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


Iran’s Options for Revenge on Israel

On April 1, an Israeli airstrike on Damascus killed three Iranian generals, one of whom was the seniormost Iranian commander in the region. The IDF has been targeting Iranian personnel and weaponry in Syria for over a decade, but the killing of such a high-ranking figure raises the stakes significantly. In the past several days, Israelis have received a number of warnings both from the press and from the home-front command to ready themselves for retaliatory attacks. Jonathan Spyer considers what shape that attack might take:

Tehran has essentially four broad options. It could hit an Israeli or Jewish facility overseas using either Iranian state forces (option one), or proxies (option two). . . . Then there’s the third option: Tehran could also direct its proxies to strike Israel directly. . . . Finally, Iran could strike Israeli soil directly (option four). It is the riskiest option for Tehran, and would be likely to precipitate open war between the regime and Israel.

Tehran will consider all four options carefully. It has failed to retaliate in kind for a number of high-profile assassinations of its operatives in recent years. . . . A failure to respond, or staging too small a response, risks conveying a message of weakness. Iran usually favors using proxies over staging direct attacks. In an unkind formulation common in Israel, Tehran is prepared to “fight to the last Arab.”

Read more at Spectator

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria