Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category


I have been recently reminded of a truly admirable man whose wisdom was truly astounding. Professor Yeshayahu Leibowitz was a brilliant man who saw Judaism through a unique and often controversial lens.

A t-shirt depicting Leibowitz. The text says "I told you"

A t-shirt depicting Leibowitz. The text says “I told you”

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After Benjamin Netanyahu’s surprising victory in Israel’s national elections in March, he took until the last possible Bennettminute to complete the process of forming the government for his fourth term as Israel’s prime minister. For all the time he invested, despite making it just under the wire, Netanyahu ended up with a fragile, ultra-right-wing coalition and more work ahead of him to bring in at least one more party.

The government Netanyahu presented to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was a bare majority of 61 seats out of the 120-seat Knesset. There are no fig leafs in this coalition, no Tzipi Livni or Ehud Barak for Netanyahu to send to talk fruitlessly with the Palestinians. One might think this would make the coalition more stable, since it consists entirely of the right wing. In this, one would be wrong. Read more at LobeLog.

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With all eyes on the framework agreement for a nuclear deal with Iran, and on the looming Capitol Hill battle to defend it, it is easy to forget that Israel is still in the process of forming its new government. With much of the drama playing out offstage, many observers are sitting back and waiting for the political wrangling over ministries and BenjaminNetanyahuKnesset committee chairs to be over.

Isaac_Herzog_2004But some are making the case that there is more brewing than the doling out of prestige appointments to the leaders of the parties expected to be part of the fourth Benjamin Netanyahu government. A unity government, at one time thoroughly rejected by both Netanyahu and Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, has emerged again as at least a theoretical possibility. Read more at the FMEP blog.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won his fourth election last night in surprising fashion. He outdistanced the polls, including the exit polls in the waning hours of voting and won a decisive victory over the Zionist Union and Isaac Herzog. Here are some quick and initial takeaways from the results.

A huge victory for the Right

Even though the right wing/religious bloc in the Knesset didn’t grow, the right gained considerable power relative to
BenjaminNetanyahuthe last Knesset. The last government included two centrist parties, Yesh Atid, and Hatnuah. Yesh Atid actually was the biggest single party in it, with Likud having joined with Avigdor Lieberman’s party to gain a decisive lead in the 2013 elections. Hatnuah, though small, was very important to the coalition, as its head, Tzipi Livni was the fig leaf over the right wing that negotiated with the Palestinians.

This coalition is going to have a very different character. It is quite possible that Netanyahu will get the fully right-wing coalition he wants. It is very possible that the most moderate party in it will be Moshe Kahlon’s center-right Kulanu party. Kahlon is at best lukewarm on the two-state solution, although he has been critical of Netanyahu’s refusal to maintain negotiations. He probably described his view best when he said he supported Netanyahu’s 2009 Bar-Ilan speech. That’s the one Bibi just repudiated in the last days of the campaign. Read more at the FMEP blog.

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In the wake of the election, I was part of a panel on France 24 on Wednesday, discussing the elections and their meaning. Along with me were Michael Cohen of the Century Foundation and representatives of both the Labor and Likud parties. Check it out. Part one is here. Part two, here.

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It’s been about six hours since the polls closed in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has scored a obama-netanyahu-300x200dramatic victory, far outpacing the pre-election and exit polls. The consequences for Israelis, Palestinians, and the rest of the world could be very grave.

This surprising result undoubtedly came about because of some combination of the pollsters simply being wrong and Netanyahu’s last minute tactics, which included some blatant racism as well as an appeal to voters to block the possibility of a government led by the Zionist Union. But the why is less important than the results. Read more at LobeLog.

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New York Magazine’s Q&A with me yesterday:

Tomorrow, Israelis will go to the polls and decide whether they want Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his 675px-Kalpi_israel_18allies to continue to run the Knesset, or whether they would like Isaac Herzog and the Zionist Union to change things up. The race looks impossibly close, and because this is a parliamentary election and there’s no chance that either of the possible prime ministers can form a government alone, there are a host of smaller parties that hold the government’s future in their grasp. Daily Intel talked to Mitchell Plitnick, program director at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, who explained some of the most important variables to keep an eye on tomorrow — and what potential electoral outcomes could mean for Israel’s relationship with the United States, peace talks with Palestinians, and nuclear talks with Iran. Read More at New York Magazine.

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