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Netanyahu’s government and Palestinian options

May 21, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Political analysts agree that Netanyahu’s fourth government, with all of its partisan formations and political range, is the most right-wing in Israel since its creation 67 years ago. It is a settler government, which quashes any delusions about the potential for a resumption of the political process with the Palestinians.

Accordingly, there are many questions about the options available to the Palestinians when faced with the expected regular “no” from the Israeli prime minister. The make-up of the government is a reflection of his commitment to the promises he made to the radical right-wing parties, such as the Jewish Home Party led by Naftali Bennett, and the settlers’ leaders in the West Bank, during the March election campaign.

Government composition

Netanyahu refused to form an extended national unity government with the Zionist camp that came second in the election with 24 seats in the Knesset; that was a coalition between Isaac Herzog’s Labour Party and the Hatnuah Party, led by former Minister of Justice Tzipi Livni. Instead, he formed a new coalition government to join with his own Likud Party (with 30 seats); the right-wing Jewish Home Party (8 seats); the Sephardic Jewish party Shas (7 seats); the Haredi Jews’ United Torah Judaism Party (Yahadut Hatorah, 6 seats); and the centrist offshoot from Likud, the Kulanu Party (10 seats).

The financial portfolio was given to the Kulanu Party’s Moshe Kahlon, who is a former member of Likud. Bennett was given the education portfolio, which means that religious and nationalist ideas will be further ingrained within the educational curriculum across Israel.

Ayelet Shaked was appointed Minister of Justice and head of the Ministerial Legislative Committee, which means that there is a strong chance that extremist anti-Palestinian laws may be passed in the near future. This also means the that scales will be tipped in favour of those who want to see the Supreme Court weakened, thus reducing civil freedoms, as the appointment of Supreme Court judges is the sole task of the minister of justice.

Jewish Home was also granted the position of Deputy Minister of Security and the agricultural portfolio, both of which were assigned to the extremist settler Uri Ariel, who advocates the construction of a temple in place of Al-Aqsa Mosque. This ministry includes the “settlement unit” which means that Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements will receive additional support and probably guarantees the displacement of the Arab Bedouins in the Negev.

The ultra-conservative Sephardic Jews’ Shas Party has been given the religion, economy, Negev and Galilee portfolios, while the United Torah Judaism Party received the Ministry of Health and the leadership of the Finance Committee in the Knesset. All of the other ministries, including foreign affairs, security, the interior and so on remain in the hands of Likud.

Moshe Ya’alon kept his position as Minister of Security, while Netanyahu is expected to remain in his position as Minister of Foreign Affairs, acting as a bargaining chip to add new partners to his government in the future. He has also held on to the ministry of information, to which he had previously declared his commitment. It seems that he is seeking to tighten his grip on the media outlets, contain them and neutralise those behind the opposition, such as Channel 10 television.

Many observers believe that Netanyahu’s government is too weak to last very long. They also think that the government will be at the mercy of being blackmailed because its Knesset majority is no guarantee of stability. It won’t take many MKs to stray off message to upset the balance of power.

Effects on the Palestinians

All Palestinians across the political spectrum agree that the formation of the latest Netanyahu government holds out little hope for a peace agreement or revival of negotiations. Instead, it is expected to lead to further violations, settlement expansion and the escalation of violence against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip and occupied Jerusalem.

The extreme right make-up of the government sends a message to the Palestinians that the doors to peace and a political solution are closing. It also signifies that the political process, in its old form, has ended permanently.

Local media outlets have noted that the Palestinian leadership is determined and insistent on the option of internationalising the Palestinian cause. Fatah Central Committee member Dr Nabil Shaath has said that the Palestinians’ experience with successive Israeli governments has shown “the futility of any political process that is not based on the end of the occupation and does not change the status quo by means of negotiations and agreeing on a clear reference such as the 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.” He also stressed that the Palestinians will not repeat the miserable negotiations experience.

Shaath pointed out that the experience also revealed that the US cannot be an honest mediator in any political process. Any new negotiations, he insisted, must take place under international auspices and be based on international involvement in ending the Israeli occupation within a specific timeframe. “Any future negotiations must address the next independence day,” he added.

Speaking on the anniversary of the 1948 Nakba, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that a return to negotiations requires three conditions: “Freeze settlement construction in the West Bank; release Palestinians imprisoned in Israel since before the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s; and agree to hold negotiations lasting one year, by the end of which a timetable would be set to end the occupation by 2017.”

Feasibility of internationalising the cause

Nearly 22 years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, and a succession of Israeli governments, the futility of continuing the negotiations process with Israel has become apparent. In addition, it is clear that there is a need to take political and diplomatic action on a global level by signing-up to more international organisations and treaties, as well as to present the UN Security Council, once again, with the draft resolution to end the occupation. Efforts must also be made to prepare cases for the International Criminal Court, which includes condemning Israel’s policies regarding the continuous violence against the Gaza Strip and West Bank, as well as its settlement activities in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Such condemnation of Israeli policies and practices must also include the case of the Palestinian prisoners, who make up 17 per cent of the total population in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In order to internationalise the Palestinian cause successfully, there must be a genuine political will to unite the Palestinian ranks by activating a genuine reconciliation between Fatah, Hamas and the other political forces. There must be agreement on a clear political programme to combat the policies that will be adopted by Netanyahu’s government. Such actions would enhance and strengthen the Palestinian position by collecting and using national capabilities and efforts.

A priority must be the rejection of the principle of negotiating with the Israelis after the long and miserable experience of fruitless talks. It would perhaps be more useful, after a proper reconciliation, to raise the bar on Palestinian political discourse so that it includes demands to dismantle settlements and deport settlers, not to mention the removal of the Separation Wall, which is arguably the largest colonial occupation landmark since the Israeli colonisation of the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, started in 1967.

We must hasten to achieve Palestinian reconciliation in order to benefit from the shift of public opinion in many countries in favour of Palestinian rights, and to mobilise the different Palestinian capabilities to confront Israel’s highly probable next attack on the Gaza Strip.

Translated from Al Jazeera net, 20 May, 2015.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.