With a Budget Passed, Israel’s Fractious Coalition Finds Its Ideology

At 5 a.m. last Thursday, the Knesset passed the 2021 state budget, the first to be voted into law through the normal parliamentary process since 2018. The vote signifies the end of three years of gridlock, especially since failed budget negotiations were the proximate cause of the cycle of short-lived governments and of inconclusive elections. With this hurdle behind it, the current coalition, fragile and unlikely though it is, has proved its staying power—even if what the next months and even weeks will bring is anyone’s guess. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Once a vaunted economic reformer, Benjamin Netanyahu had grown, so [the leaders of the current government] argue, increasingly staid and defensive, stalling major reforms and allowing national problems—from soaring crime in the Arab community to a rising cost of living driven by overzealous state bureaucracies and corporate monopolies—to fester and grow.

This coalition, in other words, set out to prove that Netanyahu was not irreplaceable, and, indeed, that it was Netanyahu who had gridlocked Israel’s government. The pinnacle of that gridlock was Netanyahu’s blunt refusal to pass a state budget law last year, in a transparent attempt to deny [his main coalition partner] Benny Gantz his agreed-upon turn in the prime minister’s chair by toppling the 2020 unity government.

Seen through this lens, the state budget law takes on a totemic role. This is no mere act of governance or fiscal policy. It isn’t even about the dramatic reforms meant to streamline import regulations, increase transparency and competition among banks, or reduce corruption in the state kashrut supervision system. In the terms by which the new government measures itself, it is a vindication of the many difficult compromises that were required to reach this point.

The new government now fancies itself more than a momentary union to oust a long-sitting premier; it is, in its own imagination, an alliance fighting for the principle that good governance must trump petty politics and responsible stewardship triumph over personal ambition. With the budget’s passage, it has found its grounding ideology.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics, Knesset, Naftali Bennett

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