👋 Good Tuesday morning!
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s announcement on Monday that the coalition government, formed just over a year ago, will dissolve was hardly a surprise to observers who have watched recent defections from the governing coalition in recent weeks.
But the announcement comes just weeks before President Joe Biden is set to visit the country, as part of a trip that will also include a visit to Saudi Arabia. Biden will now be met at Ben Gurion Airport by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who will step in as prime minister until the country goes to elections this fall. We spoke to political observers inside and outside of Israel on what the dissolution of the government means for the future of U.S.-Israel relations, efforts for Israel to grow its alliances in the region and growing tensions with Iran. More below on what to expect in the months ahead.
Stateside, it’s primary day in Virginia and Washington, D.C., and the day of the Alabama runoffs. More below on what races we’re following today.
United Democracy Project, the AIPAC-affiliated super PAC that launched in December, raised nearly $4.2 million last month, bringing its total fundraising to $22 million in its effort to bolster pro-Israel candidates ahead of the November midterms.
Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus and hedge fund manager Paul Singer each donated $1 million in May. Real estate investor Michael Hackman contributed $250,000.
view from washington
Israeli political shake-up sends country to fall elections
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s announcement on Monday that the government will dissolve and head for new elections caught few observers off guard, following weeks of political uncertainty amid a spate of defections that left Bennett’s coalition government in the minority. “I don’t think this news should come as a real surprise to people who’ve been paying attention, because once you started having these defections, anything could have blown it apart,” Susie Gelman, board chair of the Israel Policy Forum, told Jewish Insider’s Marc Rod.
Strategic move: Rob Satloff, executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, added that Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid — who will take over as prime minister until a new government is formed — likely decided it would be preferable to dissolve the coalition on their own terms and organize elections at a time of their choosing rather than “continue the water torture” of a continually eroding coalition. Bennett may have determined that it was preferable for him not to be prime minister at the time of the coming election, allowing him to focus on reinforcing his support among his base, while Lapid will now have the opportunity to prove himself capable of leading the country, Satloff said.
The weight: The coalition collapsed under “the sheer weight of contradictions and anomalies inherent within it,” explained Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Given the odds arrayed against it, Miller said that the coalition had “fared remarkably well” and “lasted longer than many would have imagined.” Miller called the government’s collapse “a bad sign” for the long-term future of U.S.-Israel relations and Israel’s relationship with the U.S. Jewish community, which he said had improved overall under Bennett. He said the situation could turn positive if Lapid manages to form a new, centrist or center-left coalition without some of the further right and religious forces in the current government.
Elections x 2: With elections expected at the end of October, dynamics could be shaped in part by the outcome of the U.S. midterm elections in November, David Makovsky, the Ziegler distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute, said. Should Republicans retake Congress, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is eyeing a return to the premiership, might take a more partisan line. If the Israeli elections take place before the midterms, Netanyahu might “play it more safe.”
view from israel
Israeli government collapse disrupts domestic agenda, diplomatic efforts
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s surprise announcement Monday night that he will disperse his increasingly disunified coalition after just over one year in office sent Israel’s political sphere into a tailspin. The announcement cast uncertainty on how the interim government might function in dealing with immediate and sensitive foreign and domestic issues as the country heads into its fifth election cycle in less than four years, analysts told Jewish Insider’s Ruth Marks Eglash.
On issues foreign: Yair Lapid, the current foreign minister, will continue in that post and deal with the bulk of foreign policy matters, including greeting President Joe Biden when he visits Israel on July 13. U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said on Monday that Biden’s trip “will happen as planned.” The disarray in Israel and its uncertain political future may have an impact on how the country is viewed from the outside. Reports that Biden’s visit to the region, which includes a stop in Saudi Arabia, could bring the two Middle East countries closer to normalizing ties may be put on hold until there is more political stability in Israel. Any hopes for restarting a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians will also need to wait until it is clear who will sit in the prime minister’s seat. And technical processes, such as Israel’s attempts to join America’s Visa Waiver Program, which will exempt Israelis from stringent visa requirements, will now slow down.
And domestic: Shalom Lipner, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who spent nearly three decades working in the Prime Minister’s Office, told JI that while “the transitional government will not be able to pass any important legislation like the 2023 budget, it will have a freer hand to govern without the constant threat of no-confidence motions or Knesset members threatening to topple it.”
Staying the course: Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, said that the political instability of the past three and a half years had made it difficult to persevere in the domestic arena, but the country’s foreign policy has seen continuity. “The main security issues on the agenda are not largely contentious or controversial and that is why nothing much will change,” said Plesner. “Fortunately, we had a government that functioned very well for most of the past year, and this meant that key nominations of professionals in the civil service were filled, the budget was passed and it bought time and oxygen before we dive into a new chapter in the political crisis,” he added.
The Virginia Republicans hoping to take on Elaine Luria and flip the House
Nearly eight months after Republican Glenn Youngkin was elected governor of Virginia and reversed years of Democratic gains, Virginia voters go to the polls today. Republican voters’ pick in one key district could decide whether their party regains control of Congress this year, activists and experts tell Jewish Insider’s Gabby Deutch.
Pickup opportunity: Rep. Elaine Luria, a Norfolk Democrat who flipped a longtime Republican seat in 2018, is seen as among the most vulnerable incumbents in the country. Republicans only need to flip five Democratic seats to retake the majority in 2023. “I think the 2nd District is the clearest Republican pickup,” said Ian Cummings, who serves on the executive committee of the Norfolk Republican Party.
Different visions: The two leading Republicans vying to take on Luria represent two different visions of the future of GOP politics. Jen Kiggans, a nurse and former Navy helicopter pilot who was elected to the state Senate in 2019, and Jarome Bell, a former Naval petty officer, both espouse conservative views. Kiggans and Bell have both argued that the results of the 2020 election should be audited to root out what they each claim was voter fraud.
Pushed right: Bell has adopted a harder line in his approach to the matter. In September, he tweeted that people convicted of voter fraud should face execution. “Jarome Bell has pushed the whole primary way to the right, and pushed Kiggans way to the right, as well,” said Bob Holsworth, managing director at DecideSmart, a Virginia-based political consulting firm. “She’s worried about the Trump base. Kiggans has supported the call for a forensic audit of the Virginia election in 2020, which no one believed was fraudulent. So she moved in that direction.”
Tricky strategy: The Virginia Democratic Party has sent out mailers attempting to boost Bell, part of a national trend to boost primary candidates that are further right in an effort to win over independents and center-right Republicans in the general. But the strategy may backfire, especially in the event of a major Republican wave.
Elsewhere in Virginia: Virginia Republicans will also pick a candidate to take on Rep. Abigail Spanberger, who like Luria has fashioned herself a political moderate. The leading candidates in the 7th District, which moved north from the Richmond suburbs to a more exurban rural base during redistricting, are a state Senator and Army veteran, a former Green Beret, and a Prince William board supervisor.
Other races we’re watching: In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser hopes to fend off several primary challengers looking to unseat the two-term Democratic mayor. And in Alabama, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) and Katie Britt head to a runoff in the state’s GOP Senate primary. Brooks had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump in 2021, but Trump pulled the endorsement in March and threw his weight behind Britt, an attorney and businesswoman, earlier this month.
🛢️ Gas Goals: In The Washington Post, Shira Rubin explains the geopolitical consequences of Israel’s natural gas projects. “For many in Israel, last week’s deal was already an important milestone in a years-long attempt to use its gas to thaw icy relations with its neighbors. With skyrocketing energy prices and the gradually fading public opposition to Israel in parts of the Arab world, many Israelis are hoping that the gas export deal may deliver something more even valuable than profit: ‘more normalization of Israel in the region,’ said Moshe Albo of the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Reichman University in central Israel. While the cooperation is not entirely new — Cairo has hosted the East Mediterranean Gas Forum, including Israel, the Palestinian Authority and six other Mediterranean countries, since 2019 — ‘the world economic prices is creating a lot of motivation for a lot of players to accelerate,’ Albo said.” [WashPost]
⚠️ Warning Sign: In Politico, Leon Saltiel, the World Jewish Congress’ representative at U.N. Geneva and UNESCO, posits that the international community needs to do more to address global antisemitism, as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance convenes in Sweden this week. “The ambassadors, government delegates, academics and other global leaders about to descend on Stockholm will surely discuss the current manifestations of anti-Semitism and how best to combat it as a follow-up to the commitments made in October 2021, at the Malmö International Forum on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism. And to be sure, some progress has since been made. For example, the first ever EU Strategy on combating antisemitism and fostering Jewish life and the Action Plan of the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief present action items that should be implemented without delay. Fueled by conspiracy myths and propelled by social media, today’s anti-Semitism shows no signs of abating. And we need to weed out racism and intolerance once and for all, educating future citizens about the essential values of democracy and tolerance.” [Politico]
Around the Web
🤝 D.C. Meet-up: U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides hosted Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog in the backyard of Nides’ residence in Washington, D.C., over the weekend.
👋 Gross Gone: Alaska House candidate Al Gross announced he was withdrawing from the race, after advancing to the August special election runoff to succeed late Rep. Don Young (R-AK).
🏆 Sports Stars: The Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame will induct its newest honorees in a ceremony this weekend at the American Jewish University.
🇬🇧 Across the Pond: A British couple — themselves refugees — who took in 10 Kindertransport children during WWII was honored with a plaque in the U.K. town of Gloucester.
🇫🇷 Parisian Politics: Marine Le Pen’s party is projected to win between 75 and 100 seats in France’s 577-seat National Assembly, allowing the far-right party to form a parliamentary group for the first time in decades.
🪖 Regional Alliances: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz revealed that Israel is helping assemble a U.S.-led air-defense alliance against Iran, and that the coalition, known as the Middle East Air Defense Alliance (MEAD), has already foiled multiple Iranian attacks.
🏃♀️ Rogue Runners: The Guardian reports on a plot to spy on Israeli military personnel using the fitness tracking app Strava.
🇲🇦 After the Accords: Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is in Morocco this week, where she will meet with Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, Economy Minister Nadia Fettah and others.
💼 Business Trip: A group of Egyptian business leaders traveled to Israel on Monday, the first trade delegation of its kind in a decade.
✈️ Cairo Calling: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is traveling to Egypt, where he will meet with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to discuss boosting regional cooperation.
☢️ Nuke Know-How: A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency found that Iran is escalating its efforts to enrich uranium at its Fordow facility.
🚢 Ship Saga: Three boats controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came within 50 yards of a U.S. fast transport vessel in the Persian Gulf and approached a second U.S. patrol ship head-on.
💱 Crypto Contracts: A new report from the Bank of Israel suggests that central banks may need to supervise so-called “smart contracts” that are a critical component of cryptocurrency transactions.
🚀 Rocket Redux: Ukraine’s “Sky Project” aims to build its own version of Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system, as part of an effort to protect against Russian attacks.
🏖️ Vacation Destination: Israeli tourism experts are predicting that this summer the country will see its highest number of tourists since the start of the pandemic.
Pic of the Day
The latest single by Israeli singer Yuval Dayan, “Ashdodites in the Elite,” is a personal retelling of Dayan’s journey from her childhood in Ashdod to songwriting stardom.
Former member of the Knesset where she was the first ever Druze woman, she is now a Jewish Agency shlicha in Washington, D.C., Gadeer Kamal Mreeh turns 38…
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