Times of Israel editor talks to AIJAC

November 19, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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“The most implausible coalition, I’d say, in Israeli history” has managed to pass Israel’s first official budget in three years, founding editor of the Times of Israel David Horovitz told an AIJAC Live Online audience, saving Israel yet another election.

David Horowitz Screenshot

This coalition, which spans the entire political spectrum from Right to Left and even includes an Arab Islamist party as a vital component, is incredibly tenuous, Horovitz says, and will have to govern only on issues of consensus given the severe ideological disagreements.

While they may tear themselves apart, Horovitz says, their best hope for maintaining the government is former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, “so long as Netanyahu is still leading the opposition, leading the fight to oust them, I think it becomes easier for them… to keep it together.”

Domestically, the most interesting changes are those pertaining to religious affairs, once an area controlled by the ultraorthodox. Horovitz focussed on Matan Kahana, the new Minister for Religious Services and the first modern orthodox official in recent memory to hold the position, and his attempts to revolutionise certain areas of religious life, including privatising Kashrut certification and lowering the working age for those, usually ultraorthodox, that don’t serve in the IDF to 21 to encourage interaction and integration. Kahana is also trying to make it simpler for the scores of people with Jewish fathers to convert orthodox and thus become eligible for immigration to the country.

Despite the inclusion of an Arab party in the coalition, it is too soon to say whether there will be concrete improvements in either Jewish-Arab tensions and violence within Israel, as seen in May during Operation Guardian of the Walls, or in the rampant violent crime, including murders in broad daylight, plaguing Israeli-Arab neighbourhoods. “The direction may be positive, but there’s a long way to go,” Horovitz said, lamenting the long underfunded and under-resourced police.

In terms of foreign policy, Israel’s primary concern continues to be Iran, which has led to closer relations between Israel and regional Arab states, both those that are members of the Abraham Accords and those that are keeping a deniable distance, although Horovitz doesn’t foresee any new countries joining.

The US, meanwhile, continues to try and revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, an endeavour with which Israel strongly disagrees given the deal’s flaws. “There are major differences and disagreements between Israel and the United States about how to handle Iran. They’re playing out less bitterly and less publicly than they did [between Netanyahu and Obama].”

Israel is also wary of overall US disengagement from the Middle East. “A stronger United States in this part of the world discourages dangerous players,” Horovitz said of the Israeli view of these trends.


Aside from Iran, two other countries loom large in Israeli foreign policy: China and Turkey. Under the Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has become an adversary of Israel, recently detaining two Israeli civilians for unclear reasons on trumped-up espionage charges. “This is a big test for [Israeli Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett,” Horovitz said. “The sense will be if he fails to extricate them, that he’s failed in an area where perhaps Netanyahu would’ve succeeded.”

Much like Israel disagrees strongly with the American approach to Iran, the United States has become progressively more assertive about Israel’s relations with China. “The United States has not been shy about making the point: you should not be deepening relations with China in this area, you should not be giving them the influence that they have in that area,” Horovitz explained. “I think that some of the earlier [Israeli] naivety has probably been replaced by a greater awareness of some of the wider international forces.”

“Everybody in this coalition wants to avoid an eruption of friction and conflict with the Palestinians,” Horovitz said, adding that it’s “a massive potential grenade for this coalition.” The relationship with Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is “an incredibly problematic relationship with a very, very difficult partner, who has certainly not used his years to explain to his people that the Jewish narrative gives them legitimacy here, as well.” Unfortunately, Horovitz said, “after him it will probably get worse.”

Attempts to separate from the Palestinians and encourage viable governance, which will be necessary if ever there is to be a solution, have failed and will continue to fail as long as the Palestinians use any ceded land to attack Israel as they did in Gaza, says Horovitz.

On a positive note, Israel has demonstrated economic resilience, emerging stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic, Horovitz said. “Israel may be transitioning from a ‘start-up nation’ to a ‘scale-up nation’”.


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