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On Israel with Ben Caspit, an Al-Monitor podcast
45 minutes | 4 days ago
Jerusalem and West Bank unrest generated by Netanyahu’s policies, says Eran Etzion
Ben Caspit speaks this week with strategist Eran Etzion, who previously served as head of planning policy at Israel’s foreign ministry and as deputy head of the National Security Council in the prime minister's office. Etzion argues that the main reason for the escalation we now see both in east Jerusalem and the West Bank is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies — policies that he says are totally guided by Netanyahu’s own, narrow political considerations. "We are indeed in a dangerous situation, and the core driver of these events is Israeli politics. What hopefully we will see soon is a relatively quick transformation of Israeli politics and the assembling a new government, to be followed by, gradually over time, with changes of the political terrain, the security terrain and the country’s strategy,” he says.
31 minutes | 11 days ago
Professor Chuck Freilich explains the failures that led to stampede at Mount Meron
Ben Caspit speaks this week to professor Chuck Freilich, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. This expert on Israel’s national security strategy and Israel’s decision-making processes details five failures which brought about the tragedy of Mount Meron, where 45 people were trampled to death last week. For Freilich, the first reason relates to Israel’s top political leadership — including the prime minister, the minister of the interior, the minister of religious affairs and the minister of domestic security. "They all pressed all out to hold this festival without any restrictions on numbers. They’re all of course now doing their best to avoid taking any responsibility. They had pressed for [holding the celebrations on Mount Meron] despite the fact that the dangers were well known, and despite the dangers related to COVID," he said.
34 minutes | 18 days ago
Diplomatic correspondent Tal Schneider: Israel unlikely to see Capitol-style violence if anti-Netanyahu government forms
For his podcast this week, Ben Caspit hosts Tal Schneider, political correspondent for The Times of Israel. Schneider, an expert on Israel-US relations, says violence similar to that seen at the US Capitol on Jan. 6 is unlikely to happen in Israel. "Storming the Knesset is not really an option," she says. Yet if an anti-Netanyahu government is formed, the Likud party is expected to send swarms of demonstrators to the streets.
39 minutes | 25 days ago
Former IDF colonel Udi Evental warns: Confronting US on Iran has price tag
Ben Caspit speaks this week with senior researcher and policy-planning expert Udi Evental. The former IDF colonel warns that Israel’s current policies on Iran and confronting the Biden administration over a return to the nuclear deal were crafted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alone, without any consultation or a decision-making process. Evental argues that the lack of a decision-making process has become a pattern in Israeli governing. Israeli silence over the expected US-Emirati F-35 deal and deteriorating bilateral relations with Jordan are two examples of this dangerous pattern.
43 minutes | a month ago
Israeli Labor party head Merav Michaeli says election success only the beginning
Ben Caspit speaks this week with Labor party chair Merav Michaeli, who succeeded in reviving a party on the brinks of demise. Despite gloom public opinion polls, under her leadership the Labor party garnered seven seats in the March 23 Knesset elections. Referring to the strong correlation between the party and the foundation of the country, Michaeli says that "in order for Israel to now re-build its Zionist vision, Labor must re-fulfil its leadership role." Michaeli laments Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cynical use, as she puts it, of Israeli Arabs, noting that late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was in fact the first to leader to put investment in the Arab society and equality on the national agenda.
39 minutes | a month ago
Israeli analyst Shimrit Meir: Arab lawmaker Abbas prefers Netanyahu coalition
Ben Caspit speaks this week with Shimrit Meir, a senior Middle East analyst and journalist. The veteran commentator hails the exceptional campaign delivered by leader of the Arab Ra’am party Mansour Abbas. She says that Abbas’ preferred option is not a coalition with the center-left, but a coalition with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rightwing camp. Meir offers a variety of explanations as to why this is the case, such as his preference for a coalition with Jewish religious/conservative parties or Abbas’ desire to differentiate himself from the Arab Joint List and its leader Ayman Odeh.
28 minutes | 2 months ago
Tuesday’s election crucial moment for Israel’s democracy, says Haaretz's Chaim Levinson
Ben Caspit speaks this week with Haaretz political analyst Chaim Levinson. The veteran columnist says that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wins in the upcoming elections, Israel could witness new legislation that would completely change the structure of its democracy. Explaining the electoral success of Israel’s premier, Levinson says Netanyahu "has the ability, the passion, the energy [and] the willingness to humiliate himself, in order to become prime minister."
32 minutes | 2 months ago
Democracy watchdog chief Yohanan Plesner: Don’t take Israel’s democracy for granted
Ben Caspit talks this week with Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute. Plesner warns that the undermining of Israel’s democracy may seem unconceivable, but is indeed possible. For Plesner, some eastern European countries — where democracy is being eroded — are models that Israel should not learn from. "Under certain circumstances we could find ourselves in a similar situation. It’s a situation where populist leaders frame their rule as the rule of a strong man representing the people against the elite, undermining free media, professional bureaucracy, civil society and independent judiciary,” he says.
42 minutes | 2 months ago
Ex-Mossad chief Efraim Halevy: We must try talking with Iran
As tensions between Israel and Iran continue to rise, Ben Caspit speaks with former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy, who says Israel should revisit the issue of the Iran nuclear deal. "It would be a mistake to adopt the policy adopted by Israel when President [Donald] Trump came in, convincing him to leave the [deal]…Once you leave an agreement you no longer have a leverage on the other side," he said. Halevy believes that ultimately the best way to serve Israel’s interests should be opening a dialogue with Iran. From meetings he had with senior Iranians in the past decade, he concludes there is a desire in Tehran to have a dialogue, but for that to happen, the two sides must respect each other.
34 minutes | 2 months ago
Former diplomat Alon Pinkas: Bibi must tread carefully with Israeli-Saudi ties
Ben Caspit speaks this week with Ambassador Alon Pinkas, Israel’s former consul general in New York and an expert on Israel-US relations. Pinkas discusses what the US declassified intelligence report on Jamal Khashoggi means for Israel-Saudi ties …and US-Israel relations. Faced with this new reality, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will have to tread carefully with every step he makes together with his Saudi allies, keeping the US informed constantly.
34 minutes | 3 months ago
Economist Yaron Zelekha warns: Israel has no economic policy
Ben Caspit talks this week with Yaron Zelekha, an economist who was formerly the finance ministry's accountant general and is the founder of the New Economy party. Zelekha warns that Israel has no economic policy, and that Israel has no state budget and has not launched any reforms in the past decade. More worrying, he says, is the fact that the citizens of Israel no longer trust their government. “Twenty three percent of the population lives under poverty line. Twenty percent of businesses collapsed this past year. No single country in the West experienced such a business catastrophe,” he says.
36 minutes | 3 months ago
J Street's Nadav Tamir: Israel must reconnect with liberal American Jews
Ben Caspit speaks this week with ambassador Nadav Tamir, the executive director of J Street Israel. Tamir argues that J Street is very much in sync with the new administration, so if Israel wants to have a good relation with it, then good relations with J Street must be part of that. He also says that "In order for Israel to be the homeland of the Jewish people, it must be able to connect with liberal and progressive Jews — a big majority of the most important Jewish diaspora in north America."
38 minutes | 3 months ago
Reform Judaism leader Gilad Kariv: State must rethink relations with ultra-Orthodox
Ben Caspit talks this week with the executive director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism Gilad Kariv. Running on the Israeli Labor Party's list for the March 23 elections, Kariv hopes to be the first non-Orthodox rabbi in the Knesset. Kariv criticizes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for caving in to ultra-Orthodox pressure, and says he has neglected his duty to protect the Israeli center. He says that Israeli leaders must now "establish a new paradigm in state relations with the ultra-Orthodox community."
35 minutes | 3 months ago
Israel’s former US ambassador Michael Oren calls for united front against new Iran deal
Ben Caspit talks this week to former Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren, a long-time expert on Israel-US relations. Oren speaks about the nomination of Robert Malley as the new American special envoy to Iran, noting that "his appointment to the very sensitive position is not likely to dispel Israeli concerns or ease Israeli anxieties." His advice to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is for the Israeli political and defense echelons to present a unified front against renewal of the deal. "We must tell Washington: if you renew the JCPOA, you will be putting Israel and the Middle East on war footing."
37 minutes | 4 months ago
Former Israeli consul to NY Dani Dayan: Biden presidency ‘opportunity’ for Israel
Ben Caspit speaks this week with former Israeli Consul General in New York Dani Dayan. The veteran leader of West Bank settlers describes former President Donald Trump as a "diplomatic miracle" for the state of Israel, saying that the diplomatic dividends in his term were beyond Israel’s wildest imagination. On the other hand, Ambassador Dayan admits that Trump was a "car wreck" for American democracy, and says President Joe Biden’s term presents an opportunity for Israel to expand the scope of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
38 minutes | 4 months ago
Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro: Biden to continue Abraham Accords’ momentum
Ben Caspit talks this week to former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro about President-elect Joe Biden’s impending term, and how future ties between Jerusalem and Washington will look. Shapiro notes that "Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have known each other for 40 years, and [there’s] a real friendship between them." He says that these personal ties will help them navigate points of disagreement and find a common approach.
36 minutes | 5 months ago
Opposition lawmaker Eli Avidar: Netanyahu pushing Israel towards dictatorship
Ahead of a crucial Knesset vote on Tuesday, Ben Caspit speaks with Knesset member Eli Avidar of the opposition Yisrael Beitenu party. Over the past few months, Avidar has become one of the leaders of the demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with demonstrators calling for the premier to step down. Avidar notes that no other democracy suffering from the coronavirus pandemic has reached the situation Israel is in, with Netanyahu taking over an unprecedented number of responsibilities and the Shin Bet agency monitoring the mobile phones of all the citizens. "This was not coincidence, by a plan dictated by Netanyahu," says Avidar.
35 minutes | 5 months ago
Israeli Meretz Party leader Nitzan Horowitz ready to work with right wing to topple Bibi
With Israel's Knesset advancing towards possible fourth elections, Ben Caspit talks this week with Meretz leader Nitzan Horowitz. The leftwing politician does not rule out partnering with rightwing partners in order to achieve the supreme goal of toppling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We are in times of unprecedented economic, corona and political crisis. So yes, Meretz will be ready to sit with other parties, even from the right wing…This is a crucial objective. This government is not functioning. This prime minister is corrupt. We understand that to achieve this [toppling Netanyahu] we must do unusual things," says Horowitz.
44 minutes | 5 months ago
Israeli-Arab media star says Israel’s democracy in danger
Ben Caspit talks this week with Israeli-Arab journalist Lucy Aharish. The media celebrity warns that Israel’s democracy and freedom of speech are shaky and even endangered. She says that with only a small number of media outlets, social media has become more powerful and louder in Israel than anywhere else on the globe. On the other hand, she says, every Israeli journalist knows that over criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would cost him or her their jobs — and she has already been in that spot herself.
41 minutes | 5 months ago
Israeli minister lambasts ‘organized campaign’ on Arab social media to target peace accords
Ben Caspit speaks this week with Orit Farkash Hacohen, Israel’s minister of tourism and strategic affairs. The Blue and White minister says an organized campaign on Arabic social media is now targeting the UAE, Bahrain and all other countries who have chosen the route of normalization with Israel. “In the ministry, we exposed this campaign for what it really is — a campaign financed by Hezbollah, other terror organizations and Iran, with the goal of de-legitimizing moderate countries,” Hacohen noted. She also says the current Israeli government made a mistake by placing all its eggs in the Republican basket, neglecting building stronger bridges with US democrats.
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