The Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) featured as the guest speaker in its latest webinar Israel’s leading commentator and analyst Ehud Yaari, to shed light on his country’s confusing political situation.
His analysis could best be described as gloomy. He noted that the eight different coalition parties had each signed different agreements, some containing important contradictions, so he thought the parties would lose the glue binding them once they were sworn in. The agreements between Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party and incoming PM Naftali Bennett’s Yamina gives them both the right to veto any decision. Yaari said this was all unprecedented.
Moreover, he said, the none of the agreements deal with the major issues facing Israel, including the Palestinians and the peace process, Iran, the JCPOA nuclear deal or Gaza.
He said the general opinion is that the political class is “bankrupt”, with no real leadership. He thinks there will be a government that will have trouble coming to agreement among itself and making decisions, faced by an active and hostile opposition headed by Netanyahu (provided Netanyahu can see off challenges to his leadership in upcoming primaries).
The government, he said, will only be able to act according to the lowest common denominator, due to the problems its partners will have in agreeing, so there won’t be any great reforms or initiatives.
Yaari said it will be “quite sensational” if the government lasts longer than a year.
The challenges facing the new government include Iran, which is heading towards acquiring enough enriched uranium for a bomb, although Yaari says it won’t act until it has enough for five. He noted that it is now blocking monitoring from the IAEA and refusing to answer its questions, while the US may accept progress Iran has made in any new agreement, so Israel’s government will need to be able to decide on a clear position. Yaari said someone he spoke to, who should know, said if a re-established JCPOA is too weak, Israel would have no choice but to act.
Hamas leaders are claiming victory, Yaari said, even though Israel destroyed most of its military infrastructure, but Israel will need to work out how to reconstruct Gaza without the money and materiel going to Hamas.
Bennett he said, changes positions quickly – for example, he signed a document during the election that he wouldn’t serve under or with Lapid – but he can make a good impression internationally. Lapid will be a representative foreign minister, but will be distracted by effectively having to run the government.
Yaari described Israel’s Arabs as a “model minority”, noting the violence in Israel was caused by armed criminal gangs. He says Ra’am’s Mansour Abbas won’t vote with the government if there is any further violence with Hamas, but will stay in the coalition, as he has a long-term strategy to improve Arab lives.
Yaari said Netanyahu should be commended for many things he achieved, but lost power because his conduct since being indicted drove many of his voters away.
He said Joe Biden gave Israel the time to achieve its military aims against Hamas, and doesn’t want Hamas to reap gains from its violence, so he’s trying to get the PA into Gaza, and would like Israel to do more for the PA economically.
Biden, Yaari said, is committed to maintaining and expanding the Abraham Accords, which could have three or four more members if there is a US umbrella. However, if there’s tension with Israel over the JCPOA, it may make the US less prepared to invest in promoting the Accords.
On the slur that Israel is apartheid, he said the accusation is “so baseless it belongs to the realm of ideological fantasies.”