Israel: Bibi Netanyahu Puts Democracy On the Ballot

Israel: Bibi Netanyahu Puts Democracy On the Ballot

Today, Israelis will go to the polls to deliver a verdict on ten years of Prime Minister Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu's leadership.

On the one hand, Netanyahu has overseen one of the most prosperous decades in Israel's history while keeping Israel reasonably safe and expanding the country's international influence.

On the other, his polarizing politics have deepened social divides between left and right, between urban and rural, and between religious and secular Israelis. What's more, he is currently facing several corruption investigations that could put him on trial this summer.


But Bibi's last-minute campaign pledge to unilaterally extend Israeli sovereignty over outlying settlements in the West Bank added a new consideration for voters – one that touches on an existential question for the state of Israel.

Thirty years ago, the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, paraphrasing Israel's founding father David Ben-Gurion, famously pointed out that Israel faces an impossible triangle: the country can never simultaneously 1) be a representative democracy, 2) be a Jewish state, and 3) include all the Biblical land of Israel (the West Bank), which is inhabited by several million Palestinians. Any two of those things are possible – not all three at once.

Netanyahu's proposal, to be precise, entails extending sovereignty over settlements, rather than all of the West Bank. But insofar as it may open the way to taking broader direct control of the West Bank (as settlements and linkages between them expand), it suggests he is comfortable throwing in his lot with the second two conditions – an avowedly Jewish state with control over the lands of biblical Israel.

Netanyahu would have to tread carefully here. Any policy that erodes even the extremely limited self-government that Palestinians currently enjoy in the West Bank would create a situation in which Israel rules directly over millions of people who have no say at all in their government. That would make it impossible for Israel to present itself credibly as a democracy.

What will Israeli voters make of this added consideration as they head to the polls today? More to the point – what do you think is the best way for Israel to reconcile this impossible trilemma?

Want more? Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak speaks to GZERO Media about Israel's rough neighborhood


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Netanyahu had proposed extending sovereignty over the whole of the West Bank. In fact, his proposal was to extend sovereignty over settlements, including outlying ones that are not contiguous with the main settlement blocs adjacent to Israel proper.

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Political division, disinformation and, frankly, stupidity are costing lives. It is not authoritarian to mandate vaccines in America. In fact, there is historical precedent. Making vaccine uptake a requirement will save tens of thousands of lives and maybe many more than that. There really aren't two sides to this argument, there is just the science.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Hope you're having a good week. I wanted to kick it off by talking about vaccines. We all know the recent spike in cases and even hospitalizations that we have experienced in this country over the past couple of weeks. It looks like that's going to continue. It is overwhelmingly because of Delta variant. The hospitalizations and deaths are overwhelmingly because too many people are un-vaccinated.

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How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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"We've been dealing with pandemics from the earliest recorded history. Thucydides writes about a pandemic in the history of the Peloponnesian War. So the last thing 2020 was, was unprecedented," Stanford historian Niall Ferguson told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. Ferguson, whose new book, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe," believes that the world should have been better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic based on the numerous health crises of the 20th century, from the 1918 Spanish flu to influenza and HIV/AIDS. He provides perspective on how the COVID crisis stacks up compared to other pandemics throughout history.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

COVID-19 was a global catastrophe that blindsided the world's wealthiest nations, and it's far from over. But as disasters go, it was hardly unprecedented. Humanity has a long history of failing to prepare for the worst, from volcanic eruptions to earthquakes to famines to shipwrecks to airplane crashes to financial depressions. But how do we get better at preventing such calamities from happening, and how many seemingly unavoidable "natural" disasters are actually caused by humans? On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer talks about all that and more with Stanford historian Niall Ferguson, who is just out with the perfect book for the topic, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe." Plus, a look at how one young Ugandan activist was literally cropped out of the global climate fight.

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

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