Shmuel Rosner

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As a result of four elections in two years, Israel has become a fractious and polarized country, with no natural governing majority. Abir Sultan/EPA, via Shutterstock

Israel’s new government, which was officially formed yesterday, is getting a lot of attention, mostly for one reason: It marks the end of the more than a dozen years of Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership. But this new government is potentially just as significant for another reason: It is the beginning of an era in which Israel no longer truly has a prime minister.

Nominally, Israel’s new prime minister is Naftali Bennett. But since his small right-wing party, Yamina, controls only six of the Knesset’s 120 seats, it needed partners to form a government. The coalition now includes seven additional parties from across the ideological spectrum, and they agree on very little.…  Seguir leyendo »

Billboards depicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel alongside President Donald Trump were common before President Biden took office. Credit Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On March 23, Israel will go to the polls for its fourth national election in two years. The worst part is that this depressing Election Day may just be a prelude to yet another: Opinion polling suggests that Israel’s political blocs will struggle to elect and form a stable parliamentary majority. Our politics, it seems, are stuck on a repetitive doom loop.

At least one thing is different: This time, the American president is a nonentity.

Consider two election cycles of the last decade. In 2015, just days before Israelis voted, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington and spoke before Congress about the threat of Iran.…  Seguir leyendo »

Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of culture and sport, wearing a dress featuring the old city of Jerusalem at the Cannes Film Festival last month. Credit Antonin Thuillier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of culture and sport, is a master politician. She has turned her insignificant office — a ministry with a small budget, limited portfolio and little prestige — into a megaphone, and in the process she has become one of the most visible and controversial cabinet ministers.

What has Ms. Regev done exactly? She’s simply demanded an influence on the arena she is supposedly in charge of.

The Ministry of Culture and Sports has mainly one mission: to grant money to cultural institutions. Israel is a country where the state supports the arts, and that support is distributed in accordance with certain guidelines and procedures.…  Seguir leyendo »

The English edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in Jerusalem last week. Credit Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency

Haaretz is an Israeli newspaper. Admired by many foreigners and few Israelis, loathed by many, mostly Israelis. Read by few, denounced by many, it is a highly ideological, high-quality paper. It has a history of excellence. It has a history of independence. It has a history of counting Israel’s mistakes and misbehavior. It has a history of getting on Israel’s nerves.

Still, it is just a newspaper. The story of the people vs. Haaretz — that is, of a great number of Israelis’ growing dislike for the paper — is worth telling only because it tells us something about Israel itself: that the country’s far left is evolving from a political position into a mental state and that the right-wing majority has not yet evolved into being a mature, self-confident public.…  Seguir leyendo »

How Israel Got Its Supreme Court Right

After much national hand-wringing, four new judges were appointed to Israel’s 15-member highest court late last month. Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who comes from a right-wing religious party and has long championed changes to the court, considered the appointments a victory: One of the new judges is a settler; another is an Orthodox Jewish woman; a third is also considered a conservative. (The fourth judge is an Arab Israeli.)

The new judicial appointments, Ms. Shaked argued, “reflect the human and legal diversity” that she said had “until now has been so lacking on our highest court.” After decades dominating politics, the Israeli right had finally broken through into this bastion of unapologetic liberalism.…  Seguir leyendo »

Lighting candles on International Holocaust Remembrance Day last month at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Credit Win McNamee/Getty Images

Jews across the United States were rightly troubled and angered at the end of January, when a White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day failed to mention the Holocaust’s principal victims: Jews.

Groups both generally unsympathetic and sympathetic to President Trump denounced the statement. Some considered it proof that the new administration wants to appeal to anti-Semitic sentiments. Others gave the White House the benefit of the doubt, presuming the statement’s wording was a regrettable mistake.

The Anti-Defamation League’s chief executive officer argued in a blog post that leaving out Jews from the statement confirmed “the hopes of haters who seek to normalize anti-Semitism and dismiss the notion that Jews suffered disproportionately during World War II.”…  Seguir leyendo »

A bodyguard closing the gates to the official residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Jan. 2, blocking the view as the press awaited the arrival of police investigators looking into gifts Mr. Netanyahu received. Credit Gali Tibbon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Imagine I’m describing a country you’ve never heard of: I tell you that every prime minister of this country in the last 20 years has at some point been under criminal investigation. Defense ministers were investigated and put on trial for corruption. Other top government officials have likewise been under suspicion.

What would you think about this country? You would probably think it is corrupt and that something in it needed to be fixed.

This country is not imaginary. It’s my country: Israel. And although I do not think it is especially corrupt, something is surely in need of fixing. The question is what.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Israeli family in the Jewish settlement Amona in the West Bank this month. Credit Amir Cohen/Reuters

A government that is repeatedly described, with only partial justification, as Israel’s “most right wing ever” is about to evacuate a Jewish settlement in the West Bank named Amona.

The settlers there have pushed back as hard as they can, screaming from rooftops, threatening the government and deriding Israel’s High Court, which ordered the evacuation on the grounds that some of the houses there were illegally built on privately owned land. But ultimately they will have to leave. The government — even if reluctantly — abides by the law and will follow the court’s ruling. The deadline for the evacuation is Dec.…  Seguir leyendo »

How Donald Trump Will Divide American and Israeli Jews

The day before Americans voted for their next president, I met with Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz in the area she knows best — her district in southern Florida.

It is a heavily Jewish area, and Ms. Wasserman Schultz was dressed the part. The pin she wore on her jacket said “Ani Ita,” Hebrew for “I’m with her.” I have no idea how many of the Jews sitting in the coffee shop where we talked were actually able to understand the words, but I’m sure most of them could identify Hebrew letters, and hence associate the congresswoman with their Jewish culture.

Persuading Jewish voters in Florida to vote for Hillary Clinton was not nearly as hard as it was to persuade them to vote for Barack Obama eight and four years ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

France’s Jews Have No Choice but Israel

There is great irony to Israel’s instinctive response to terror attacks on Jews in Europe — and the devastating attack last week on a kosher grocery store in Paris was no different.

Pack your belongings! Flee! Escape, Israel urges the Jews of France.

A government that never misses an opportunity to lecture the Western world about the pitfalls of surrendering to terrorism is proposing exactly that — surrender — to the Jews of France.

Surrender followed by immigration to Israel, where surrender is not an option.

“The state of Israel is your home,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Jews of France, refraining from blatantly saying that they ought to leave and come to Israel as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suggested 10 years ago.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Israeli song “Ein Li Eretz Acheret” is a curious tune. “I have no other country,” go the lyrics, “even if my land is on fire.”

It’s hard to find a Jewish Israeli who doesn’t identify with it. Lefty Israelis interpret it as a protest song. It was sung at demonstrations against the 1982 Lebanon War and vigils following the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Israelis on the right interpret it as a patriotic song about attachment to the land; they sang it after terrorist attacks and during the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

I was reminded of the song in recent days as I read a string of articles by smart, savvy, knowledgeable, non-Israeli Jews, who say that the brutal war in Gaza has made them question their Zionism.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israel goes off daylight saving time on Sunday, like countries in Europe do. The clock will take a small step backward, but Israel will take a giant leap forward.

By order of the Knesset, Israel’s D.S.T. season was extended to 212 days, instead of an average of 182 days according to a law from 2005. Public pressure and political changes finally made it possible for the government to enact what most Israelis wanted long ago.

Even as Israelis are becoming increasingly attached to Jewish tradition and religion, as the Israel Democracy Institute has found, they are becoming less patient with religious dictates from pious politicians and Orthodox rabbis.…  Seguir leyendo »