The Myth of Israel’s Political “Blocs”

April 1 2021

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.

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Read more at Israel Policy Forum

More about: Israeli Election 2021, Israeli politics, Knesset

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism