As Israel’s Political Parties Fight for the Role of Coalition Kingmaker, the Religious-Secular Divide Comes to the Fore

With Israelis going to the polls next week, Haviv Rettig Gur comments on the predicament party leaders now find themselves in:

If Prime Minister Netanyahu manages to eke out a slim majority, it will likely be so slim that he will find himself forced to cater to the whims of the most right-wing lawmakers on the ballot. Netanyahu’s opponents, meanwhile, theoretically led by Yair Lapid of [the secular, center-left] Yesh Atid, may well be too divided and diverse to produce a manageable coalition.

Many . . . factions are trying to take advantage of the standoff in the hope of playing kingmaker after election day. The Islamist party Ra’am, for example, has detached from the Arab-majority Joint List to mount its own run, promising to deal with anyone who wins the election, even the disliked Netanyahu, in order to deliver budgets and government attention to its marginalized Bedouin and Arab constituents.

This competition at the margins has caused mudslinging between parties who are by no means competing for the same voters: the ḥaredi United Torah Judaism, led by Moshe Gafni, and the right-wing and anti-ḥaredi Yisrael Beytenu, led by Avigdor Lieberman. Each has found in the other the perfect enemy with which to rally voters:

Lieberman and . . . Gafni face the same problem. Their respective parties and broader political camps seem close to victory; nevertheless, they have each remained maddeningly far from it for two long years. Each is threatened from within his own camp—Lieberman, from secularist challengers like Yesh Atid and others, UTJ by frustrated ḥaredi voters streaming toward the religious Zionist parties. Each badly needed a nemesis, a threat to his respective constituents’ way of life, to rally the ranks and draw the apathetic out to the polls.

Over the past few days, with . . . accusations of “anti-Semitism” and “fundamentalism,” they have found in each other the answer to their troubles.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Avigdor Lieberman, Haredim, Israeli Election 2021, Israeli politics

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship