News from May 24 to May 30

Israeli opposition to unite to replace Netanyahu and honorable mentions

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Israeli opposition on the brink of replacing Netanyahu:

Does Israel have a new government? Nearly!

What happened? Yesterday, Yamina leader Naftali Bennett announced that he would pursue the formation of a “change” government with Opposition Leader Yair Lapid. According to the reported terms of their deal, Bennett and Lapid will rotate the premiership, with the former serving as Prime Minister first while Lapid serves as Foreign Minister. Since the proposed coalition will include parties ranging from the right-wing New Hope (and Yamina) to the leftist Meretz with support from the Islamist party Ra’am, it will be one of the broadest governing coalitions in Israeli history. Bennett and Lapid renewed talks this week after Bennett dropped out of negotiations during the recent conflict with Hamas. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the new government would be “dangerous to Israel’s security and future.”

Naftali Bennett. Source: Wikimedia

Bennett said in a speech televised on Sunday evening that he had exhausted opportunities to make a right-wing coalition with Netanyahu and that the change government would be preferable to a fifth round of elections. For what it’s worth, recent polls suggested that Yamina would lose seats (and barely enter the Knesset) if it went to a fifth election, so the alternative-becoming the Prime Minister-was an appealing choice. Think about that; Israel’s political system is so deadlocked that a broad coalition of parties are uniting to make someone Prime Minister who would genuinely be at risk of crossing the electoral threshold if there was another election. Bonkers.

Who is Naftali Bennett? Bennett is a special forces soldier turned tech CEO turned politician who previously served as Israel’s Defense Minister. Politically, he is staunchly right-wing, with most of his supporters hailing from the religious Zionist community. He has also historically been a strong supporter of West Bank settlements, having previously led the Yesha Council, a settler movement, and against greater autonomy for Palestinians. He is also a strong advocate of liberalizing Israel’s economy. For more on Bennett, check out this profile.

What will the political philosophy of the coalition be? It remains to be seen, but the sure bet is that it will focus on issues of broad popularity like COVID recovery and the economy. The government is unlikely to touch many of Israel’s more controversial issues like the influence of religion on government, settlements, and others. However, recent reports have suggested that the new cabinet will lean right-wing. Still, no matter how right-wing Bennett is, government policy is likely to be centrist or right-leaning because it will be extremely challenging to keep right and left-wing parties happy. In his speech, Bennett said, “No one will be asked to give up their ideology [in the planned new coalition], but everyone will have to postpone the realization of some of their dreams. We will focus on what can be done, instead of arguing over what is impossible.”

Is the coalition a sure thing? One should never count out Netanyahu, but this is about as close as the opposition has ever been to replacing Netanyahu. He will likely try all kinds of political tricks until the agreements are finalized, so take this news with a grain of salt. Regardless, this is a huge political moment in Israel.

I’ll be writing more about this when I have more time!

Honorable mentions:

Rutgers University’s chancellor condemned antisemitism — then apologized for doing so” by Ben Sales (JTA)

In Ramallah, Blinken announces plans to reopen US consulate in Jerusalem” by Jacob Magid and Aaron Boxerman (ToI)

Amid a surge in hate crimes, prominent European Jews worry the war against antisemitism has been lost” by Cnaan Lipshiz (JTA)

Vandal attacks L.A. synagogue, kosher restaurant” by Louis Keene (Forward)

‘We Are All Jews Here’” by Patrick Henry (Tablet) (This is a must read this week. It’s the incredible story of how a United States soldier saved hundreds of American Jewish POWs during World War II)

German military to get chief rabbi for first time in 100 years” by Hanan Greenwood (JNS)

The timely arrival of HBO’s ‘Oslo’” by Gabby Deutch (Jewish Insider)

Nashville hat shop faces backlash for selling anti-vaccine Nazi Jewish star” (BBC)

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