The Electronic Intifada / June 14, 2021
Israel’s new coalition has brought about the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s long tenure, who after 12 long years is finally a former prime minister.
And it has been particularly amusing to see Netanyahu go full Donald Trump.
Allegations of election fraud caused by a conspiracy of left-wing terror supporters, dog whistles to his base and a final, angry, paranoid farewell speech linking the Jewish holocaust with US policy on Iran.
It’s all there.
That, however, is the only positive thing about a new coalition that initially will be led by Naftali Bennett, a man who brags about “killing Arabs,” wants to annex large swathes of the West Bank and supports neither sovereignty for Palestinians nor equal rights.
“I strongly oppose the giving of even one inch of land to the Arabs,” Bennett said in 2020.
Bennett is one component of a loose coalition that runs from the United Arab List and Meretz through Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid to, well, Bennett’s Yamina and Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beitenu.
It’s an eight-party group that holds a single-seat majority in Israel’s parliament and indeed was confirmed by just 60-59 votes with one abstention in Israel’s parliament yesterday.
It is a constellation of parties that agrees on only one thing, ousting Netanyahu. And it will almost certainly fall at the first or second significant hurdle.
That first hurdle might come sooner rather than later.
On Tuesday, Israeli Jewish nationalists are supposed to be marching through Jerusalem to loudly proclaim their exclusive ownership over the city.
It is the kind of provocation that provided the spark for last month’s escalation and led to an Israeli assault on Gaza and the deaths of at least 67 children.
Final approval for the route is expected Monday, after Israeli police on Friday gave the go-ahead as long as marchers do not walk through the Old City.
Hamas has already warned that the march could imperil a “fragile ceasefire.”
A statement from its military wing, the Qassam Brigades, called on Jerusalem’s youth to confront the marchers and on the “military wings of Palestinian factions to be on high alert and to defend Jerusalem if needed.”
A full escalation might not happen. But it could. And while there may be a new prime minister, but the defense minister is the same – Benny Gantz, no longer PM in waiting: the Israeli military will act with the brutality it always does.
Whether the United Arab List can stay in a coalition killing children in Gaza remains to be seen.
Will Mansour Abbas – the first leader of a party representing the Palestinian minority to become a part of an Israeli government – be able to prevent that from happening? No.
So when it comes to policy on Palestinians in occupied territory there will be no significant change.
There will be no change in the international approach either, judging by the many welcoming statements from around the world.
There is audible relief in some of these statements. It’s almost as if Netanyahu embarrassed all these fine, upstanding Western politicians by not only disregarding mild European or US protest and hand wringing, but repeatedly lecturing Europeans and Americans on how to behave better.
International politicians may feel more comfortable around Bennett, but he offers no similar solace to Palestinians anywhere.
While attempts to ensure a bigger budget for Israel’s Palestinian population are certainly welcome, there have been no similar proposals to reform a discriminatory legal system that lies at the root of Palestinian discontent inside the country.
On the occupied territory, Bennett is as hardline if not more so than Netanyahu, and he was a fervent advocate of unilaterally annexing swathes of West Bank land as implicitly sanctioned by former US President Donald Trump’s Ultimate Deal™.
He is of course constricted by a coalition which will almost certainly have to avoid any tough decisions on the Palestinian issue if it is to survive.
But that cuts both ways, and to those politicians and “Middle East experts” who believe the time is ripe to restart some kind of dead-end peace process, the answer is clearly: not going to happen.
For as long as Western countries continue to hold their hands over Israel, protecting it from sanctions and any other consequences of its violent discrimination against and oppression of the land’s Indigenous population, no Israeli government is going to take any significant strides anywhere.
Least of all this one, which is simply a placeholder.
Omar Karmi is an independent journalist and former Jerusalem and Washington, DC, correspondent for The National newspaper