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Transforming the matryoshka

Merger of Russian regions

Igor Yu. Okunev, Petr V. Oskolkov, and Maria I. Tislenko

English abstract: This article assesses the 2000s reforms of the Russian administrative divisions and the implications of the reforms for the institutional structure and related discourse through institutional and discourse analysis. The authors reach the conclusion that the “special status” of the newly formed territorial entities remains undefined, while the representation norm is highly uneven, since the competences of governing bodies in the merged entities lie predominantly in the ethnic and cultural sphere. The reform was not a single and coherent policy measure but rather a number of incoherent initiatives. This can be seen from the presence of different (re)integration models in respective amalgamation cases, different models of a “special status” and a variety of reactions to the reform emanating from the population.

Spanish abstract: Este artículo evalúa las reformas del 2000 en las divisiones administrativas rusas y las implicaciones de dichas reformas en la estructura institucional y el discurso relacionado, a través del análisis institucional y del discurso. Los autores llegan a la conclusión de que el “estatus especial” de las entidades territoriales recién formadas permanece indefinido, mientras que las normas de representación son desiguales, ya que las competencias de los órganos rectores en las entidades fusionadas residen predominantemente en la esfera étnica y cultural. La reforma no fue una medida política única y coherente, sino una serie de iniciativas incoherentes. Esto se puede ver por la presencia de diferentes modelos de (re) integración en los respectivos casos de amalgamación, diferentes modelos de un “estatus especial” y una variedad de reacciones a la reforma que emanan de la población.

French abstract: Cet article analyse les réformes des divisions administratives russes de l’année 2000 et leurs implications pour la structure et le discours institutionnels, en utilisant les méthodes institutionnelle et discursive. Les auteurs concluent que le « statut spécial » des entités territoriales nouvellement formées reste indéfini, tandis que la norme de représentation demeure très inégale, les compétences des organes directeurs des entités fusionnées étant principalement concentrées dans les domaines ethnique et culturel. La réforme ne constitue pas une mesure politique cohérente, mais un certain nombre d’initiatives incohérentes. La présence de différents modèles de (ré)intégration dans les cas de fusion évoqués, les divers cas de « statut spécial » et la variété des réactions populaires face à cette réforme en témoignent.

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"We Are Not Racists, We Are Nationalists"

Communitarianism and Beitar Jerusalem

Guy Abutbul-Selinger

This article explores the opposition expressed by fans of the Beitar Jerusalem football club to the presence of Arab players on their team. I suggest that instead of suspecting that fans’ behavior originates in false consciousness, we suspend suspicion and reconstruct the meanings they bring to their actions. Narrative analysis of fan interviews reveals the communitarian logic underlying their points of view. By appropriating sacred spheres in Judaism that demarcate the boundaries of the Jewish community, and identifying them with Beitar as opposed to signifying Arab players as defiling Beitar, fans delineate boundaries between Jews and Arabs. Through the sanctification of Beitar, the fans define Jewish collective boundaries and thereby preserve their worldview and identity while maintaining a hierarchy that grants Jews advantages in Israel.

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The Academic Reserve

Israel's Fast Track to High-Tech Success

Gil Baram and Isaac Ben-Israel

Why is Israel world-renowned as the ‘start-up nation’ and a leading source of technological innovation? While existing scholarship focuses on the importance of skill development during Israel Defense Forces (IDF) service, we argue that the key role of the Academic Reserve has been overlooked. Established in the 1950s as part of David Ben-Gurion’s vision for a scientifically and technologically advanced defense force, the Academic Reserve is a special program in which the IDF sends selected high school graduates to earn academic degrees before they complete an extended term of military service. After finishing their service, most participants go on to contribute to Israel’s successful high-tech industry. By focusing on the role of the Academic Reserve, we provide a broader understanding of Israel’s ongoing technological success.

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Avi Shilon

Ehud Olmert, In Person [in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv: Yedioth Ahronoth Books, 2018), 896 pp. Hardback, $42.00.

Avi Gil, The Peres Formula: Diary of a Confidant [in Hebrew] (Modi’in: Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, 2018), 368 pp. Hardback, $28.00.

Ehud Barak, My Country, My Life: Fighting for Israel, Searching for Peace (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018), 496 pp. Hardback, $29.99.

Anshel Pfeffer, Bibi: The Turbulent Life and Times of Benjamin Netanyahu (London: Hurst, 2018), 432 pp. Hardback, $36.95. Kindle, $19.99.

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Kobi Michael, Rob Geist Pinfold, Nadav Shelef, Hayim Katsman, Paul L. Scham, Russell Stone, Haim Saadoun, Raphael Cohen-Almagor, Tamar Hermann, Hanna Herzog, Sam Lehman-Wilzig, and Ruvi Ziegler

Stuart A. Cohen and Aharon Klieman, eds., Routledge Handbook on Israeli Security (New York: Routledge, 2018), 350 pp. Hardback, $220.00.

Wendy Pearlman and Boaz Atzili, Triadic Coercion: Israel’s Targeting of States That Host Nonstate Actors (New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), 367 pp. Hardback, $65.00.

Dmitry Shumsky, Beyond the Nation-State: The Zionist Political Imagination from Pinsker to Ben-Gurion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2018), 320 pp. Hardback, $40.00.

Moshe Hellinger, Isaac Hershkowitz, and Bernard Susser, Religious Zionism and the Settlement Project: Ideology, Politics, and Civil Disobedience (New York: SUNY Press, 2018), 348 pp. Hardback, $95.00.

Avi Sagi and Dov Schwartz, Religious Zionism and the Six-Day War: From Realism to Messianism (New York: Routledge, 2018), 134 pp. Hardback, $140.00.

Yoav Peled and Horit Herman Peled, The Religionization of Israeli Society (New York: Routledge, 2018), 250 pp. Hardback, $150.00.

Joel Peters and Rob Geist Pinfold, eds., Understanding Israel: Political, Societal and Security Challenges (New York: Routledge, 2018), 292 pp. Hardback, $145.00. Paperback, $51.95. Kindle, $25.98.

Orit Bashkin, Impossible Exodus: Iraqi Jews in Israel (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2017), 320 pp. Hardback, $85.00.

Shapiro Prize Winner: Diego Rotman, The Stage as a Temporary Home: On Dzigan and Shumacher’s Theater (1927–1980) [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 2017), 354 pp. Paperback, $33.00.

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Ronnie Olesker

This article examines the securitization of delegitimization as a national security threat in Israel. The article contains three elements. First, theoretically, it analyzes legitimacy as a national security asset and delegitimization as a risk to ontological security. Second, it traces the Israeli response to delegitimization, providing an empirically rich account of this approach. Finally, it seeks to provide an assessment, albeit preliminary, of the effectiveness of the Israeli response. It concludes by discussing policy implications, emphasizing the benefits and counterproductive outcomes of an otherwise successful securitization process. Although Israel has had success curbing delegitimization with regard to political elites at the state level, it continues to lose ground with both the grassroots and Western liberal audiences.

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Benyamin Neuberger

This article explores the ideological underpinnings of the major Jewish political camps in Israel and the Yishuv—the left, the Orthodox, the national right, the bourgeois center—and evaluates the extent to which they are compatible with liberal democracy as commonly understood in the West. It also analyzes quasi-democratic and non-democratic aspects of older Jewish traditions based on the Torah, the Talmud, and the Halakhah. While the history of Zionism and the Zionist movement contained definite democratic components, Israel’s political system was shaped by a range of anti-democratic traditions whose resonance is still felt today.

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Editors' Note

The Split that Did Not Happen

Paul L. Scham and Yoram Peri

As all who attended the Association for Israel Studies conference this past June at Kinneret College now know, the only thing that resulted in unbearable heat was the temperature outdoors, not tempers around the tables. The discussion of “Word Crimes,” the title of the summer issue of Israel Studies, our sister publication, did not cause an irreparable split—or any split at all—in the AIS. There was a spirited and quite lengthy airing of the whole issue at the meeting of the Board of Directors on the Sunday before the conference began, at which various differing opinions were presented. But it was clear that it no longer appeared to be a make-or-break time for either the AIS or IS.

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Gender Gaps in the Center versus the Periphery

Evidence from the Israeli Elections

Nir Atmor and Chen Friedberg

Recent evidence from industrialized countries shows that men and women tend to exhibit different voting preferences, with greater proportions of women favoring left-wing parties. This phenomenon, known as the ‘modern gender gap’, has been observed in recent Israeli elections as well. After discussing the history of the ‘traditional gender gap’, the article examines the gender gap in the 2013 and 2015 Israeli elections from a geographical and socio-economic perspective, using Israel National Election Studies (INES) data. We focus on two main hypotheses concerning these elections: first, that the gender gap in voting varies according to the geographic location of voters; second, that the modern gender gap affects voters residing in affluent localities. Our findings indicate that both hypotheses hold for the 2013 election but not for the 2015 election.

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Lessons from the Israeli-Egyptian Peace Talks

An Interview with Aharon Barak

Raphael Cohen-Almagor

This article is based on an interview conducted in July 2018 with Aharon Barak. In it, Barak reflects on the peace negotiations with Egypt at Camp David during 13 days in September 1978. While expressing great appreciation for the American negotiating team, first and foremost for President Jimmy Carter, for bringing the talks to a successful close, Barak considers negotiating with Carter as the toughest experience of his life. According to Barak, who had just completed his role as legal advisor to the government (1975–1978) and was appointed to the Supreme Court, the key people in the Israeli delegation were Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan, and Ezer Weizman, while the key players in the Egyptian delegation were Anwar Sadat and Osama El-Baz. The negotiations went through ups and downs and had reached the brink of collapse until the Americans proposed that Carter negotiate directly with El-Baz and Barak. In the article’s conclusion, some important insights are deduced from this interview for future, successful negotiations.