How the Israeli Government’s Instability Paved the Way for an Expansion of Religious and Economic Freedom

July 29 2021

On Sunday, a Knesset committee will vote on what is known as the arrangements law, a complex piece of omnibus legislation that covers a great swath of government business, and must accompany every biennial budget. Failure to pass it will trigger snap elections and the collapse of the government. Included in the bill are sweeping reforms easing regulations and allowing for more competition in everything from kosher certifications to agricultural products—even as it introduces more regulation in other areas. Haviv Rettig Gur explains why these changes, likely to have salutary effects on the Israeli economy, are suddenly on the table:

These reforms share one characteristic: all have been advocated for many years, but could not advance due to resistance from industry groups, government agencies, or various political factions. Ḥaredi parties stood in the way of taxing sugary drinks and plasticware, while farmers’ and manufacturers’ lobbies resisted the agriculture and import reforms. [So] what explains the sudden uncorking of all that resistance all at once? It isn’t the personalities involved: the reforms are being pushed by different ministers from a broad cross-section of parties.

It may, in fact, be a result of the Bennett-Lapid government’s fragility and instability.

The new government’s ability to advance bold reforms comes not from its leader, but from its lack of one. No single politician dominates this coalition as Netanyahu did its predecessors. It’s a government keenly aware that any of its member factions could topple it at any moment. It is in that sense a more egalitarian cabinet than any in Israel’s history. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and [his main coalition partner] Yair Lapid must cajole and convince; they have too little parliamentary wiggle room to demand or to punish. . . . And, of course, the coalition’s fragility makes each minister and faction all the more eager to be seen achieving major victories quickly.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Israeli economy, Israeli politics, Knesset

 

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy