After a month and a half of anxiety, the expected has happened; Netanyahu’s third government was formed with a fairly predictable coalition which excludes the religious parties Shas and Yahadut Hatorah.
Within Netanyahu’s own party, Likud, there is anger at the mistakes he has made. He has lost the popular minister Moshe Lahlon; made an alliance with the racist Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu Party – which is blamed for the drop in support at the polls – and pushed the leader of Habeyit Hayehudi, Naftali Bennett, into the arms of Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid. This has enabled both relative newcomers to impose coalition conditions on the Prime Minister. These include the exclusion of the religious parties and a reduction in the number of ministries controlled by Likud.
The new government differs from its predecessor in one respect; it looks as if it is going to be unstable and, perhaps, short-lived. The potential for instability includes Lieberman’s trial, which prevents him from holding any ministerial positions. At the very least, this could see him reduce support for the government to the extent that he may actually end up working towards its downfall. The lack of political harmony on a number of issues within the coalition parties is another factor, as will be the jockeying for position in a post-Netanyahu Likud Party; it is believed widely that this, his third government, will be his last.
Party politics to one side, the new government has to tackle the economic crisis which could cause cracks to appear in the coalition. In turn, that could push the Prime Minister to resort to ever more aggressive policies against the Palestinians to forge political unity against the perceived threat of the Other, along with increased public support.
All the signs are, therefore, that the new Israeli government is just as extreme as its predecessor, with all of the parties demonstrating significant shifts to the right. Likud is more right-wing than ever before, and Habeyit Hayehudi is the settlers’ party. Lapid’s party “leaves politics to the adults” and is working alongside Netanyahu to marginalise the Palestinian cause both nationally and internationally. It also views the appointment of Tzipi Livni to lead negotiations with the Palestinians as nothing more than a “political joke”. It is enough that the majority of the ministers and coalition members even oppose Netanyahu’s proposal of “a two-state solution”, which everyone knows isn’t serious in any case.
Netanyahu is boasting that his previous government’s biggest accomplishment is the marginalisation of the Palestinian issue without being subject to international pressures on illegal settlements, the Judaisation of Jerusalem or the siege on Gaza. He intends to continue this policy and believes that by pushing the Palestinian issue aside he will be better placed to stress the strategic significance of Iran not only for his party and the safety of his coalition, but also for Israel as a whole.
As for the government’s policy towards Palestinians within historic Palestine, it will be more of the same with the addition of “civil service” imposed on young Israeli Arabs instead of military service in the Israel Defence Forces. On top of that, Palestinians can expect the implementation of the Praver-Begin plan to relocate thousands of our people and seize hundreds of thousands of acres of our land in the Negev Desert. Netanyahu also plans to raise the election threshold percentage, which will affect the level of Arab representation in the Knesset. Moreover, the expected austerity economic policies will harm the poor, especially the Arabs, who mostly live below the poverty line at the moment.
There is no indication that the new government will be less discriminatory and extreme than the last. Instead, the opposite looks to be true, with more aggressive and extreme policies, and the intention to implement projects which will limit the presence of Palestinian Arabs in their own land. Thus will Palestinians be forced into an entirely artificially-created confrontation. This is why the need for Palestinian reconciliation is greater than ever before if we are to unite to defend ourselves, our rights, our identities, our land, our living, our Jerusalem and the historical rights of our people.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.