Will a New Israeli Left Arise from the Ashes of the Old?

In last month’s Knesset elections, Labor—which dominated the first three decades of Israeli politics—emerged as the smallest party with only four seats. Meretz, the party to its left, failed to win any seats. Eran Lerman evaluates the decline and collapse of the country’s left wing, and its possible future:

In September 2000, the Camp David Summit between then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasir Arafat failed. Soon a wave of violence and terror—guided from above, yet mistakenly referred to as the “second intifada” or popular uprising—engulfed Israel and the Palestinians. . . . A sharp decline in the fortunes of the traditional left and center-left parties became all but inevitable. Peace had become their byword, and peace had become nearly synonymous with an increase in terrorist attacks in Israel.

There was little else the left could latch on to. Old-style socialism was a thing of the past. Economically disadvantaged groups in Israeli society, especially the refugees from Arab countries who came in the 1950s, felt disenfranchised in the first 30 years of Israel’s establishment and saw Likud as their political home, as do their descendants today. Resentment of the elite refused to die, and both Labor and Meretz found it difficult to rid themselves of an association with the sybaritic Tel Aviv cosmopolitan “haves” as opposed to the “have nots” of Israel’s social and geographic periphery.

Can the Zionist left regain its past position as the dominant force in Israeli life? Probably not, owing to demographic changes. It did not help its cause that Benjamin Netanyahu managed to make headway toward new relations with several Arab countries, even without securing Palestinian consent—which the left had repeatedly argued would be impossible. At the same time, voting results from the last four elections show center-left and left parties, including Israeli Arab parties, consistently garnering slightly under half the vote.

Parties on the left could find new pathways to a majority, particularly with the support of those who resent the rise of the radical right and seek to uphold the image of Israel as an open, tolerant society. These parties of the left will not merge but may run on a joint platform. They may yet dig themselves out of the rubble of the present collapse and build a center-left coalition.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Israeli Election 2022, Israeli politics, Labor Party, Meretz, Oslo Accords, Second Intifada

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy