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Another Israeli Election
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Another Israeli Election

Benjamin Netanyahu is set to return to power—along with some extremist allies.

Happy Thursday! Dan Snyder, the scandal-ridden Washington Commanders owner for the past 23 years, announced yesterday he’d hired a team of bankers to potentially consider a sale of the team.

Look out: If they can force a billionaire to sell his football team for a multi-billion dollar profit after decades of allegedly fostering a toxic workplace environment, stealing from other teams, and hiring private investigators to to dig up “dirt” on his colleagues, imagine what they could do to YOU.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Members of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee approved a fourth consecutive 75-basis-point interest rate hike on Wednesday, raising the central bank’s target federal funds rate to a range between 3.75 percent and 4 percent—the highest level since early 2008. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told reporters in a post-announcement press conference that he anticipates additional rate hikes “will be appropriate,” but the size of those increases could begin to tail off. “The question of when to moderate the pace of increases is now much less important than the question of how high to raise rates and how long to keep monetary policy restrictive,” Powell said.
  • Representatives of the Ethiopian government and rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front formally agreed on Wednesday—after a week of peace talks in South Africa mediated by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo—to reimplement a ceasefire and bring an end to the violence and devastation wrought by the warring factions over the past two years. A ceasefire had previously been agreed to in March, but it was broken after five months with both sides accusing the other of making the first move.
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, took a more sympathetic tone on Wednesday with the protesters who have been demonstrating against the regime for nearly two months. “These are our own kids and we don’t have any dispute with them,” he said, opting instead to cast the protests as “hybrid warfare” on the part of the U.S., Europe, and Israel.
  • After talks between Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russia announced it will resume cooperation with a UN-brokered agreement allowing Ukraine to continue to export grain through the Black Sea corridor despite the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
  • Outgoing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has asked supporters protesting his loss in Sunday’s election to stop blocking roads, saying the tactic was not a “legitimate” means of protest. While Bolsonaro has not yet openly conceded the race to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, his administration said it is cooperating with the transition of power.

Israel’s Far-Right Ascends

Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at an election-night event. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

On a recent visit to the United States, Israeli President Isaac Herzog gave remarks to a gathering of American Jewish leaders. “The friendship and close bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable and it is a value that we must all cherish and work for,” Herzog told them. “May I also add we must respect each other’s democracies.”

During Herzog’s trip, Biden administration officials had reportedly warned him about their reluctance to work with certain far-right candidates. In that context, Times of Israel editor David Horovitz wrote, Herzog’s comments sounded like a circuitous plea: “Don’t ice us out if the extremists win.” 

Now the Biden administration will decide whether to heed Herzog’s hint. 

With more than 85 percent of the vote counted from Tuesday’s election, Benjamin Netanyahu—pushed from power in 2021 after 12 straight years as prime minister—appears to have made a comeback. His party and allies look set to win up to 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, a large enough margin to ease the political instability that has forced Israelis back to the ballot box five times in less than four years. The gains for Netanyahu and his allies reflect, in part, Israelis’ security concerns amid rising violence and terrorist attacks.

Netanyahu is a divisive figure and is facing corruption charges. But although he had a rocky relationship with the Obama administration—clashing at times over Iran nuclear deal negotiations—his return to power isn’t itself a red alert for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Instead, the problem is the allies putting him there: In his quest to regain power, Netanyahu helped forge a partnership between the right-wing Religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit parties, an alliance now set to win 14 Knesset seats along with its smaller third member, the Orthodox Noam faction, which advocates for anti-LGBT policies.

The alliance members have laid out a striking agenda. Bezalel Smotrich, the Religious Zionism leader, plans to reduce Israeli courts’ oversight of new laws and impose more political control on the judiciary—as well as legalize some of the corruption offenses Netanyahu is accused of. Netanyahu insists the changed law wouldn’t apply retroactively to him, but that would require an amendment excepting him. Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir, meanwhile, wants to annex the entire West Bank without granting its Arab residents voting rights and allow Israeli police to use live fire on Palestinian protesters. He made headlines last month for pulling a gun in East Jerusalem amid clashes, and Israel’s police chief reportedly blamed him for inciting riots in 2021.

Ben-Gvir has come a long way from the margins of Israeli politics to his current ascendancy. A follower of extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane—the U.S. for a time listed Kahane’s party as a foreign terrorist organization—Ben-Gvir was convicted in 2007 of supporting a terror organization and inciting racism against Arabs. But he claims to have moderated, along with his party. After all, he’s taken down a photo of Baruch Goldstein—who in 1994 murdered 29 West Bank Palestinians—that previously hung in his living room. And Otzma Yehudit no longer wants to expel all Arab-Israelis—only those deemed traitors. At an election night gathering, as Ben-Gvir gave a speech promising to form a government for all Israelis, supporters broke through with calls of “death to terrorists,” an updated version of the party’s traditional “death to Arabs” chant.

Negotiations in the next few weeks will determine just how much power the various factions actually secure. Though outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid has said he wouldn’t join a Netanyahu government—Lapid’s coalition was formed to oppose the former prime minister—Netanyahu could theoretically still pitch a “unity government,” betting Lapid will ultimately consider it the lesser of two evils compared to an all-right-wing coalition. Lapid and allies look likely to win 50 seats. Ben-Gvir’s faction is unlikely to take such a move from Netanyahu lying down—senior Otzma Yehudit member Tzvika Fogel threatened to oust Netanyahu in response.

Though it’s not certain what role Smotrich, Ben-Gvir, and their allies will play, they’ve made their desires pretty clear. Smotrich has said he’d like to be defense minister, overseeing West Bank and Gaza policy—though Netanyahu prefers to give the role and similarly central positions to members of his Likud party. Netanyahu has also previously declared Ben-Gvir unfit for ministerial office, but just before the elections said he’d consider the Otzma Yehudit head for his desired role of public security minister—responsible for police policy and security at holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount, a frequent flashpoint.

Regardless of the final coalition details, the Knesset’s rightward lurch will likely further polarize support for Israel in the U.S. The Biden administration has so far declined to comment publicly on the results of Israel’s election except to celebrate the high voter turnout and reassert willingness to work with any elected Israeli government. But U.S. leaders have expressed concerns before. New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez reportedly warned Netanyahu against allying with Ben-Gvir, and in early October, California Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman urged Israeli leaders to “ostracize extremists” like Ben-Gvir, “whose outrageous views run contrary to Israel’s core principles of a democratic and Jewish state” and “undermine” the U.S.-Israel relationship. And Axios reported Wednesday that administration officials are leaning toward refusing to engage with Ben-Gvir, which would be an unprecedented step in the two countries’ relationship.

Worth Your Time

  • In a piece for The Spectator, David Marcus urges his fellow travelers on the right to be better than unfounded Paul Pelosi conspiracy theories. “Some on the right say that promoting baseless speculation is just fighting fire with fire, that we need to play this game too. Nothing could play more completely into the hands of the far left,” he writes. “This is a battleground of progressives’ choosing. They want a news environment in which nothing is real, everything is partisan and you are free to ignore and even disdain the other side. If conservatives adopt these despicable tactics, they will lose the war for our culture and society before a shot is even fired. You beat conspiracy theories with truth and facts, not by inventing more and more disgusting conspiracy theories of your own.”
  • With just days until the midterms, President Joe Biden delivered another speech last night about the state of American democracy, arguing its continuation is on the ballot next week. Josh Barro didn’t like it. “The message makes no sense on its face,” he writes in his latest newsletter. “When Democrats talk about ‘democracy,’ they’re talking about the importance of institutions that ensure the voters get a say among multiple choices and the one they most prefer gets to rule. But they are also saying voters do not get to do that in this election. The message is that there is only one party contesting this election that is committed to democracy—the Democrats—and therefore only one real choice available. If voters reject Democrats’ agenda or their record on issues including inflation, crime, and immigration (or abortion, for that matter), they have no recourse at the ballot box—they simply must vote for Democrats anyway, at least until such time as the Republican Party is run by the likes of Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. This amounts to telling voters that they have already lost their democracy.”
  • Have conservatives and progressives traded attitudes and impulses? “The populist right’s attitude toward American institutions has the flavor of the 1970s—skeptical, pessimistic, paranoid—while the mainstream, MSNBC-watching left has a strange new respect for the F.B.I. and C.I.A.” Ross Douthat writes in his latest column. “The online right likes transgression for its own sake, while cultural progressivism dabbles in censorship and worries that the First Amendment goes too far. Trumpian conservatism flirts with postmodernism and channels Michel Foucault; its progressive rivals are institutionalist, moralistic, confident in official narratives and establishment credentials.” 

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Also Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • This week’s Capitolism (🔒) focuses on a proposed Labor Department rule that Scott argues would harm millions of American workers for no good reason. “The rule is complicated and still preliminary, but most experts agree on its objective and likely result,” he writes. “To make it more difficult for workers to be classified as independent and thus to force many of them to be reclassified as employees, whether they like it or not.”
  • Jonah is tired of having the same pointless debates after every act of political violence. “Pointing out hypocrisy and inconsistency has its uses, but it’s not a source of morality,” he writes in Wednesday’s G-File (🔒). “I don’t want to live in a country where it’s normal to ask, even subconsciously, ‘Was the victim a Democrat?’ before deciding whether to be angry, outraged, or compassionate.”
  • From Biden’s 2024 decision, to another round of election trutherism, to a possible Trump indictment, Nick’s latest edition of Boiling Frogs (🔒) takes a look at all the potential post-midterms chaos to come. “Things could get crazy,” he writes. “Wild. As exciting as even the most addicted chaos junkie could desire. By and large, it’s gonna suck.”
  • On today’s episode of Advisory Opinions, David and Sarah finish breaking down Monday’s affirmative action oral arguments, focusing on the differences between the UNC and Harvard cases before the Supreme Court. Plus: the preemptive backlash to Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s upcoming book, and the attack on Paul Pelosi.
  • Sarah commandeered The Remnant once again today for a conversation with famed pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson about the reliability of polls and the future of the industry, as well as the midterms and the 2024 presidential election. Plus: Sarah’s spindrift habit, Kristen’s exceptional canine companion, and what really appeals to young voters.
  • On the site today, Charlotte reports on the grain-shipment deal between Ukraine and Russia, Price looks at some election law changes that states have passed since 2020, and Kevin addresses political violence and crackpots.

Let Us Know

How should the United States approach the new Israeli government?

Declan Garvey is the executive editor at the Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2019, he worked in public affairs at Hamilton Place Strategies and market research at Echelon Insights. When Declan is not assigning and editing pieces, he is probably watching a Cubs game, listening to podcasts on 3x speed, or trying a new recipe with his wife.

Esther Eaton is a former deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch.