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.

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Read more at Times of Israel

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

Will Tensions Rise between the U.S. and Israel?

Unlike his past many predecessors, President Joe Biden does not have a plan for solving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Moreover, his administration has indicated its skepticism about renewing the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. John Bolton nevertheless believes that there could be a collision between the new Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government and the Biden White House:

In possibly his last term, Netanyahu’s top national-security priority will be ending, not simply managing, Iran’s threat. This is infinitely distant from Biden’s Iran policy, which venerates Barrack Obama’s inaugural address: “we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

Tehran’s fist is today otherwise occupied, pummeling its own people. Still, it will continue menacing Israel and America unless and until the internal resistance finds ways to fracture the senior levels of Iran’s regular military and the Revolutionary Guards. Netanyahu undoubtedly sees Iran’s growing domestic turmoil as an opportunity for regime change, which Israel and others can facilitate. Simultaneously, Jerusalem can be preparing its military and intelligence services to attack Tehran’s nuclear program, something the White House simply refuses to contemplate seriously. Biden’s obsession with reviving the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal utterly blinds the White House to the potential for a more significant victory.

To make matters worse, Biden has just created a Washington-based position at the State Department, a “special representative for Palestinian affairs,” that has already drawn criticism in Israel both for the new position itself and for the person named to fill it. Advocated as one more step toward “upgrading” U.S. relations with the Palestinian Authority, the new position looks nearly certain to become the locus not of advancing American interests regarding the failed Authority, but of advancing the Authority’s interests within the Biden administration.

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Read more at 19FortyFive

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran, Joe Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship