Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday. Photo: AFP

In recent years Israel has been establishing itself as the principal geopolitical counterweight to Iran in the southwestern portion of the Middle East. With its overwhelming scientific, technological and military superiority, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states (with the exception of Qatar) are increasingly accepting Israeli leadership.

Now, however, after years of extensive defense and intelligence collaboration and diplomatic engagement, having reached a level approaching formal recognition of Israel on the part of the Arab countries involved that do not yet have them, there is imminent danger of retrogression.

The Israeli ascension is heavily dependent on its aura of invincibility. That aura, in turn, is dependent on the factors mentioned above, its alliance with the US, and its economic and political solidity. It is the latter that is now in question.

The Israeli economy is still strong, but its financial position has been weakening and continues to weaken as a result of the extreme dysfunctionality of the political system, which in turn is caused both by its structure and by increasing divisions within Israeli society.

The result of these factors is the political circus that has been unrolling during the past few months, with a snap election called, resulting in the impossibility of forming a government, leading to the unprecedented calling of another election, to take place in September.

Everyone knows what needs to be done, especially raising the bar for entry into the Knesset (parliament), term limits and defined electoral districts from which the members would be elected. At present the members of the Knesset represent no one except themselves and their party leadership. Fringe groups pass the current 3.25% bar for entry and parties based on ethnic and/or religious affiliation often hold the balance of voting power in the Knesset.

The political class is not interested in reforming the system because it benefits from the system as it is. As a result, political instability is likely to continue if not get worse. Additionally, expenses involved in running two national elections in a row is breaking the budget and putting the country in a poorer financial position after years of improvement. The central bank has already warned of the financial consequences of the political mess and the eventual negative effects on the economy itself.

All of this is causing neglect of the burgeoning relations with Egypt, the Gulf states and the Saudis, as well as damaging Israel’s image. Russia and China will be happy to step in to fill any geopolitical vacuum.

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