Ben Caspit, an Israel correspondent for Al-Monitor, brings you weekly interviews with newsmakers and officials to discuss the latest news in Israel. Ben is no stranger to broadcast, hosting a daily radio show from Tel Aviv and frequently appearing on television and radio programs. Caspit is one of Israel’s most in-demand journalists and his columns – deeply sourced and vividly written -- are must reads for his take on the latest political developments. His most recent book is The Netanyahu Years, chronicling his reporting on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bibi) ever since he came to power in 1997.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.