Benjamin Netanyahu Won’t Be Israel’s Prime Minister Forever

Oct. 10 2017

The Israeli prime minister is currently the subject of multiple corruption investigations, some of which seem to be growing closer to threatening his tenure in office. But Netanyahu, the longest serving head of the government since David Ben-Gurion, has weathered many political crises, and may survive this one as well. Before speculating about what will follow when, eventually, Netanyahu does step down, Neil Rogachevsky takes stock of his career:

Compared with the tenures of almost all of his predecessors, Netanyahu’s premiership has seemed remarkably uneventful. The hallmarks of Israel under Netanyahu have been strength and stability. . . . There have been plenty of bumps, . . . yet some historical perspective is in order. The biggest military engagement of Netanyahu’s time—the 2014 Gaza war—was small compared with previous wars and battles, including with Gaza. . . . Meanwhile, over the course of Netanyahu’s rule, the country has enjoyed either very strong or better than average economic growth. When other Western countries sputtered in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Israel grew at 4 to 5 percent a year. A left-wing economic populist movement in the summer of 2011, motivated by high housing and food costs, has been if not diffused then at least limited. . . .

The principles of what one might call Netanyahuism are as follows: a strong, though cautious, policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians and foreign policy more generally; economic neo-liberalism where possible and practicable; and the middle ground and compromises on social questions, particularly of religion and state. They are a politics of moderation that fit well with what Ze’ev Jabotinsky, [the early Zionist thinker whose mantle Netanyahu claims to have assumed], called hadar (literally “magisterialism” or “honor”), a kind of enlightened or princely statesmanship. . . .

[A]n honest assessment of Netanyahu’s record would have to admit that his caution bespeaks a kind of common sense and moderation sorely lacking in many countries these days and often absent from Israeli history. . . . [He] has managed to temper fanaticism of all kinds, secular, religious, and military. This can be seen by the fact that his main rivals are not from the center or left but from the far right: populists in the Likud party and the splinter parties who seek to capture Likud’s [electoral] bases. . . .

Will Netanyahuism survive beyond the man’s tenure in office? This question is murky as he has few if any real disciples. Reagan had Reaganites; Thatcher had Thatcherites; even Tony Blair had Blairites. It’s hard to conceive that Netanyahu will have such followers. This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing, as the question of the merits of disciples is as vexed in politics as in the world of ideas. Do not disciples corrupt as much as carry the flame? Disciples can sustain the example of a character worthy of emulation, yet they can also lack the ability to adapt to new circumstances. As in so many other things, the example of Abraham Lincoln is perhaps the happiest one. He did not produce political disciples who carried his platform forward after his death, but his example inspired the wisest stewards of American government for decades.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Ze'ev Jabotinsky

Winning Islam’s War of Ideas, Saudi-Style

March 19 2018

Since September 11, 2001, U.S. policymakers have understood the need to confront jihadism not only militarily but also ideologically; yet, writes John Hannah, they have had little success. Now Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’ reformist crown prince, appears willing and able to take up the fight, and Hannah urges Washington to support his efforts:

By an order of magnitude, al-Qaeda in 2018 enjoys a larger presence in more countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia than it did the day the Twin Towers were felled. . . . What’s consistently been missing from America’s strategy have been powerful partners in the Muslim world who can reliably be counted on to speak out authoritatively on matters of Islamic theology in ways that the United States simply cannot. That’s where Saudi Arabia comes in. It’s the birthplace of Islam and host to the faith’s two holiest mosques. Combined with abundant oil wealth, these assets bestow on the Saudis a measure of soft-power influence unrivaled in the Muslim world. . . .

For months, the crown prince and his closest advisers have relentlessly hammered the theme that Saudi Arabia’s modernization requires an embrace of “moderate Islam.” He’s slammed the extremist ideology that the kingdom did so much to empower after the Iranian revolution and acknowledges that “the problem spread all over the world.” . . . At home, the powers of the kingdom’s notorious religious police have been scaled back. Prominent hardline clerics have been jailed. On the all-important issue of female empowerment, the pace of change has been breathtaking. . . .

Now the U.S. imperative should be pressing Mohammed bin Salman to take his campaign for moderate Islam on the road. . . . There should be multiple elements to such an effort, but some immediate tasks come to mind. First, school textbooks. The Saudis promised to eliminate the hate-filled passages a decade ago. Progress has slowly been made, but the job’s still not done. Mohammed bin Salman should order it finished—this year. Behind the scenes, U.S. experts should provide verification.

Second, working with trusted partners in indigenous communities known for their religious moderation, the Saudis should conduct a thorough audit of the global network of mosques, schools, and charitable organizations that they’ve backed with an eye toward weeding out radical staff and content. Third, [they should] initiate a worldwide buyback of Saudi-distributed mistranslations of the Quran and other religious materials notorious for propagating extremist narratives.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Moderate Islam, Politics & Current Affairs, Radical Islam, Saudi Arabia, War on Terror