Israel faces a troubled period. Internally, there is an increase in political tension that undermines the stability of the government and national harmony, with Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu poised to return to retaliation. Regarding the regional framework, the country faces a paradigm shift and numerous challenges in the near future. While deepening cooperation with some partners, it sees increasing tensions with some Western allies.
Let us therefore look at some of Israel's recent international policy initiatives and some critical issues regarding domestic policy.
International policy: challenges and opportunities
Israel has recently had to deal with a number of changes in regional and international politics. Despite the change of government, the new executive remains sceptical about the resumption of talks with Iran by the Western powers and its possible developments should the parties decide to make substantial progress. For Israel, Iran remains the main strategic adversary, both in terms of ideological opposition and Tehran's military capabilities. Indeed, the Israeli government must constantly monitor the activities of the various Iranian proxies in Syria and Lebanon, as well as the links and exchanges between Tehran and radical Palestinian Islamist groups.
Further points of friction have arisen between Israel and its Western allies, particularly the US. Recently, there have been tensions between the US and Israeli administrations over the decision to designate some Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organisations by the Ministry of Defence, headed by centrist leader Benny Gantz. According to the minister, these six terrorist organisations are actually a civilian arm of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an extreme left-wing terrorist organisation. This decision also brought criticism from the United Nations and other international actors.
Israel has also received much criticism for its desire to expand settlements in the West Bank under its control. The government plan foresees the construction of a few thousand housing units in existing settlements and about a thousand new units in Palestinian towns under Israeli administration. For the first time, the European critics include Poland, which thus changes its position on these issues. Although relations between the two countries had already suffered a setback due to Warsaw's decision to pass a law making it impossible for Holocaust survivors and their descendants to return property confiscated during the Soviet period.
On the other hand, the intensification of ties with the new regional ally, the United Arab Emirates, continued. At the end of October, during the multinational Blue Flag exercise, the head of the Emirati air force, Ibrahim Nasser Muhammed al-Alawi, attended the exercises in the Negev desert.
Also in the context of the ongoing political-diplomatic changes in the region, it appears that US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan discussed the normalisation of relations with Israel during his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Although the two countries have long had informal exchanges and a non-hostile relationship, the Saudi royal family is maintaining a cautious attitude for now. As custodian of the sacred places of Islam, it fears being subjected to adverse propaganda by some Muslim leaders who aim to politically hegemonise the figure of guides and guardians of the Umma.
Domestic policy: growing tensions
The above-mentioned government decisions have obviously had consequences on the already unstable and tense domestic scene. The left-wing ministers in the government have criticised Gantz's decision with regard to Palestinian organisations. Labour and Meretz have declared themselves opposed to this decision and are probably beginning to resent the ideological distance between themselves and the right-wingers in the executive. But there are also tensions among the other components of the coalition. According to some analysts, there is uncertainty about the possibility of the continuation of the executive when there will be a rotation of office from the current prime minister Naftali Bennett to the centrist leader Yair Lapid, current foreign minister and deputy prime minister together with Gantz. Finally, the level of political debate is becoming more and more inflamed, so much so that the extreme right-wing leader Itamar Ben Gvir and the leader of the extreme Arab-Israeli left, Ayman Odeh, physically clashed during an argument in front of the room of a Palestinian detainee in a medical centre. The polarisation and 'tribalism' within the Israeli political landscape does not seem to diminish.
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