Israeli government is about to lurch right, and Labor/Meretz will grin and bear it

Image of Jewish extremist with a goat, published in The Times of Israel, April 14, from a post on social media

Philip Weiss

Mondoweiss  /  April 29, 2022

More than 2000 Israeli Jews in the settler movement prayed on the Haram al-Sharif in recent weeks in violation of international agreements, and the government turned a blind eye. Because it is beholden to the right wing.

You may have seen the news from Israeli media– Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s family has gotten death threats, presumed to be from the right. Bennett’s government is teetering because a rightwing member of the narrow coalition left it 3 weeks ago after receiving physical threats, all from the right.

The Israeli government will now lurch further right, experts say, because it needs to do so in order to hold on to a majority of the parliament, and even the center-left members of the coalition will swallow the shift because they know they will never be that close to the smell of power again.

That’s the analysis from the Israel Policy Forum two days ago. Three experts agreed that the only action in Israeli Jewish politics is rightwing, and the government is “going to be pulled to the right,” because Naftali Bennett is afraid of losing more rightwing members of his own party– Ayelet Shaked or Nir Orbach.

Moving right means expanding illegal settlements, taking more Palestinian land.

Commentator Michael Koplow said the Jewish left-leaning coalition parties of Labor and Meretz will sit still for the shift, though maybe not the Muslim right wing party in the government.

I honestly don’t think there’s anything this government can do short of something insane like going back to putting annexation [of the West Bank] back on the table that will cause Labor and Meretz to leave. Ra’am [United Arab List] is a different kettle of fish. But if you’re in Labor or Meretz and you control ministries, you have no shot at ever sniffing those ministries again in the next three to five years at least. This was the only scenario in which they were going to be included in a government.

As soon as Bibi [Netanyahu] is gone, and we’re back to a pretty easy 70, 75 [parliament seat] rightwing and Haredi coalition, these guys are going to be in the desert again for God knows how long.

I’m skeptical that there is anything that this government will plausibly do that will lead the parties on the left to leave and bring down the government.

What Koplow is saying is that the only reason the Jewish left has power is because the rightwing is bitterly divided over Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, and who keeps hanging around, promoting the division. Once the Netanyahu era ends, though– Israel will have a comfortably far-rightwing government, as it has for the last 20 years or so.

Because Israeli Jews are rightwing nationalists by and large. The Bennett coalition includes Ra’am, a rightwing Muslim party, with four seats, but the left-leaning Palestinian parties, which have six seats, want absolutely nothing to do with this government. And those parties are never included in Jewish governments. Because Israel is a Jim Crow country.

Bear in mind that the U.S. government and Jewish establishment enable these rightwing Israeli governments, because they never put any pressure on them over their expansionist actions that flout international law, say through boycott, divestment or sanctions, the tools used in South Africa. As Gideon Levy lately told a Washington audience, “Imagine, Israel, being disconnected from SWIFT… Do you think that the occupation will last after 10 hours or 20 hours? That’s the only question.”

The three experts on the Israel Policy Forum podcast also acknowledged that the clashes on the Haram al-Sharif during Ramadan earlier this month were provoked in some measure by nationalist Jewish incitements that have caused real fears among Muslims that Israel is going to change the status quo at the holy site, and allow Jews to pray there. The experts said just what Yumna Patel reported for us: Thousands of right-wing Jews were allowed by police to pray on the site, in violation of the agreement with the Muslim authorities.

Neri Zilber, a journalist and adviser to the Israel Policy Forum, related recent efforts by rightwing religious “ultra-nationalists” to take over the Muslim site. First there was a plot to slaughter an animal on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. That was stopped by Israeli police, who arrested six extremist Jews and confiscated a goat on April 14.

Hamas issued an angry statement over that scheme — seeing it as an effort to compromise Muslim sovereignty of the space.

Zilber said that the police then failed to stop Jews visiting the Haram during Passover from praying on the Temple Mount:

Over 2000 Jews throughout the course of the week actually [went] up to the Temple Mount and as they really have for the last decade plus, [they were] praying. They’re walking around, they’re mumbling, and they’re swaying– but they’re praying…. [The police] make it very clear as you’re going through security, ‘No praying, no praying.’ Right? That’s the official policy and yet definitely last week and in weeks prior, and years prior, you have Jewish worshipers– really we should say what this is, these are religious nationalists, there’s a religious edict by the ultra-orthodox rabbinate forbidding Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount– so this is a very specific subset of religious Zionists, religious nationalists, the settler movement, and their rabbis– they’re doing it and there are no repercussions.

Koplow and Shira Efron, the third expert on the call, acknowledged that this is not a religious issue, but an issue of sovereignty: the erosion of the status quo on the Haram al-Sharif is feeding fears among Palestinians that they are about to lose even more land.

Just what Palestinians have been saying. But these ideas are almost never expressed in western media. Let alone the truth that Palestinians have been losing their lands, homes, villages, farms, for over 70 years to Zionist expansion.

The experts on that call of course also blamed Palestinians for violence– the IPF is a centrist Zionist organization– but even a diehard Zionist like Koplow who has endorsed a strategy of “managed conflict” in the past admitted that the Israeli vision of the future is causing hopelessness among Palestinians that feeds violence.

When there’s no long-term outlook for anything… when almost the entirety of the Israeli political establishment and security establishment has come to the conclusion that there is no way to resolve the conflict, there is no time-line for doing so, that everything will just be managed until the end of time, that just heightens the impact that spoilers play…

At least if there’s some sort of light at the end of the tunnel and a place that people are working toward, then you can maybe have a chance of dealing with spoilers. In this environment… a few people will always be able to foul things up.

Shira Efron, of an Israeli security think-tank, echoed the view: “Things explode because there’s a limit to managing the conflict, even if it’s deluxe management of the conflict and shrinking the conflict. At the end of the day you need to seek a solution to the conflict, and that’s not what this government is doing.”

So the Israeli government will lurch right in weeks ahead and keep taking Palestinian land because that’s what the Jewish rightwing wants. And American supporters of Israel, including liberal Zionists, will continue to salute Israel as a robust democracy and give it billions in aid– never letting the reality of international law dawn on the Jewish ultranationalists. Even as one apartheid report after another drops at the door of the Jewish state.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-2006