The Fall Of Netanyahu And The Rise Of 'Israel's Macron'



Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is having a bad week.

First, the news last Thursday that the Israeli police is investigating Netanyahu for suspected bribery, fraud and breach of trust. The next day, his former chief of staff, Ari Harow, who is also under investigation, agreed to turn state's witness in two cases involving his former boss. Then on Monday, local media reported that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit could indict Netanyahu's wife, Sara, any day now over her alleged use of vast sums of public money for private expenses.

Netanyahu's four terms as Israel"s prime minister haven't of course been free from scandals. In 2013, Israeli media revealed he had spent more than $2,000 the previous year on ice cream. (His favorite flavors? Vanilla and pistachio.)

If he is indicted, who would be his potential successors?

But now the allegations have turned more bitter: The Likud party leader is accused of receiving gifts from wealthy benefactors as well as trying to strike a deal with the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth, one of Israel's leading dailies, for positive coverage in exchange for legislative curbs against its main competitor Israel Hayom. As Judy Maltz, a reporter at Israeli newspaper Haaretz, put it: "It sometimes seems that for as long as he's been in office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under investigation for something or other. Never before, though, has he been this close to an indictment."

If he is indicted, who would be his potential successors? Two names have emerged so far. One is Ayelet Shaked, Israel's current justice minister. The other is best known for the comparisons his quick rise has drawn: Avi Gabbay, the new leader of the Labour Party, often described as "Israel's Macron."

Avi Gabbay — Photo: Nimrod Zuk

Indeed, the two men have a lot in common even though Gabbay, at age 50, is more than a decade older than the French president. As Steve Alexandre Jourdin writes in a piece for French daily Le Figaro, Emmanuel Macron and Gabbay are both newcomers to politics who favor cutting red tape; both have jumped dramatically from obscurity to prominence, and both appear to have benefited from the same popular wave of anti-establishment sweeping across the world.

Netanyahu's multiplying scandals and the inevitable fatigue that accompanies a reign as long as his could provide Gabbay with the similar "alignment of the stars' that benefited Macron. Israel's next general election isn't due until November 2019 but if there's one area where things can change quickly, it's politics.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!