Whither Israel’s Labor Party?

Under Isaac Herzog’s leadership, the once-dominant Labor party seems to be on its way to a revival; a mood of enthusiasm accompanied Tuesday’s primaries. But the primaries were a victory for the party’s left wing, which is hardly on board with the reasons for Labor’s recovery. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Herzog, while admittedly lacking the easy eloquence of a Netanyahu . . . has proved that he possesses two characteristics that one might expect Labor supporters would find equally valuable: a piercing political acumen and an unbridled ambition to reclaim Labor’s lost status as a credible vehicle for national leadership. . . .

Herzog transformed Labor from a medium-sized political backwater into the most electorally credible alternative to Netanyahu that the country has seen in years. And by adopting explicitly centrist rhetoric that calls for separation from the Palestinians rather than suggesting that reconciliation or “peace” were in the cards, Herzog enabled large numbers of left-leaning Israelis whose faith in peace talks was punctured by the violent implosions of past negotiation attempts at least to reconsider a vote for the party that once led those efforts.

But . . . Herzog’s bid for the center, which has brought him closer than any Labor chief since 2000 to potentially retaking the prime minister’s office, does not reflect the views or wishes of large swaths of his party rank and file.

Read more at Times of Israel

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

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