Israel: What Is Going On?
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
All countries must protect their national interests and deal with internal politics, Israel no more or less than any other. Nevertheless, sometimes Israeli political leaders and public officials engage in discussions or make statements which literally can send someone banging their head against a wall. The world is stirring about the peace process, a two-state solution, and the BDS movement, while Israel is worried about:
During a discussion of changes in the adoption law, the chairman of the Knesset Committee on the Constitution, Law and Justice, David Rotem, is reported by Haaretz to have said that the Reform Movement “…is not Jewish … they are another religion.” Rotem who is orthodox himself, was roundly condemned by the Reform and Masorati leadership in Israel. What kind of normalcy does this represent from a leading Knesset member whose committee has jurisdiction over religion and state matters, “Who is a Jew” questions, and conversion issues? Surely, his perspective may be supported by many in the Orthodox camp, but credible political leaders do not speak this way. Even more important, ought not the head of the Government condemn such statements and urge his removal from his position? Does Israel really want to write off Jewish support around the world?
It is fairly common knowledge that Israel has not truly ceased settlement activity or proceeding with the issuance of permits for settlement construction. This gamesmanship has been part of the Netanyahu (and other Governments) modus operandi for years. With that understood, is the current Government internally so weak that it must regularly throw another bloc of construction permits or sites into the face of those seeking–in this nine month window– to perhaps bring the Palestinians and the Israelis closer to some sort of peace agreement. Alternatively, perhaps the Netanyahu Government again just cannot face down its own hard-line faction and right wing coalition members, without a constant effort to put a pin in the eye of anyone perhaps seeking a modus vivendi in the region.
It has become clear that despite new party elections in their leadership bringing in Isaac (Yitzchak or Buji) Herzog to head the Knesset opposition, the Labor Party is not a real alternative voice in Israeli politics today. Neither is Tizipi Livni –current Justice Minister and leader of the Hatnuah Party in the Government and former leader of the Opposition in the Kadima Party. In addition, there are no viable fresh faces on the horizon.
Opposition to Bibi clusters around extremist voices within Netanyahu’s own Likud Party and his right wing coalition members. So strident are the coalition partners that Yisrael Beitanu head Naftali Bennett, now regularly threatens to recommend that his party leave the Government if they do not get their way; presumably yielding to a push for new elections. Yet, Bennett, knows as does Bibi, that the one thing a coalition government can control even less than in a two party democracy, is the volatility of an electorate.