TLR 198 – Where? Whence? Whither? No. 2
30th August 2020
Previous issues of this newsletter have focused on ‘Where’ and ‘Whence’ – meaning where are we (after the March 2 election and first bout of corona crisis in April-May), and how did we arrive at the extraordinary political stalemate that led to the formation of a broad coalition, mistakenly called a ‘National Unity’ government, in mid-May.
Much has happened in the summer months, in every sphere of activity. On the domestic front, the new government has proven to be a total failure and has sunk into paralysis amid endless internal feuding. This has had disastrous consequences in the health crisis, with Israel’s second wave in July-August pushing the country into the lists of worst-hit and worst-performing countries, where in March-April it had ranked among the least-hit and best-performing ones.
The dysfunctionality and fecklessness of the new government has also generated a severe fiscal crisis, in which the government had spent large sums and committed further funds through June 2021, without any clear plan as to how to get the million-odd unemployed Israelis back to work and restore economic growth. Although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu bears primary responsibility for this mess, his new Finance Minister, Yisrael Katz, is plainly out of his depth and is now under fierce attack, both from within Likud and within the Treasury itself.
Yet the political and economic developments, including the explanation of why there is NO economic crisis, despite the very real and very severe political, social and fiscal crises, will have to be deferred to the next issue. This one is fully taken up with the numerous, very varied developments across the region, all of which are important and some extremely so – despite the fact that some have received massive media coverage, while others have quickly faded from public view and still others have been largely ignored.
The developments under review here include both peace (with the UAE and, hopefully, other countries before long) and war (with Iran, in several forms and via diverse weaponry). In addition, there is the tense stand-off with Hamas in and around the Gaza Strip, deteriorating relations with the Palestinian Authority and, in the wider region, the amazing spectacle of Erdogan’s Turkey running amok, invading, intervening, threatening and bullying across a rapidly-widening arena stretching from Yemen to Greece, via Libya and Syria.
So much has happened in this remarkable year of 2020, but it is only two-thirds complete. Given the current frenetic pace of events, that seems to be speeding up all the time, the coming months can be expected to demand constant and full attention, in the Middle East and around the world.