Perhaps there’s no country in the world where the novel coronavirus has had more of an immediate political impact than Israel. What three elections in barely a year could not accomplish — the formation of a government — a virus could.
But Covid-19 had help from a patriotic and risk-averse Benny Gantz, who ran last year, as leader of the Blue and White party, against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party.
Gantz handed Netanyahu a near-perfect arrangement that will allow him to remain the most powerful political figure in Israel for the next 18 months, if not beyond.
Unlike for most leaders in the world, for Netanyahu Covid-19 presented both a challenge and an opportunity.… Seguir leyendo »
Nearly 70 polls had predicted that Israel’s March 2 election would produce something reminiscent of Bill Murray’s classic movie «Groundhog Day» — a seemingly endless time loop of political stalemate, dysfunction and yet another election following the previous two last April and September.
Instead, the Israeli voting public gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu perhaps one of his greatest victories. Even though he is under formal indictment for fraud, bribery and breach of trust and set to go on trial March 17, many voters decided to back Netanyahu’s Likud party. And with 90% of the vote counted, if his current projected number of 59 seats (including those of his likely coalition partners) holds, his right-wing coalition — as opposed to Benny Gantz’s 54-seat bloc composed of the left and center-left parties and the Arab Joint List — will be best positioned to form a government.… Seguir leyendo »
In Israeli politics, the old saw goes you can be dead—or dead and buried. Thursday’s statement by the Israeli attorney general that Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu will be indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust is likely going to put Netanyahu’s political career in the latter box. It’s almost certainly the beginning of the end of his political career.
However Bibi’s story plays out — and it will take time — you can take this to the bank: Netanyahu will make this fight (and likely) exit as painful, prolonged and destructive as possible.
Here are some key takeaways:
Netanyahu will go down fighting
If anyone thought that Netanyahu would use his speech to the nation following news of the indictments to put country over party and go quietly into the night, they don’t know Netanyahu.… Seguir leyendo »
In the most recent Democratic debate, an animated Joe Biden exclaimed that ISIS «is going to come here» as a result of Trump’s decision to abandon the Syrian Kurds and withdraw nearly all US troops from Syria.
After Trump’s orders to withdraw, however, another wave of American troops entered Syria, leaving as many as 900 forces in the country. Still, the break in our alliance with the Kurds and the weakening in US counter-terror policy will undoubtedly allow gains for ISIS and other jihadi groups.
Is Biden right? Has Trump paved the way for ISIS to launch attacks on American soil?… Seguir leyendo »
During the months after President Trump’s election, Israel and many of its supporters in the United States cheered as he promised a new, warmer relationship, such as a more lenient approach to settlements in the West Bank and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
But as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel travels to Washington for the leaders’ first official meeting on Wednesday, things have grown cloudier: Sounding like his predecessors, Mr. Trump has said that settlements “don’t help” the peace process, and he has cast doubt on his campaign commitment to move the embassy.
The meaning of Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
Earlier this week, Russia’s Vladimir Putin reportedly told Egypt’s President Abdul Fattah Sisi that he would be willing to host direct talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Moscow.
Putin did speak to Netanyahu by phone Tuesday, and according to press reports, they did discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Having pushed Russia into the middle of Syria’s civil war with great effect last September, is Vladimir Putin now making a serious bid to become a Middle East peacemaker too? If he’s serious — and this is far from certain — Washington should let him try.… Seguir leyendo »
The deadly attack in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, which claimed the lives of four Israelis and wounded several others, presages what could be a long hot summer between Israelis and Palestinians.
But the challenge goes deeper than just the immediate threat of summer violence. Indeed, a number of factors are emerging to create what could be the new Israeli-Palestinian normal — one in which a highly functional Israeli state interacts with two separate, highly dysfunctional and weak Palestinian polities in the West Bank and Gaza.
This new status quo will be marked at times by competition and violence and at others by cooperation and coordination.… Seguir leyendo »
Israel wanted no part in it. And neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians were scheduled to attend. Yet Secretary of State John Kerry remained optimistic ahead of Friday’s sure-to-go-nowhere Middle East peace conference in Paris. “What we are seeking to do,” he said, “is encourage the parties to be able to see a way forward so they understand peace is a possibility.”
I recognize that sentiment: wanting to remain upbeat, even while knowing that the odds are long. For much of my 24-year career as a State Department Middle East analyst, negotiator and adviser, I held out hope that a conflict-ending peace agreement was possible.… Seguir leyendo »
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to stay in power and has his eyes set on becoming the longest governing prime minister in Israel’s history, surpassing even the nation’s greatest leader, David Ben-Gurion, if he can remain in office until 2018.
That helps explain why he agreed to expand his coalition by offering longtime rival former Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman the Defense Ministry, a move that has once again scrambled the Israeli political scene and raised alarm bells in the Middle East and beyond.
The Israeli right is semi-ecstatic; (they still don’t trust Netanyahu, who was negotiating with the Labor Party until the day before he went for the Lieberman deal); arguably, Israel now has the most right-wing government in its history; the left is in mourning, convinced that Lieberman appointment will put Israel’s security in the hands of a provocative right-winger with no military or defense experience.… Seguir leyendo »
What do you do when it’s increasingly clear that one of your longtime Middle East partners doesn’t share either your values or many of your interests?
This is only one of the troubling questions that President Obama confronted this week as he sat with Saudi King Salman to discuss the state of the region and the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
The Saudis sent a lower-level official to greet Obama and Saudi state television didn’t even bother covering the President’s arrival.
So to paraphrase Hamlet, clearly something is rotten in the state of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
And regardless of how this week’s meetings conclude the Saudi-American enterprise will remain a delicate and fraught affair.… Seguir leyendo »
John Kerry’s visit to the Gulf this week is clearly aimed at trying to reassure key Arab states over U.S. policy toward Iran. But the secretary of state has a problem: If it has feathers, swims and quacks, then chances are it’s a duck.
The reality is that no matter how much reassurance Kerry provides, there’s no soothing away an emerging reality: The Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran has begun to change a decadeslong patch of confrontation into the beginnings of an accommodation. And there’s likely no going back. So while the Gulf states and Israel may see some advantage in delaying Iran’s nuclear problem with this deal, it will not be enough to help them overcome their fears of Teheran’s regional aspirations — or America’s seeming willingness to acquiesce to them.… Seguir leyendo »
Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement last week before Congress that the United States was seeking to remove human rights conditions from U.S. aid to Egypt may have disappointed and unnerved the human rights community. But anyone watching the evolution of President Obama’s Middle East policy can hardly have been surprised.
Gone are the heady days of the 2011 Arab Spring, when the President talked about being on the right side of history and — to apply Obama’s own campaign trope — supporting the forces of hope and change.
The administration has learned the hard way what the fourth-century Roman historian Tacitus knew: The first day after the death of a bad emperor is always the best day.… Seguir leyendo »
On Friday, the United States and Russia announced their agreement on a process to deliver humanitarian aid to besieged Syrian cities and to implement a national ceasefire, or even a more temporary cessation of hostilities. This is a stunningly ambitious undertaking — and it falls somewhere between a long shot and a mission impossible.
Skepticism is mandatory. It revolves around one key question: What’s changed in the calculation of the parties that would make this effort fundamentally different than other previously failed attempts at the same thing since 2012?
Are the parties exhausted? Is Syria at a breaking point? Is Russia looking for an exit strategy?… Seguir leyendo »
To listen to the presidential debates, particularly on the Republican side, you would think it was the absence of U.S. (read Barack Obama’s) leadership that is responsible for the current travails of a broken, angry, dysfunctional Middle East. Obama has no strategy in the Middle East, Jeb Bush says. The President is «making things worse in the minds of many Americans,» Marco Rubio charges. Ted Cruz, for his part, says the chaos in Syria and Iraq is a direct result of Obama’s failed policies.
Even Hillary Clinton, largely supportive of the President’s policies, has implicitly criticized the President, saying our goal is not to deter or contain ISIS, but to defeat it.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week was Iran week — from the tensions over the detention of 10 U.S. sailors, to the prisoner/hostage swap to the implementation of the nuclear agreement.
Like most other issues in a broken, angry and dysfunctional Middle East, dealing with Iran remains a work in progress, including over the nuclear agreement itself. But one thing is clear: Iran, and not a divided and dysfunctional Arab world, is rising politically and economically.
So you can forget the Arab spring. That time has passed. Instead, say hello to an Iranian spring. Here are six reasons why:
Implementing the nuclear deal: There’s little doubt that progress on this score has exceeded expectations.… Seguir leyendo »
If you think 2016 is going to be a better year for Israel and the Palestinians, I’d advise lying down and waiting until the feeling passes.
Two days before Christmas, an Israeli Jew was fatally stabbed and another injured and later accidentally killed by security forces in an attack by Palestinian youths. The incident was the latest of the some 120 attacks and attempted assaults that, since October, had left 19 Israelis dead — and several times that number of Palestinians. And now, on the first day of the new year, two people were killed and at least seven hurt in a shooting at a pub in Tel Aviv.… Seguir leyendo »
With apologies to Woody Allen, 80% of life isn’t about just showing up, it’s about showing up at the right time.
While there are risks to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new projection of military power in Syria, including airstrikes Wednesday in the Homs area likely aimed at President Bashar al-Assad’s opponents, he’s once again demonstrated that Russia acts while the United States reacts.
Don’t get me wrong — Putin is no strategic genius. His moves in Crimea and Ukraine have cost the Russian economy dearly. But he has again demonstrated in Syria that Russia is prepared to act to defend what it perceives as its traditional interests and limit U.S.… Seguir leyendo »
After 20 months of negotiations, a deal has been announced over Iran’s nuclear program. But is it a good deal? And if so, for whom? CNN asked a range of contributors for their take on what it means, and what to expect next. The views expressed are the writers’ own.
The deal of the century — for Iran
There’s no question the Obama administration got what it wanted out of this deal: a slower, smaller Iranian nuclear program more easily monitored and constrained for at least a decade. No chance now of a pre-emptive Israeli strike, and no need for an American one.… Seguir leyendo »
A mere six weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — political magician par excellence — was riding high. With his Likud party clearing 30 seats, Netanyahu appeared ready again to dominate the Israeli political stage. And, with back-to-back-to-back victories, there seemed the possibility, should he last until 2018, of surpassing David Ben-Gurion as Israel’s longest-governing prime minister.
It has left many wondering how we got to a place where Netanyahu, in a frenzy of last-minute giveaways to his rival Naftali Bennett, was only able to form a razor-thin majority Israeli government (61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset) — and only an hour before the deadline was to expire.… Seguir leyendo »
Acts of individual violence and terror can at times be transformative, representing extraordinary tipping points that changed history. The 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, for example, triggered a set of pre-wired alliances that led to World War I; the self-immolation of a Tunisian fruit seller triggered what came to be known as the “Arab Spring.”
The same logic is now being used to characterize the savage and horrific burning death last month of Jordanian pilot Moaz Kasasbeh. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) said this latest Islamic State atrocity must be a “game changer” for President Obama.
The congressman’s words are understandable.… Seguir leyendo »