Israel’s Government Today
In May 1948, the Jewish people became sovereign in their land for the first time in more than 2,500 years. Spearheading the modern government was the venerable David Ben-Gurion, who served as prime minister of the State of Israel for 13 years, leaving oﬃce in June 1963. His tenure was only briefly interrupted when Moshe Sharett assumed the office for less than two years in 1954.
Ben-Gurion had stitched together a political party that originally was founded as a labor movement in 1906, as Jewish people from Russia and many other countries around the world were immigrating in ever-increasing numbers to their ancient biblical homeland.
Israel’s other prime ministers have included well-known figures like Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres.
But none has come as close to matching Ben-Gurion’s longevity in oﬃce as today’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Handsome and articulate, Netanyahu is the first prime minister who was born in the land after Israel became a sovereign nation again.
He polished his American-accented English while going to high school in Pennsylvania and college at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology outside Boston. Propelled into office in June 1996 after defeating then Labor Prime Minister Shimon Peres, he remained in oﬃce until his painful defeat by Labor’s Ehud Barak, a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staﬀ, in July 1999.
From that time on, “Bibi” (as he is popularly known in Israel) worked hard to get reelected in March 2009 when Kadima Party leader Ehud Olmert lost his bid to remain at the helm of government. At the age of 65, Netanyahu needs only to secure a few more years in oﬃce to surpass Ben-Gurion’s lengthy term as prime minister.
During his first term in office, most of Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing and religious coalition partners, including many from his own Likud party, opposed his controversial implementation of Rabin’s 1993 Oslo accords with longtime Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat. They did so while Arab terrorism against Israeli Jews mushroomed.
The straw that finally broke the camel’s back came when Netanyahu caved in to intense pressure from U.S. President Bill Clinton to carry out a scheduled IDF withdrawal from Judaism’s second holiest city, Hebron, located south of the ancient faith’s most important city, Jerusalem. When the premier reluctantly bowed to Clinton’s pressure, several coalition partners quit his government, forcing early elections that brought Barak and his Labor party back into power.
During the first years of his second term in oﬃce, Netanyahu again encountered intense pressure from another U.S. leader to make concessions to the Arabs: President Barack Hussein Obama.
With Clinton’s wife, Hillary, indicating her desire to succeed Obama, Likud politicians now are preparing for more pressure from Washington to finalize a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
With the support of the president, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the pursuit of a final Arab-Israeli peace accord his number one priority during his first year in oﬃce in 2013.
This fact greatly irritated Netanyahu and his cabinet colleagues, who were far more preoccupied with the spreading internal war raging just across Israel’s northern border with Syria since early 2011; the growing conquest of Iraqi territory by Sunni Muslim militants operating out of eastern Syria; the crisis in neighboring Egypt, which was then violently torn between followers and opponents of Muslim Brotherhood-supported President Mohamed Morsi; the spreading chaos in Libya; and most important, Iran’s ongoing nuclear development program, which Israeli leaders believe is designed to give the Shiite Muslim country the capacity to carry out its frequent vows to annihilate the Jewish state.
Israeli leaders were among the first to warn the world of the growing dangers posed by Islamic State (ISIS, or ISIL) fighters who have now become the Obama administration’s number one priority in the region.
They also attempted to point out that the radical Sunni Muslim Palestinian movement Hamas, which violently seized control of the Gaza Strip from PA personnel in 2007, openly supported the goal spelled out by Islamic State leaders to establish a theocratic caliphate over the entire Middle East, including Israel, before ultimately conquering the rest of the world.
In hindsight, it now seems clear that Israeli, not American, forces actually fought the opening battle in the current Obama-led international campaign to destroy the brutal Sunni Muslim jihad army now at war with the United States and much of the world. That battle was forced on Israel last summer after Hamas terrorists kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenage boys and unleashed a massive, new wave of rocket attacks on Israel.
Hamas and its allies fired more than 4,500 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilian centers during the intense summer war, targeting Israel’s nuclear reactor near Beersheva; Ben Gurion International Airport; and Israel’s main cities of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa.
Military analysts agreed it was only Israel’s sophisticated Iron Dome antimissile system, partially funded by America, which prevented a much larger conﬂagration with many more casualties on both sides.
The Israeli government’s main focus throughout 2015 is likely to be intensifying its pushback against the growing, extremist ISIS army and Iran’s nuclear program—not making peace with the Arabs, which seems totally unattainable as long as Hamas remains a major player on the Arab stage.
Support for the neighboring, moderate Sunni Muslim country of Jordan, under grave threat from the barbaric ISIS, is expected to be at the top of the Israeli government’s priority list during the year.