The Myth of Israel’s Political “Blocs”

In analyzing the results of the recent Israeli election, it is common to speak of certain parties belonging to a “right-wing bloc” and others to a “left” or “center-left” bloc, with perhaps one or two parties not fitting into either category. Notably, neither bloc has the 61 Knesset seats necessary to form a coalition, although the Likud has an indisputable plurality of 30 seats. Michael Koplow argues that, in fact, there are no blocs at all:

Looking at the deadlocked results of the fourth election [since 2019], which come on the heels of the deadlocked results of the first two elections and the wholly predictable collapse of the unwieldy compromise following the third election, demonstrates that there are no sustainable Israeli political blocs. . . . There are no black boundary lines in Israeli politics in the current era, only a muddled haze where any combination is theoretically conceivable.

If you knew nothing about Israeli politics beyond where parties stand on actual issues and had none of the background context, you would think that the most logical government would be composed of Likud, Yesh Atid, Blue and White, New Hope, and Yisrael Beytenu. That is a 70-seat coalition that is hawkish on security but short of being fully annexationist, centrist on social issues, and secular but respectful of religious observance. [But the hostility of the leaders of the latter four parties to Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu] makes a coalition like this, and coalitions similar to ones that he himself constructed in the past, impossible today.

The theoretical anti-Netanyahu coalition is even more unwieldy. . . . While none of [the many possibilities] can be definitively ruled out, particularly not after some of the head-spinning reversals we have seen in recent years, they do make everything far more complicated than would otherwise be necessary.

Read more at Israel Policy Forum

More about: Israeli Election 2021, Israeli politics, Knesset

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy