Israel’s Governing Coalition Struggles with Inexperience and Growing Pains

Last week, one of the Bennett-Lapid government’s key bills failed to pass by a single vote—because the speaker of the Knesset accidentally voted the wrong way. Previously, an even more important piece of legislation, necessary to maintain the coalition, couldn’t be advanced due to the absence of a quorum. These were just two of several setbacks in the past week, and speak to the fragility of a fissiparous coalition with a thin majority in the Knesset. But that’s not the only reason for these woes, explains Haviv Rettig Gur:

The Likud-led opposition is part of the story. It has adopted a scorched-earth strategy in the Knesset, voting against every bill and measure irrespective of its substance, on the principle that denying the coalition successes is the priority. . . . Yet the failures last week weren’t really the opposition’s fault. The coalition had the numbers, but couldn’t marshal and manage them effectively.

Some of these growing pains are expected. As noted by many, the coalition chair, the Yamina party’s Idit Silman, is one of the least experienced coalition whips in the Knesset’s history. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story. . . . After twelve years of mostly Likud rule, the opposition parties are mostly parliamentary neophytes. New Hope’s cadre of grizzled ex-Likudniks aside, the new government is the first experience in power for most coalition members.

The experience deficit runs from the very top to the very bottom. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid have both spent the past few years famously uninvolved in parliamentary wheeling and dealing. Bennett has been a cabinet minister for nearly the entirety of the past eight years, while Lapid left his party’s legislating to backbenchers. Bennett and Lapid, then, are nearly as unfamiliar with the Knesset’s ways and procedures as the neophyte Silman. There’s a parliamentary leadership vacuum at the heart of the new coalition.

What happened last week wasn’t a strategic setback, only a tactical one. The coalition can make up much of the lost ground relatively easily. . . . Still, there’s precious little wriggle room going forward. There are scarcely two weeks left until the early-August cabinet vote on the state budget law. . . . If the budget law doesn’t pass by November 4, then by law the Knesset dissolves to new elections.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israeli politics, Knesset, Naftali Bennett

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