Shmuel Sandler, the Yehuda Avner Professor for Religion and Politics at Bar-Ilan University, Senior Research Associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and author most recently of The Jewish Origins of Israeli Foreign Policy (Routledge, 2017) briefed the Middle East Forum in a conference call on March 27, 2018.
Last month's crisis over the contentious Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) conscription bill that threatened to bring down the Netanyahu government was swiftly defused as none of the coalition partners wished to risk early elections given Likud's persistent surge in the polls despite the ongoing investigations into Binyamin Netanyahu's actions. Yet while the government's survival has apparently been secured until the attorney general decides whether to indict Netanyahu (something that is not expected before early 2019), the convergence of several developments raises the specter of heightened domestic and external tensions.
For one, Hamas's mass protests along the Gaza-Israel border, which have already driven Jerusalem unto the defensive and attracted sharp European criticism, are likely to intensify in the coming weeks as Israel celebrates its 70th anniversary (dubbed al-Nakba, the catastrophe, by Palestinians) and the U.S. embassy moves to Jerusalem. For another, Washington's threatened measures against the Iranian nuclear agreement could precipitate an Iranian-induced conflagration on Israel's northern border, not least given Tehran's growing military entrenchment in Syria, Israel's outspoken commitment to prevent this development, and Moscow's decreasing interest to rein in its Iranian war ally given the growing tensions in Russian-Western relations.