TLR 193- Hot and Getting Hotter
August 30, 2019
This issue was intended to be focused on the economy, highlighting the growing problems in key areas of policy, as well as the major social and economic issues that are of concern to most voters, but are not being discussed in the election campaign. However, as so often in Israel, urgent developments demand immediate attention and thus take precedence over longer-term issues. The discussion of fiscal and monetary policy, of stagnant exports and of the woes of the health, welfare and education systems will be deferred, but not for long – since none of those problems will disappear, but rather they will wait to greet the next government and demand its attention.
Instead, this issue is devoted almost entirely to geo-politics. It reviews the full list of threats and conflicts on the Israeli agenda – because all of them are ‘live’ and have become more serious. Both the threats and the conflicts have intensified. Specifically, the threats of ‘another round’ of conflict with Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip, and/ or another war in Lebanon against Hezbollah, and even a renewed outbreak of serious and sustained violence in the West Bank, have each grown greater in recent weeks and months.
More dramatically, the intensity of Israel’s war with Iran – for such it is, albeit on a limited scale – has escalated, with a series of Israeli attacks on Iranian bases in Iraq. This geographic expansion is significant in its own right, but it has been accompanied by a ratcheting-up of rhetoric. The Israeli government has not only acknowledged responsibility for these recent attacks – which it did not do for a long time with respect to its attacks in Syria – but has also issued a general warning that any other countries that harbor Iranian bases or units engaged in operations aimed at Israel are thereby making themselves liable to be attacked.
The fact that this is happening during a closely-fought general election campaign has led some commentators to conclude that the Israeli threats, and perhaps even the attacks themselves, are mere grandstanding and are aimed at scoring points with the domestic public, rather than with foreign entities. This is a serious misunderstanding of both Israeli geo-strategy and domestic politics.
With regard to the Gaza Strip and Hamas – as well as the wider issue of relations with the Palestinians in general – there is a very broad range of opinion within the Israeli body politic, and even within the military and the security forces. Any new government, defence minister or prime minister will generate changes – possibly major ones – in these areas of policy.
That is not the case with regard to Iran and the slew of Iran-related issues, including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Hezbollah, etc. In this sphere, there is virtually no daylight between the views and positions of any of the main political parties. If any of these parties’ heads became premier, there would be no change in any element of Israeli strategy vis-à-vis Iran, its allies and proxy organisations. The discussion that follows is predicated on this fundamental distinction.
A: Regional Developments
- Overview: All roads lead to Tehran
- Iraq is the new Syria
- Lebanon: The knife’s edge
- Syria: Still simmering
- Gaza: waiting to blow
- West Bank: Trying to keep the lid on
- Jordan: Forgotten but dangerous
B: Domestic Politics
- The tactical election
- The absence of policy programmes and the need for ‘vision’