructing a precarious, norm-defying coalition of the center, right and left, of the secular and religious, and of Jews and Arabs.

But Mr. Netanyahu also played a crucial role, reversing years

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