Israel’s New Government Is Neither a Win Nor a Loss for Either of the Major Parties

On Thursday, when the news broke that Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz had agreed to form a national-unity government, pundits and politicians on both left and right seemed to agree that the incumbent prime minister had managed to outmaneuver his rival. But as details of the coalition agreement emerged, this interpretation began to seem less convincing. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

[A] laundry list of right-wing demands [landed on] the cutting-room floor in the negotiations, despite the huge majority [that] the 58-seat political right will have in the coming Netanyahu-led government. [For instance]: Blue and White’s Avi Nissenkorn, a left-leaning former union leader and the party’s candidate for justice minister, is expected to reverse the right’s efforts to reform and weaken the [outsize powers of the] judiciary and [its attendant legal apparatus].

The list of concessions handed to Gantz so far in the negotiations is long indeed. Gantz demanded and will receive an almost one-to-one ratio of Knesset members to ministries in the new coalition. Netanyahu’s loyal religious-right allies will be lucky to be left with a minister for every four lawmakers.

For Gantz, his enormous cabinet presence of some fifteen ministers (the exact number hasn’t been finalized) isn’t just a sign of his negotiating leverage; it’s a sign of his priorities. His faction is so invested in managing executive-branch agencies that almost no one will be left in the parliament building to push significant legislation or to be a meaningful presence in budget fights. In other words, Gantz isn’t planning to advance the kind of long-term policy shifts that demand legislation.

Does this mean the famously skilled and tenacious Netanyahu has finally lost his touch? Hardly, continues Gur:

Netanyahu made a simple calculation: he needed [the support of Gantz and his party] to obtain a stable coalition—but the smaller [Gantz’s] faction, the better. So he promised Gantz a shared government on an equal one-to-one unity basis, regardless of the number of Knesset members Gantz actually brought with him [into the coalition].

By thus giving Gantz the assurances he needed to break away from his longtime partner Yair Lapid, Netanyahu obtained his Knesset majority—and with the added boon of an “equal” partner that lacked the numbers in the Knesset to pose a serious threat to Likud or Netanyahu. That Lapid, [who represents a secularist faction], would be on the outside didn’t hurt, either; the coalition wouldn’t have to endure the constant strain of Lapid and the ḥaredi parties battling [each other] from within on religion-and-state issues.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Israeli Election 2020, Israeli politics


Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security