Even Before the Guns Fall Silent: Israel’s Political Debates Reawaken

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during a press conference in Tel Aviv, October 2023. Photo credit: ABIR SULTAN POOL/Pool via REUTERS.

As 2024 began, the Israeli war effort in the Gaza Strip changed in nature (see Israel Shifts Tactics in Gaza), with the focus shifting to the battles in the central and southern areas and to special forces operations against Hamas’ immense tunnel system. But the hostage situation remained unresolved, with 136 still held according to […]

How Israel’s Supreme Court Can Strengthen Democracy Without Overruling the Knesset

Chief Justice Esther Hayut and fellow Israeli Supreme Court judges. Photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

On September 12, Israel’s Supreme Court will convene in an atmosphere of heightened political tension to listen to petitions asking it to strike down a recently-passed Knesset law. No decision from the Court is expected imminently as Israel enters a month of High Holy Days. But political compromise proposals by the Prime Minister and others […]

The Druze in Israel: A Silent Minority Begins to Speak Out

Druze in the Golan town of Majdal Shams look out at the demilitarized zone separating Israel and Syria. Photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad

Protests in Israel are nothing new, but those on the Golan Heights this June were different.  The government, as part of its clean energy program, had designated the Golan Heights for wind turbine projects. When construction began in June, the Druze on the Golan erupted in mass protests, attracting support from their coreligionists in the […]

Israel’s Divided Government, the Palestinians, and the US

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, May 14, 2023. Photo credit: Gil Cohen-Magen/Pool via REUTERS

The November 2022 elections in Israel gave the present coalition a clear majority of 64 out of 120 members of the Knesset. The coalition intended to produce a government with a firm rightwing ideological orientation. At long last, Likud party loyalists cheered, we don’t need to compromise with centrist or left-leaning partners.  >>  Insight from […]

The Roots of Israel’s Judicial Reform Proposal

A demonstration in support of Israel’s judicial reform, in Jerusalem, March 27, 2023. Photo credit: REUTERS

A bitter debate has now engulfed Israeli society over the proper role of the judiciary. The new government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, began its term in January by introducing far-reaching reforms to the judiciary, which I have already described in detail. The continuing strong reaction to these proposals, well described by my JST […]

Israel’s Policy Toward Iran’s Nuclear Program—Some Counterfactual Remarks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu draws a red line on an illustration describing Iran's ability to create a nuclear weapon, as he addresses the UN General Assembly, September 2012. Photo credit: REUTERS

If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes that a nuclear Iran is Israel’s greatest threat, then why is his government focused instead on passing domestic judicial reform legislation as its top priority? This question, posed by a former head of the Mossad’s Iran department, appeared in the headlines of Israel’s daily Yedioth Ahronoth on March 3. […]

The Leaderless Protest Movement in Israel

People protest against the proposed judicial reforms, in Tel Aviv, Israel, February 25, 2023. Photo credit: REUTERS

Since December 2022, every Saturday evening after Shabbat, tens of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated against the judicial reform proposals of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. Former generals and judges, economists, journalists, hi-tech professionals, medical workers, shopkeepers, young students and their grandparents who fought in the War of Independence, native-born Israelis and recent immigrants, and Arab […]

Why is the World Obsessed With Israeli Judicial Reform

Protests against Judicial Reform in Jerusalem, Israel - Feb. 20, 2023. Photo credit: Eyal Warshavsky / SOPA Images/Si via Reuters Connect

A strident debate is occurring in Israel about the role of the judiciary and democratic governance. Virtually every democracy debates this issue periodically, because there is an inherent conflict between majority power and minority rights. The traditional role of non-elected courts is to impose a check on politicians who are elected by the majority. Whenever […]

Netanyahu Is Playing With American Fire

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. Photo credit: Reuters

As Israel’s finance minister from 2003–2005 and later as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was the father of Israel’s economic miracle that transformed a stagnant socialist economy into a thriving “start-up nation.” Today, however, Netanyahu is on a path toward wrecking what was one of his crowning achievements. His government’s proposed judicial reforms have begun to […]

The Good Fight of Adina Bar-Shalom

Adina Bar-Shalom. Photo credit: Wikimedia / Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

No Woman No Cry Recently, in the ongoing nightly saga of Israel’s domestic politics, the Israeli Supreme Court disqualified Aryeh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas political party, from holding ministerial office. Suddenly some of his supporters suggested an unusual idea. Perhaps his wife, Yaffa, could be appointed instead. At that dramatic moment, if […]