Israeli Politics

Despite extraordinary challenges, the State of Israel has exhibited high human achievements in its short 74 years.

Pressured by enemies on every side, manipulated and tempted by the world’s great powers, poor in natural resources, and facing the pressures that Jewish immigration from 140 countries brings, Israelis have succeeded where many others have failed.

In the roster of new states established in the past century, the creation of Israel has been a success story.

Notwithstanding its shortcomings, it is still one of the Middle East’s rare functioning democracies, with an intense public debate. Its press is combative and free. Moreover, a significant layer of intellectually and politically active people steers public discussions toward the core issues of its society.

The State of Israel has shown in its politics the same levels of knowledge, experimentation, creativity, and ingenuity found in its technology, science, defense, societal amalgamation, and religion.

Yet, Israel’s political system is still lagging behind its other achievements.

The 37th government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu is a coalition of two Haredim parties and Religious Zionism, which account for more than half of the newly elected governing coalition.

            As Israeli journalist Anshel Pfeffer puts it:


“This is a governing coalition beholden to the desire of the rabbis to isolate their followers from the outside world, whether they want it or not. It is committed to removing any incentive from young Haredi men and women to study anything that would give them the tools to make a living in the modern workplace.”

Religious Zionism advocates taking over the Temple Mount and Northern Gaza and threats to expel millions of Arab Israelis and Palestinians

Because these religious parties and Netanyahu’s secular Likud party are all strong proponents of radically overhauling the principle of judicial review, this government lends itself to the unflattering comparison to Viktor Orbán in Hungary.

‘At stake is the ability of the High Court of Justice to strike down legislation that it deems is in violation of the human and civil rights stipulated in Israel’s Basic Laws, as well as the ability to reverse government and administrative decisions on the same basis” wrote Jeremy Sharon in “The Times of Israel.”

Despite being part of a highly developed and forward-looking technological society, Israeli politics still belong to the cultural, religious, and ethnic divides characteristic of tribal communities. As a result, Israeli politics has never been known for its effort to create successful policies. Instead, the existing political mindset is geared towards maximizing benefits for those in power and their supporters.

Identity politics, with the Haredim, the nationalist settlers, and the working-class Mizrahi from the periphery on one side and the mostly Ashkenazi, educated class of Tel Aviv on the other, configure the present woe of Israeli politics.

Though it is true that during the First and Second Commonwealth, this kind of tribal and sectarian Jewish politics was responsible for two of the biggest tragedies the Jewish people have experienced, it is also true that Jewish politics- not Jewish religion, technology, or business-was able to create one of the most incredible political feats of the 20th Century: the state of Israel.

            The belief is that sometimes things must look down, before they start looking up.

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