Is Israel Headed for a Major Political Re-Alignment?

Israel’s upcoming election, writes Chuck Freilich, may not bring about the “historic” political realignment that some pundits are predicting. But the rhetoric emerging from the various parties does suggest that changes are afoot:

The old division between hawk and dove, left and right, has lost much of its meaning in Israel, both on socio-economic and on foreign-policy issues. . . . The left has come to share much of the right’s skepticism regarding the Palestinians’ willingness to reach an agreement, while the intifada and endless rocket fire have led to far greater appreciation of the right’s emphasis on security needs. On most socio-economic issues the differences between the Israeli left and right have not been great for decades, and voters are tired of the old party system and the government’s ongoing inability to provide answers to their needs. A realignment of Israeli politics has been brewing for years, and indeed began with the previous elections.

Labor had an uninterrupted run of 29 years in power. Likud has enjoyed a longer run, but one that has been repeatedly interrupted with center-left governments. Today, Likud is a spent force, with polls predicting seats in the low 20s, just one of a few mid-sized parties. Labor’s Isaac Herzog united with Tzipi Livni to form a new and fresh-looking party, which is expected to vie with Likud for a similar number of seats and possibly the premiership. Netanyahu will likely still be the premier, because of coalition mechanics, but the gloss is off and he is nearing the end of his tenure. His decision to call new elections after just two years speaks volumes. The next government is unlikely to demonstrate much greater longevity, further feeding the demands for electoral reform.

Read more at American Interest

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Isaac Herzog, Israeli politics, Likud, Tzipi Livni

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood