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 Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas