Anshel Pfeffer

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Benjamin Netanyahu, left, and Moshe Gafni, the head of United Torah Judaism party. Ammar Awad/Reuters

For years, there has been a growing gap between Israelis and American Jews when it comes to Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. But today the issue threatening to divide the Jewish people is not about geopolitics or the occupation of the West Bank. It’s about Judaism itself: Jewish fundamentalists are now the dominant element in the Israeli governing coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu. They plan a hostile takeover of Jewish identity.

Several ministries have been created with a focus on Jewish identity. Each will be led almost exclusively by the members of parties representing the various strands of modern Jewish fundamentalism — parties that resist any form of modernism — as well as the elements of the Zionist Orthodoxy that are increasingly both ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox.…  Seguir leyendo »

The days after Israel’s longest-serving prime minister was finally forced out of office have been anticlimactic.

Naftali Bennett has been sworn in as prime minister, ending the 12-year rule of his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, but this is still very much Mr. Netanyahu’s Israel. Even physically, Mr. Netanyahu is still living in the prime minister’s official residence on Balfour Street in Jerusalem. The day after his premiership ended, he was still receiving guests from abroad, including the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and the televangelist John Hagee.

Mr. Netanyahu’s political camp of far-right and ultrareligious parties may be in the opposition now, but they’re still his coalition, rallying around his promise to topple “this evil and dangerous leftist government,” and to do so much sooner than anyone expects.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Sunday night, Naftali Bennett, the right-wing politician who may become Israel's new prime minister in a week, finally broke cover and lambasted his old boss and mentor Benjamin Netanyahu for trying to lead the state of Israel to his own "personal Masada" -- a reference to the Jewish zealots who committed mass suicide rather than become Roman slaves in the first century A.D.

Bennett announced that he would be forming a national-unity government with Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid opposition party. The parties opposed to Netanyahu not only have a majority in Israel's parliament, the Knesset, but they are now actually working together.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Nov. 25. Credit Ronen Zvulun/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

This should have been the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s career. His coalition is down to the minimum number of seats in the Knesset necessary to hold on to power, his ministers at war with one another and with him, and remarkably, the police have recommended indicting him on serious corruption charges three separate times, the most recent on Dec. 2.

Yet despite all this, polling concurs that Mr. Netanyahu is on course to win a fifth election next year and surpass David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, as the country’s longest-serving leader. Meanwhile, he has more power than ever. When Avigdor Lieberman resigned on Nov.…  Seguir leyendo »

When the United Nations Security Council voted on Friday to censure Israel’s settlement-building policy, the United States shocked its allies by abstaining. This shock was a little odd given that the Obama administration has always opposed the settlements. Odder still, Secretary of State John Kerry felt the need to deliver an excruciating 80-minute speech on Wednesday that was essentially an apology for the abstention. The whole song-and-dance says a lot about Kerry’s well-meaning but ultimately ineffectual Mideast strategy.

While many, not just in Israel’s government, have already described Kerry’s speech as deeply critical, even “anti-Israel,” it was nothing of the sort.…  Seguir leyendo »

In a small, close-knit society where family is everything, people are constantly glued to their mobile phones and trauma is an ever-present memory, the prospect of a child being kidnapped by Palestinians is an unspoken terror. And yes, a child in this context could also mean a 20-year-old soldier shouldering his rifle.

For Israelis, the nightmare of your son's phone ringing, unanswered, wipes away all the self-confidence that citizens of the Jewish state have built for themselves. That fear burrows into a national psyche that defines what Israel is about for its Jewish majority – a country that was founded and its entire military force built up so that no Jewish child should ever be captured and spirited away again.…  Seguir leyendo »