Whither Israel’s Labor Party?

Jan. 16 2015

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


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