The media in Israel is abuzz with the news that Tzipi Livni will bring her Ha’Tnuah party into a joint ticket with the much larger Labor party. Now there is a tandem that can outpoll Likud, they are saying. The Israeli center just might be able to assert itself in this election.
Permit me to throw some cold water on this excitement. Livni, who has been the lone voice in the current government who has actively supported talks with the Palestinians, is doing this because if she doesn’t, there is a very strong possibility that her party will not get enough votes to remain in the Knesset. Labor leader Isaac Herzog, who has very little international experience, ran for the party leadership based on his commitment to resolving the long-standing conflict with the Palestinians. As the prospective Number Two, Livni gives Herzog some credibility in this regard. Read more at LobeLog
The Israeli government is headed for yet another round of elections. Although the official election date for the next
Knesset is November 7, 2017, no one ever expected this government to last that long. The voting will likely take place in March of 2015.
What do the new elections mean outside of Israel? Nothing very good, I’m afraid. For the most part, any elections held in the foreseeable future are going to cement the status quo even further, and where they don’t do so, elections will mean a shift even further rightward. Read more at LobeLog
An edited version of this article appeared first at LobeLog.
They were dueling op-eds, one in the New York Times and the other in the Jewish communal magazine, Tablet. The question being
Nationalistic signs at Salute to Israel Day in New York, July 2006
Photo by Rabih/Public Domain
bandied between them was whether Israel is becoming a theocracy. Not surprisingly, both pieces missed the mark. It’s not theocracy but unbridled nationalism that is the threat in Israel.
The Times piece was authored by Abbas Milani, who heads the Iranian Studies program at Stanford University and Israel Waismel-Manor, a lecturer at Haifa University who is currently a visiting associate professor of Political Science at Stanford. Their thesis is that Iran and Israel are moving in opposite directions on a democratic-theocratic scale, and that they might at some point in the future pass each other. Milani and Waismel-Manor are certainly correct about the strengthening forces of secularism and democracy in Iran, along with a good dose of disillusionment and frustration with the revolutionary, Islamic government that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini ushered in thirty-five years ago. But on Israel, they miss the mark by a pretty wide margin.
Waismel-Manor and MIlani posit that the thirty seats currently held in Israel’s Knesset by religious parties shows growing religious influence on Israeli policies. But, as Yair Rosenberg at Tablet correctly points out, not all the religious parties have the same attitude about separation of religion and the state. Where Rosenberg, unsurprisingly, goes way off course is his complete eliding of the fact that the threat is not Israel’s tilt toward religion, but it’s increasingly radical shift toward right-wing policies, which are often severely discriminatory and militant. Continue reading
The Iran Review web site published an interview done with me by their correspondent, Kourosh Ziabari. It covers a wide range of
Your humble narrator
subjects related to Israel, including the current talks, Gaza and the standoff with Iran, among other issues. I reprint it below. The original can be found at the link above. The interview was conducted on August 26, 2013.
Iran Review Exclusive Interview with Mitchell Plitnick
By: Kourosh Ziabari Continue reading
I’ve long suspected it, but now I’m convinced: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lost his mind. His announcement todayof forming a joint list with Yisrael Beiteinu and Avigdor Lieberman reeks of a panic not rooted in any sense of reality. And this time, it’s not about “the Arabs” or Iran, but about the upcoming election. It’s proof positive that the man running Israel, and who is going to continue to run Israel for the foreseeable future, is a frightened, perhaps even paranoid, reactionary man.
Consummating their love and uniting the right: Avigdor Lieberman and Benjamin Netanyahu
According to Yediot Akhronot’s web site, YNet, Bibi made the decision to do this because polls indicate Likud would lose a few seats in the next elections (sorry, the report is not available in English at this time). Netanyahu wants to be the leader of the next Knesset’s biggest party, not the second biggest as he currently is. So, he threw in his lot with Lieberman and his explicit fascism.
I think this move is going to backfire on Bibi in a number of ways. First of all, this is going to alienate a number of very high profile Likud members. Some will be seeing this as coming at their expense, especially those in top positions right now who will be bumped at least one rung, perhaps more, lower on the list and in their positions in the next cabinet. Others, like Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and more, are going to bristle sharply at having to work this closely with Lieberman. It would not surprise me to see several prominent Likud figures bolt.
Second, whereas before the so-called super-bloc of “center-left” parties was largely a media invention, Netanyahu has now given it much more impetus. While Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid may still be more interested in making their own mark on the electorate, the more seasoned Labor and Kadima parties are going to find that they have little choice but to join forces now in some way. That won’t matter to Bibi…unless Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni re-enter the fray, which make Kadima meaningful again and would combine well with a Labor Party that Shelly Yachimovitch has kept at a steady second place in polls for months. Continue reading
In this week’s article at Souciant I look at recent shifts in the Israeli political landscape within the context of how two-staters might start to seriously rethink their approach in a post-Oslo world.
A while back, I wrote about “Giving up on Obama.” A natural corollary to that declaration is, as my friend, Rabbi Brant Rosen inquired, “what then”?
Before I answer that, I wanted to clear up a misapprehension some took from my piece. I have, indeed, lost faith in Obama’s ability to confront the considerable political forces and act in the interest of the United States, Israel and the Palestinians and put force behind the nice-sounding words about a two-solution.
But I have not given up on a two-state solution. I still feel as I always have—I’ll take whatever solution will work and will be acceptable to the people that live in the region. And the two-state solution still has the advantage of being the preferred one by the overwhelming majority of Israelis and still, from all indications, a majority of Palestinians. It is also the solution endorsed by the United States, Europe and the Arab League as well as the PLO. If a two-state solution has been rendered impossible by the massive expansion of Israel’s settlements, as many argue, that isn’t very different from one-state proposals which seem to me at least equally fanciful. And, in any case, it remains true that a one-state solution will mean a very long period of time to reorient international diplomacy towards it.
But the issue is not how many states a solution will ultimately encompass. Whatever solution finally comes about, we are very far from that point. We all knew from the first that Obama’s notions of solving the conflict within two years were ridiculous fancy or, at best, empty political rhetoric. Now we also know that he is not the president who will reverse two decades of American deferral to Israel on all central policy matters. Continue reading