Israel

Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, November 2022. Ammar Awad / Reuters

It took five elections to finally break the deadlock that has paralyzed Israeli politics for over three years. On November 1, a decisive winner at last emerged when the parties allied with former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a majority in parliament, claiming 64 out of 120 seats and ending the tenure of a short-lived, ungainly coalition established only in June 2021. That government featured eight parties (right-wing, left-wing, centrist, and even Islamist), two prime ministers, and ultimately, irreconcilable ideological divisions. Naftali Bennett, who led a small right-wing party, served as prime minister for just over a year before turning over the top job, by agreement, to the centrist Yair Lapid this past June.…  Seguir leyendo »

La victoria pírrica de Netanyahu

El bloque de supremacistas judíos, nacionalistas mesiánicos y teócratas ultraortodoxos liderado por el Likud de Binyamin Netanyahu ha ganado la elección general en Israel, después de cuatro derrotas consecutivas en menos de cuatro años. En todas estas elecciones, no fueron ni la ideología ni las políticas lo que estaba en cuestión, sino más bien la aptitud de Netanyahu para desempeñarse como primer ministro. Y esta vez triunfó, por dos razones.

Una de ellas es que hoy es más fácil que nunca movilizar a los votantes apelando al sentimiento antiárabe. Esta animosidad popular ha crecido en los últimos años, a pesar de la sostenida integración de los árabes a las clases profesionales israelíes y el surgimiento de una clase media árabe ansiosa de participar en la revolución de oportunidades de Israel.…  Seguir leyendo »

Itamar Ben Gvir, leader of Israel's Otzma Yehudit far-right party. Eastern Jerusalem, 2 November 2022 / Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Tel Aviv, Israel, 30 October 2022. Mostafa Alkharouf / Anadolu Agency via AFP

This publication is part of a  joint initiative between the International Crisis Group and the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP) to help resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What, in brief, is the outcome of the elections?

After four consecutive, inconclusive elections since April 2019, Israelis went to the polls once more on 1 November. The vote saw the return of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite the fact that he is on trial for corruption. Perhaps even more significant in the outcome, however, was the victory it represented for the far right, who comprise a large part of Netanyahu’s winning coalition. The three parties of the Religious Zionist alliance that handed Netanyahu his win are religiously ultra-conservative, transparently Jewish ethno-nationalist and expressly anti-Arab.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israel’s New Kingmaker Is a Dangerous Extremist and He’s Here to Stay

Late Tuesday night in Jerusalem, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the leader of the far-right Jewish Power Party, stood onstage triumphant before a raucous, ecstatic crowd. His supporters chanted, “Look who it is, the next prime minister!” as trance beats blared in the background. Mr. Ben-Gvir, in fact, had not been elected prime minister, but he will have played an instrumental role in returning Benjamin Netanyahu to power.

Mr. Ben-Gvir beamed down at his supporters and began his speech. When he pledged to deal harshly with those disloyal to Israel, they broke out in chants of “Death to terrorists”, a sanitized version of the slogan that is often a fixture at right-wing rallies: “Death to Arabs”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace un año perdió las elecciones sumido en tres procesos judiciales, pero el martes, tras cinco convocatorias electorales en tres años, los israelíes decidieron otorgarle una vez más la confianza para ser primer ministro. Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi, como se le conoce popularmente, se prepara para consolidar su extensa trayectoria (quince años ya) al frente de Israel.

En un país en que solo se puede gobernar en coalición, ocho partidos de todo el espectro, con la participación por primera vez de uno árabe, se unieron en 2021 en una muy débil alianza de 62 escaños (la mayoría absoluta son 61) para desbancar a Netanyahu del poder.…  Seguir leyendo »

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend the Abraham Accords signing ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Sept. 15, 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP)

“Israel is a speck on the map of the world”, Walter Russell Mead writes in his new book, “The Arc of a Covenant”, but “it occupies a continent in the American mind”. The Jewish state is a crucible for global contests over nationalism, religion and identity — and to the American liberal mind, its latest turn is a source of foreboding. But liberals are missing a point that hits closer to home.

Israelis this week voted out the centrist government headed by Prime Minister Yair Lapid, delivering a 64-seat majority (out of 120) to conservative and religious parties that support former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.…  Seguir leyendo »

Después de cinco rondas electorales en menos de cuatro años con un mismo final de punto muerto, los resultados de las elecciones parlamentarias del martes en Israel parecen indicar el regreso de un viejo conocido: Benjamín Netanyahu. Dado que todas las encuestas realizadas en los días previos a las elecciones predecían un empate técnico (de 60 escaños, a tan sólo uno de la mayoría) entre la coalición electoral de Netanyahu y la de su rival, el primer ministro saliente Yair Lapid, el despertar de Bibi, como es popularmente conocido, no ha podido ser más placentero: su partido, el Likud, no sólo es el vencedor con 32 escaños, sino que su coalición electoral alcanza sobradamente la mayoría gracias al sorprendente resultado de la extrema derecha (el partido Sionista Religioso), que con 14 escaños duplica su presencia en el Parlamento israelí (Knesset).…  Seguir leyendo »

Itamar Ben-Gvir, a far-right Israeli lawmaker and the head of Jewish Power party, gestures after receiving exit poll results at the party's headquarters in Jerusalem on Wednesday. (Oren Ziv/AP)

The great Israeli deadlock is over; nearly a year and a half of low-key government is past. Unless the post-election coalition-wrangling produces another stunning surprise, Benjamin Netanyahu will soon return as prime minister.

I already miss deadlock.

It would be easy both to overstate and understate the meaning of Tuesday’s elections. Most of all, it would be easy to despair of democracy’s future in Israel — and that, too, would be a mistake.

Netanyahu’s Likud party and its three expected coalition partners won 64 seats out of 120 in parliament. The temptation of overstatement lies in the journalistic shorthand of describing the electorate as though it were a single individual: “Israel ends indecision, chooses the right”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Benjamin Netanyahu, with his wife Sara, addresses supporters at campaign headquarters in Jerusalem early on November 2, 2022. Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

If former Saturday Night Live great and actor Bill Murray wasn’t hired as a technical adviser to Israel’s Central Elections Committee, he surely might have been. Based on pre-election polling it seemed that Israel was headed for yet another Groundhog Day-style hung election for the fifth time in just short of four years.

But this election seems to have produced (final figures won’t be available until week’s end) what the previous four could not: a majority for Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu and his allies and the likely emergence of the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.

Indeed, the biggest star in the new political firmament wasn’t Netanyahu but the extremist Itamar Ben Gvir, whose bloc Religious Zionism is now the third largest in the Knesset.…  Seguir leyendo »

‘The makeup of the Israeli political spectrum makes no difference to the future of Palestinians.’ Photograph: Abir Sultan/EPA

Benjamin Netanyahu has made an impressive comeback after his ousting in 2021 amid corruption allegations. In this week’s election, his party, Likud, received more votes than any other party and his far-right allies came third, paving the way for a Likud-led coalition government. Although forming a coalition isn’t an easy game – indeed, Netanyahu has failed in the previous four elections to do so – this time he’s expected to form a comfortable majority bloc with ultra-Orthodox and far-right parties.

Yet despite this prospect, for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza the Israeli elections have not been at the forefront of political discussion, as they continue to resist and fight for their survival on ever-shrinking territory.…  Seguir leyendo »

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife in October. Amit Elkayam for The New York Times

Israel’s election this week is being touted as a new referendum on an old leader — former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is standing trial on corruption charges and is attempting yet another political comeback. But the country faces a much deeper, more worrisome concern: Israel’s judicial branch is on trial and with it Israel’s best hope for democracy.

In mid-October the extremist and ascendant Religious Zionism party released a plan for judicial reform that it called “the Law and Justice Plan”.

Critics were scandalized that the plan would strike from the books a key crime in Mr. Netanyahu’s indictments, “fraud and breach of trust”, while providing substantial immunity for the prime minister, cabinet ministers and legislators.…  Seguir leyendo »

Likud supporters in Jerusalem on 31 October. Photograph: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

On 1 November, Israel votes in a general election for the fifth time since spring 2019. Recent polls show that the country’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his rightwing coalition are just shy of clinching victory. Sixty-one seats in the Knesset, the 120-seat parliament, is the magic number. As fate would have it, Israeli Arab voters may determine the outcome.

In 2021, Israeli Arabs were instrumental in ousting Netanyahu from office. This time, however, they may give him a boost by simply sitting on their hands: if they stay at home, the odds of Netanyahu and his allies returning to power markedly improve.…  Seguir leyendo »

An election campaign billboard in Ramat Gan, Israel, October 2022. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

As Israel heads to the polls on Tuesday for its fifth election since the spring of 2019, its politics are fractious, but stop short of visceral acridity. The country’s rival tribes are content to jostle each other. It’s an eerie quiet before what could be a terrible storm. With just days to go, Benjamin Netanyahu and the right lead in hypothetical match-ups, but may fall short of the 61 seats needed in the 120-member Knesset, Israel’s parliament, to dislodge Yair Lapid, the current prime minister.

As for Lapid, his chances of securing an outright victory are slim. Talk on the street is of a Seinfeld election – much ado about almost nothing.…  Seguir leyendo »

A roadside campaign banner for Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism party near Nablus, West Bank, on Monday. (Kobi Wolf/Bloomberg News)

The leader of Israel’s surging far-right party has a plan for what he calls judicial reform. More accurately, it’s a plan to bulldoze judicial oversight, the rule of law and protection of human rights.

Here’s the context: Next Tuesday, we here in Israel will be going to the polls yet again. This is the fifth time since spring 2019, so you might think that repetition alone would lessen the anxiety, the sense that everything — not just who will be elected, but the very future of democratic government — depends on the final count.

Instead, speaking for myself — and possibly about half the nation — the sense of election dread is greater than ever.…  Seguir leyendo »

An offshore natural gas production platform is seen from Dor, a coastal town in northern Israel, on Dec. 31, 2019. JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

Last month, we visited a Hezbollah tunnel on the Israeli-Lebanese border as part of a bipartisan group of Middle East experts. Dug almost a football field deep—with twisting staircases, advanced lighting, and oxygen cables—the tunnel’s sole purpose was to deliver Hezbollah terrorists from the Lebanese side of the border deep into Israeli territory. Equally menacing was the sight of active Hezbollah outposts less than 100 yards from the discovered tunnel, where the organization conducts intelligence and stores rockets ready to strike deep into Israel in the event of a conflict. The visit underscored that the Israeli-Lebanese border remains at a boil, and developments over the last few months have pushed the two sides closer to conflict than at any time since the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war.…  Seguir leyendo »

Our movie’s antihero, an Israeli citizen, wakes at 6 a.m. to the buzz of an alarm clock and groggily slaps it off. By force of habit, he — or she, perhaps, in this remake — grabs a cellphone and checks the news. Headlines refer to elections and polls, to Yair Lapid and Benjamin Netanyahu. One is prime minister, the other the challenger. Which is which? Our antihero tries to remember. Is this the third or the fifth recent election in which they’ve faced off?

She, or he, scrolls down. More headlines: a warning to Iran from the prime minister (which one is he again?);…  Seguir leyendo »

An Uneasy Alliance in Jerusalem. Amir Levy/Getty Images

On June 30, 2022, the Israeli Knesset voted to dissolve itself, setting the country on the path to a fifth parliamentary election in just three years. Since the first of those elections in April 2019, Israeli politics have bifurcated into pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs, with public debate centering almost exclusively on Benjamin Netanyahu’s fitness for office in light of his ongoing corruption trial. Last year, however, the struggle between these blocs produced a surprising development. The anti-Netanyahu forces, headed by the former TV host Yair Lapid and the former settler leader Naftali Bennett, managed to depose Israel’s longest-serving prime minister by forming a coalition that, for the first time in Israeli history, formally included an independent Arab-led party: Ra’am, the socially conservative, moderate-Islamist party headed by Mansour Abbas, a mild-mannered dentist from the Galilee.…  Seguir leyendo »

El Consejo de Derechos Humanos (CDH) es la institución con el nombre más inapropiado de toda la familia de organismos de la ONU. Porque en él están representados los más despiadados violadores de los derechos humanos (entre ellos Siria, Irán y China), algo que convierte al CDH actual en una burla a su propósito original.

La mayoría de las resoluciones del CDH giran de forma llamativa en torno al Estado de Israel. Nadie está sugiriendo que Israel deba estar más allá de la crítica. Pero en un mundo en el que existen enormes desafíos en materia de derechos humanos, llama la atención la persistencia del foco en Israel.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Israeli soldier stands guard during a demonstration by Palestinian and Israeli peace activists against settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank on July 27. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images)

When I read the headline about the Israeli Supreme Court’s latest decision on West Bank settlement, I was angry — at the court and at myself. The anger at the court was straightforward. A 4-3 majority allowed a settlement to stay on land privately owned by Palestinians, thereby giving judicial approval to theft.

As for being vexed with myself, I realized I had been holding onto a shard of hope that it was possible to fight the settlement enterprise, the core of the occupation, by bringing evidence and reasoning to the nation’s highest court. I’d been naive.

I learned this hope — I’ll say in my defense — from history, and from activists and commentators I respect.…  Seguir leyendo »

On July 1, Yair Lapid became Israel’s 14th prime minister. Though he will serve only as caretaker until general elections are held on Nov. 1, he has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make history as he helps his nation grapple with a complicated reality: enormous economic and political success coupled with a rising demographic challenge.

The State of Israel is enjoying a golden age. For more than 15 years — since the Second Lebanon War of 2006 — it has maintained relative calm, strategic stability and prosperity. The economy is flourishing: over the past decade the average annual growth rate was more than 3.5 percent, accelerating to an astonishing 8 percent in 2021.…  Seguir leyendo »