TLR 177: The illusion of stability
July 1, 2016
Along with the rest of the world, the Israeli public looks on, stunned and disbelieving, at the events in the UK. Along with the rest of the world’s governing and administrative elite, the Israeli Establishment follows the implosion of the British political system, horrified and mortified.
Yet, in stark contrast to what has happened in Britain and to the trends at work in the US, not to mention other key Western European democracies, Israeli politics is characterised by a remarkable stability and, even more crucially, a strong political centre. There are plenty of extremist parties and politicians, but they have not made and held significant gains in recent elections, while centrist parties continue to do well. Most important of all, the phenomenon whereby the two big parties, one on the centre-left and one on the centre-right, crumble under pressure from the extremes has not occurred in Israel. At least, not yet.
Israel cannot be and is not immune to the political trends sweeping the developed world. Its centre-left party, Labour, has been in deepening decline for years, although its place has been filled by centrist, rather than extremist parties. On the other hand, the centre-right party, Likud, remains both strong and dominant. To date.
This issue of The Landau Report is focused on the Israeli political scene. Its starting-point is the seemingly tactical changes in the current government initiated by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in his efforts to broaden the parliamentary base of his coalition. But it probes further, by considering the costs incurred even by the apparent winners of the latest round of maneuvering and assesses the long-term damage they have suffered. Specifically, it discusses whether Netanyahu’s assiduous accumulation of enemies has not already, or will not soon, reach a tipping-point — and whether the strong support he seems to enjoy among Likud activists is not motivated primarily by the sense that “after him, the deluge”.
Expanding the coalition has provided an arithmetic cushion which will enable the government to function more smoothly and, most likely, to pass a budget for 2017/18 and survive into next year without mishap. However, the stability that this creates is as much illusion as reality — because it ignores, or seeks to obscure, the increasing turmoil in the region and now in the world, as well as the growing sense of what I term “Bibi ennui”: that Netanyahu has simply overstayed his welcome.
The fear of what might come next continues to bolster Netanyahu as both party leader and Prime Minister, but the forces of change are strengthening. Brexit suggests a growing willingness to shed the fear of the unknown, even to embrace it. If that trend takes root and the Israeli politician emerges who can take advantage of it, the hard-won stability of 2016 may prove short-lived. The time has come, therefore, to start sketching the contours of Israeli politics in the post-Netanyahu era.
B: Domestic Politics
a) Broader, but shallower
b) Winners and losers
c) The casualties mount
d) The post-Netanyahu era beckons