Rumors of the Death of Israeli Democracy Are Greatly Exaggerated

April 5 2016

It’s by now a familiar story: a right-wing Knesset member proposes a bill taking away the de-facto status of Arabic as an official language or requiring greater transparency from non-governmental organizations; left-wing parliamentarians denounce such moves as undermining Israeli democracy; the New Israel Fund declares that only the left can retard Israel’s otherwise inevitable slide into authoritarianism. Yet, notes Haviv Rettig Gur, the demonized bills, if they are brought to a vote at all, have a tendency to be defeated, usually by wide margins—and several times Benjamin Netanyahu has been the one to persuade the bill’s sponsors to withdraw their proposals. Gur explains:

In the end, the debate about Israel, both at home and among those overseas who take their cues from Israel’s domestic politics, is driven by the faux stridency of powerless demagogues, by rightists who propose unpassable bills to draw out the wrath of the left and so distinguish themselves in a crowded field—and by leftists who simply have too much to gain from their hand-wringing, [whether in courting] foreign funders [or] mobilizing an ethos of victimhood, to subject it to any measure of self-criticism.

Or, put another way, the frenetic rhetorical contest between left and right is essentially a media event, not a policy debate. . . . These bills are intended as press releases, and it is no accident that their numbers usually swell in the run-up to right-wing primaries. They are not meant to pass. Lawmakers who propose them do not expect to find themselves [held accountable] for the results of their passage. Israel’s far-left activists, who are often at the center of these left-right skirmishes, know all this—at least when they are speaking in Hebrew.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli democracy, Israeli left, Israeli politics, Knesset

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy