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.

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Read more at Pressure Points

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

 

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship