The Coronavirus Crisis Fades from Center Stage as Israel’s Political Impasse Continues

Ten days ago, Israel’s two major political parties seemed on the verge of forming a unity government. Then negotiations stalled, and the time allotted to the opposition leader Benny Gantz—whom President Reuven Rivlin had tapped to form a coalition—expired. Now all the parties have until May 7 to form a majority coalition. If no coalition emerges, the Knesset will automatically dissolve and yet another election, the fourth in less than two years, will be scheduled. Haviv Rettig Gur analyzes the situation:

As Wednesday’s deadline [for Gantz to form a government] came and went, it became clearer than ever that the original reasoning for the unity negotiations—the coronavirus pandemic—no longer drives the talks.

In an important sense, that’s very good news. At the moment, at least, both [the incumbent prime minister] Benjamin Netanyahu and Gantz believe that the relevant government agencies are competently managing the crisis—and crucially, that their voters also think so. They therefore have the time and political space to fight over less immediate but no less important matters, from the fate of the West Bank to the powers of Israel’s highest court.

Indeed, Netanyahu has grown so comfortable and confident that he will continue to be seen as a successful steward of the crisis, that the last two days of talks on Tuesday and Wednesday veered away even from these matters of high policy to more finicky questions of Netanyahu’s legal position in eighteen months, when, [according to a putative coalition agreement, his term as prime minister will end and Gantz’s will begin].

In a sense, that was the essence of Gantz’s bargain with Netanyahu from the start: granting Netanyahu immunity from prosecution in exchange for a generous raft of ministerial posts and outsize influence over major policy decisions in the next government. But Gantz still wants to avoid being seen as protecting Netanyahu too much, even if he believes it’s a price worth paying to protect the high court and the legal system from a raft of conservative reforms.

Read more at Times of Israel

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

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security