Is Israel Headed for a Major Political Re-Alignment?

Jan. 26 2015

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


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