Israeli elections: How a partisan crisis became a state crisis

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel"s ex-premier and leader of the Likud party, addresses supporters at campaign headquarters in Jerusalem on 2 November 2022 (AFP)

Ameer Makhoul

Middle East Eye  /  November 6, 2022

In this national election, Israel has taken a fundamental step towards the violent fascism of Religious Zionism and exposed the lack of prospects for all Palestinians.

This week’s Israeli elections resulted in the massive rise of the fascist Religious Zionism party and a right-wing coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu

Out of 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, Netanyahu’s far right bloc secured a majority 65 seats – a victory that could not have been achieved without the alliance formed with far-right politicians Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

The results also signified the absence of a Zionist national consensus regarding any just solution to the Palestinian issue, nor any solutions to the intractable problems facing Palestinians.

The Palestinian citizens of Israel in particular are facing home demolition policies which may affect 60,000 residences.

They also continue to face organized crime terrorizing their communities, the proliferation of Israeli weapons among this particular Palestinian public, threatening their personal and collective security, and the 2018 Jewish Nation-State Law legitimizing most of Israel’s racist and discriminatory practices.

Global response

Last week, Israeli President Isaac Herzog met with US President Joe Biden in an attempt to ease anxieties the current US administration has expressed about the growing right-wing trend in Israel. 

Members of Congress and other senior US officials have also expressed concerns over the return of Netanyahu to power, and the rise of the far right. 

According to the pro-Israel think tank, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the UAE foreign minister informed the Israeli leadership of a position against the accession of the Religious Zionists in government and warned that the matter would have a bearing on the Abraham Accords.

The Religious Zionism party’s surge to become the third-largest power in the Knesset will put Israel’s legitimacy to the global test. 

Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Netanyahu’s claims that all criticism of Israel is antisemitic will be further weakened by the ascent of the far right.

The election results will further amplify the voices of the global Palestine solidarity movement that consider Zionism a form of racism and imperialism, and will universally strengthen the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement

On the other hand, Netanyahu could find potential allies within the new European political landscape, especially with the rise of the far right and fascist parties in Italy recently, and before that in Hungary and Austria. 

This may now extend to Scandinavian countries, with the rise of their own right-wing parties, such as the Sweden Democrats, which achieved political victory due to the Ukrainian war and anti-immigrant and refugee sentiments, as well as debates around NATO membership.

Over the past few weeks, Jordan has also expressed fear and concern about Israel’s increasingly rightwards shift, both during meetings of its own government leaders and with Arab party leaders in Israel. 

Jordanian leaders further encouraged Arab voting in Israel to prevent a Netanyahu victory, which seeks the annexation of Zone C in the West Bank – naturally leading to the idea of the alternative Palestinian homeland in Jordan. 

Jordan also fears that the Religious Zionism party may now have the power to change the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, particularly in regards to Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Jordanian guardianship of the mosque, which may necessarily affect the Jordanian-Israeli Wadi Araba agreement. 

Impact on Palestinians

The new government will most certainly deepen the conflict and exacerbate the occupation more than the outgoing Lapid government. 

The escalation of the violent attacks of Israeli settler gangs, protected by the Israeli occupation forces, which may finally put an end to the “security coordination” with the so-called Palestinian National Authority (PNA), have given rise to the new resistance phenomenon in Nablus, Areen al-Usud, or the Lions’ Den. 

The growing popularity of religious fanaticism in government will further ignite tensions between these new resistance groups in the West Bank and the right-wing settlers, many of whom come from the Haredi communities. Ben-Gvir promised to settle “Judea and Samaria”, referring to the West Bank. 

During a recent speech by Ben-Gvir, extremist supporters chanted “death to terrorists” as a euphemism for Palestinians. The election results and discourse of these right-wing leaders will only further incite Israeli Jews against the Palestinian citizens of Israel. The legitimization of parties who protect these armed groups will only lead to bloodier attacks and more violent confrontations within Israel. 

Palestinians living in the 1948 territories will be subjected to a network of violent militias, most notably the ultra-orthodox brigades in Beersheba and Naqab, and others in Lydda, Akka, Jaffa and other coastal cities. 

These groups have emerged directly from Religious Zionism and the Otzma Yehudit party in particular. They are semi-official armed militias carrying out attacks on the Palestinian Arabs in these areas, and their role is defined under the watch of the Israeli police, as an extension of the attacks by settler gangs in the West Bank.

Yet the formation of this right-wing coalition may invite greater international scrutiny of Israel’s policies. 

Acts of violence against the Palestinians on both sides of the “Green Line” will be investigated by the International Commission of Inquiry, launched by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2021. It is a permanent committee that investigates crimes for the International Criminal Court (ICC).

A fascist wave

Several choices stand before Netanyahu, including a narrow and shaky coalition with the Kahanist Otzma Yehudit, as well as blackmailing the National Unity party, led by Benny Gantz, to ensure that he joins the coalition – especially since Gantz, unlike Lapid and Avigdor Lieberman, who refused to join a coalition of religious parties, is accepted by the Haredi groups.

No matter the result of these alliances, a fascist wave of violence is expected to take hold, with Otzma Yehudit becoming Likud’s strongest ally in the narrow coalition – particularly if Gantz refuses to join Netanyahu’s ranks. 

In this national election, Israel has taken a fundamental step towards the violent fascism of Religious Zionism, and this doctrine has taken the centre stage of political action.

The collapse of the so-called “Zionist left” has further exposed the lack of prospects for Palestinians in all parts of historic Palestine – until further notice.

Yet, the results of the Israeli elections should not be a cause for despair, but one to motivate Palestinians to prepare for the challenges ahead.

What many already understand is that whatever violence springs from this fascist tide, the violence and injustices of the Israeli state, police and judiciary remain worse. 

Finally, the transition from a partisan crisis to a state crisis may play in two directions: one reinforces the official fascist orientation, and the other is a reconsideration of the voice of reason, not for the sake of the Palestinians, but rather to save Israel’s reputation based on Zionist premises.

Ameer Makhoul is a leading Palestinian activist and writer in the 48 Palestinians community; he is the former director of Ittijah, a Palestinian NGO in Israel; he was detained by Israel for ten years