Making Sense of Israel’s New Center-Left Party

Dec. 15 2014

Last Wednesday, Israel’s Labor party, led by Isaac Herzog, and the centrist Hatnua, led by Tzipi Livni, agreed to merge. Conventional wisdom holds that Hatnua gains much from this deal, and Labor next to nothing. Not so, argues Haviv Rettig Gur; Labor’s greatest competition comes not from the right but from the center, which Herzog has chosen to co-opt:

Herzog has spent months crafting a new electoral strategy for the Labor party that aims to pull the center away from Netanyahu. The Labor leader has largely abandoned the left-wing rhetoric about reconciliation and peace, and argues for the simpler and more widely supported idea of separation. Without the two-state solution, he tells Israelis in speeches and media interviews, Israel will remain entangled in Palestinian affairs—and in Palestinian political dysfunction and extremism. Now Herzog is solidifying that strategy, and made a dramatic show on Wednesday of sacrificing his personal ambitions for the benefit of the cause.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Hatnua, Isaac Herzog, Israeli politics, Labor Party, Tzipi Livni


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy