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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In the lead-up to this year's COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, much of the attention has been focused on last summer's wildfires across the US and Europe, and more recently skyrocketing European energy prices. But what about Asia, the world's biggest and most populated region, which also has the highest share of global carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming? Asia has unique climate risks but also many opportunities for solutions, and whatever happens at COP26, Asian countries led by China and India are primed to lead the world in the struggle to make the planet greener before it's too late. In a live discussion moderated by Shari Friedman, Eurasia Group's Managing Director of Climate and Sustainability, global experts discussed these and other topics during the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit sponsored by Suntory.

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Back in August, when the Taliban took over, we asked whether anyone in the international community would recognize them. Now it looks like things are heading that way.

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The domestically-focused US, however, wasn't there. The US continues to maintain that the Taliban can't be trusted. But does it matter? In 2021 does a Taliban-led government even need American recognition to function and thrive?

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Rudd joined for the first of a two-part Sustainability Leaders Summit livestream conversation sponsored by Suntory. Watch here and register here to watch part two Friday 10/22 at 8 am ET.

Taking place on October 21 and 22, the Sustainability Leaders Summit will go beyond preexisting narratives and debate priorities for governments and industries ahead of COP26. Placing the spotlight on Asia's role in the global sustainability agenda, the event will address whether Asian countries and companies can achieve shared sustainability goals, and what is needed to help get them there. The summit will be co-hosted by Tak Niinami, CEO of Suntory Holdings, and Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. We will address three key questions: How can Asian countries, with the help of the private sector, achieve shared Sustainability Goals? Why does this matter? And what are the policy changes needed to bring it about?

Attendance is free and open to the public. Register to attend.

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