The Israeli Government Lost Its Majority. What Next?

On Wednesday, the Israeli parliamentarian Idit Silman, a member of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party, quit the governing coalition, which rested on a razor-thin 61-seat majority (out of 120 total). Her defection—ostensibly over regulations regarding Passover observance—highlights the fragility of the current government, which brought together several disparate parties from across the political spectrum, united only in their desire to unseat Bennett’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu. Zev Chafets explains:

Bennett has done a good job running his coalition of rivals and gave Israelis a sense at what a more centrist government could look like. But he hasn’t been a particularly popular prime minister. Inexperience was one problem. He was not always good at articulating his policies to the public. And, crucially, he suffered from political blindness: he took his eye off Netanyahu.

On Wednesday, Bibi called on additional members of the ruling coalition to defect and form a new government with him at the head. There is a fair chance this will happen. It’s not only right wingers in Bennett’s anti-Bibi coalition who might be tempted. Ambitious and frustrated centrists (Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s name comes up most often) who could give a new Likud government a wider public base may also wish to join.

If no one else defects, a 60-60 split will paralyze the Knesset (unlike in the U.S. Congress, there is no tie-breaking vote). That would almost certainly lead to a new election in the summer, the fifth in the past four years.

Netanyahu will be the candidate of Likud; polls show him by far the most popular party leader. He faces three indictments on criminal charges of fraud and corruption which rumble on. But those indictments are not looking as solid as the prosecution thought, and even if he is convicted, he could appeal, dragging out the process while staying in office.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politics, Naftali Bennett


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy