Naftali Bennett’s New Party Might Signal a Major Change in Israeli Politics

The announcement that Israel’s next elections will be held in April has led to a major political shakeup, with the fracturing of existing blocs and the creation of several new parties. Among the most surprising developments is the decision of Naftali Bennett (who is religious) and Ayelet Shaked (who is not) to defect from the party they lead—the Jewish Home (most of whose voters are religious)—to found the New Right party. Shmuel Rosner explores the significance of the move:

The Jewish Home, the party that made Bennett and Shaked, . . . used to be called Mafdal, the acronym [in Hebrew for] “the religious nationalist party.” For seven decades, Israelis belonging to [the religious-Zionist] sector voted in great numbers for this party, which in return focused on their own sectorial interests—more funds for religious schools, more accommodation for hesder yeshivas [that allow for a combination of military service and religious study], more legislation that favors the settlers, [and so forth]. This was a fine arrangement for a group that felt like a vulnerable minority, but it started to feel awkward and misplaced when religious Zionists started to play a much more pronounced role as leaders in all Israeli institutions.

Bennett and Shaked identified the changing times and wanted to turn the Jewish Home into something else—something less sectorial, with more crossover [between religious and secular constituencies]. They failed. The DNA of the Jewish Home is one of sectorial politics, and it proved resistant to dramatic change. [But] Bennett and Shaked have little interest in being the leaders of a sector. They entered politics to reach the top. And once they realized that the Jewish Home party limited their horizon, by insisting on playing the old sectoral politics of religious Zionism, the two leaders jumped ship. . . .

And this is just one example of an old political Israel that is cast aside as times change. Yesh Atid is a party of the secular and the religious, a party of centrism. Kulanu is a party of centrism. Gesher, a new party [founded by the parliamentarian] Orly Levy-Abekasis, is a party of centrism. These parties cast aside the old definitions of right and left, as do [the other parties founded in the past two weeks]. Sure, this is partially because the “left” is no longer a viable currency in Israel’s politics, so everybody must rush to the center. But make no mistake: this is not just tactics.

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Ayelet Shaked, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Naftali Bennett, Religious Zionism

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas