Netanyahu Still Leads the Right. But Is He Losing Its Trust?

As yesterday’s votes are still being calculated, Israeli politicians are preparing for the coalition negotiations that will determine who will be the next prime minister. One of the frontrunners is Benjamin Netanyahu, whose Likud party depends crucially on the support of the Religious Zionism party, led by Bezalel Smotrich, to obtain the 61 Knesset seats necessary to form a government. But, notes Haviv Rettig Gur, as much as those who vote for Smotrich are implicitly signifying their support for Netanyahu, the relationship between the two politicians has become increasingly tense:

Over the last four races, rightwing parties ran at Netanyahu’s side with the insistence that Netanyahu was the right man to lead Israel. But in this fifth race, after four failures at the ballot box and growing frustration with his inability to deliver a victory, a profound change has come over the Netanyahu camp. More and more, the campaigns of rightwing parties have focused not on Netanyahu’s strengths but on his weaknesses. For growing portions of the Israeli right, Netanyahu is seen as a failure—not just electorally, but on policy issues too.

It was under Netanyahu, not [his successor Naftali] Bennett, that May 2021’s internecine fighting between Arabs and Jews tore apart mixed towns like Lod and drew bitter excoriation from rightwing constituencies, especially in those poorer regions of the country where Mizraḥi Jewish and Arab communities live in an uneasy coexistence.

On the Palestinian front, continuing waves of persistent low-level terror attacks, including occasional bursts of Gazan rocket fire, raised new complaints in working-class towns near the Strip about Netanyahu’s longtime policy of ensuring stability in Gaza by allowing Qatar to fund Hamas.

Smotrich and [his far-right coalition partner] Itamar Ben-Gvir see Netanyahu as weak and they intend—they are not shy on the point; it’s their central campaign message—to be unrelenting in their pressure to force Netanyahu rightward once he’s returned to the prime minister’s chair.

As a result, writes Gur, the campaign run by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir amounts to “an uprising wrapped in a bear hug.”

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2022, Israeli politics


Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security