No, Israeli Democracy Is Not in Danger

Surveying rhetoric concerning last week’s Israeli elections, and the upcoming American elections, Elliott Abrams writes:

There is a striking parallel between the comments being heard from the left in the United States about the meaning of a possible Republican victory on November 8, and from the left in the United States—as much as or more than in Israel—about the meaning of the victory of the right in the Israeli election on November 1. The meaning, we are told, is the end of democracy. That’s what President Biden and Hillary Clinton said on November 2 about our elections, [while] President Obama said, “democracy is on the ballot.” It is what we heard from commentators such as Thomas Friedman about the Israeli results and our own election.

What actually happened? There was a very high turnout of voters—over 70 percent, substantially higher than is typical in the United States (and this was the fifth election in under four years)—and it split almost down the middle.

Those inclined to apocalyptic rhetoric in response to the results cite the presence of two members of the far right, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, in Benjamin Netanyahu’s likely coalition. On this, Abrams comments:

For one thing, Netanyahu is a known quantity as prime minister because he was Israel’s longest-serving prime minister ever. His party is by far the largest in his coalition and as his long record shows he is as canny a politician as Israel has produced. Moreover, he has in the main been pretty prudent as a leader, avoiding war and conflict whenever possible and watching carefully where the voters are. It is not at all to be assumed that the government will be under the thumb of Ben-Gvir and/or Bezalel Smotrich, who are new and untested as government officials. Moreover, though they joined to run in this election, they actually come from separate parties and may soon find themselves rivals. If it is useful to Netanyahu to have this happen, he has the wiles to encourage it.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Israeli Election 2022, Israeli politics, Thomas Friedman, U.S. Politics

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy