Rumors of the Death of Israeli Democracy Are Greatly Exaggerated

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.

Read more at Times of Israel

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


Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority