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Israel has a new right-wing party

January 3, 2019 at 10:51 am

Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett (L) speaks as he and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (R) give a statement at the Knesset in Jerusalem on 19 November, 2018 [THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images]

When two Israeli ministers from the Jewish Home Party announced that they were forming a new right-wing party, many analysts sought a definition that would encompass the description in every way. Years ago, “New Right” was used for a number of purposes, one of which was to differentiate between it and the “revisionist right” conceived and led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin went on to succeed Jabotinsky.

Influenced by the ideas of its founder, the Likud Party adopted an ideological approach that rejected any division of historic Palestine, even after the occupation of the Palestinian territories in 1967. However, alongside its nationalistic approach to “Greater Israel”, it also adopted a liberal approach to the economy and, to some extent, civil and individual rights. Jabotinsky did not believe there was a contradiction between the nationalist and liberal approach and instead believed that the “national conflict” lied in imposing Israeli sovereignty over the territories in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and to grant Palestinians in these areas individual civil and political rights within the framework of the self-declared Jewish state. Begin, at least on a declarative level, backed down from this matter in the context of the Camp David peace process with Egypt in 1978, which included the acceptance of autonomy for the Palestinians.

READ: Israel’s Jewish Home party splits ahead of April election 

In this regard, it should be noted that the old Likud elites with such liberal tendencies were nearly all gradually removed from the last few Israeli parliaments, to be replaced by others belonging to religious Zionism ideologically or with extreme right-wing tendencies gleaned in Europe, particularly with regard to individual civil and political rights.

Furthermore, the Ashkenazi elites in the Likud have also declined in favour of Eastern and Russian leaderships with illiberal, anti-democratic and anti-Arab agendas. The same can be said about the old Ashkenazi elites of the “Zionist left”. These new elites are actually laying the groundwork of an Apartheid regime that embodies the preservation of Israeli control of the land, the annexation of parts of the West Bank and the blocking of equal, political and civil rights for the Palestinians.

Erez Tadmor published his book Why do you vote right and get left? in 2017. The author is one of the leaders and founders of the extreme right-wing party Im Tirzu. He said that despite the passing of 40 years of Likud governments in Israel, the left-wing has continued to rule through the old elites, the majority of whom are loyal to the Labour Zionist Movement led by the historic Mapai Party. It is argued that the enormous power that these elites still wield is the result of Begin’s lack of foresight, insight and understanding (the word treason was used in reference to him) as well as many of those in the right wing who have followed in his footsteps.

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This New Right directs its barbs at all that is politically correct, as one of those who announced their intention to join the new right-wing party, former Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal, demonstrated. In his first speech in the Knesset in May 2015, he said: “Some of us have adopted a new religion. Political Correctness. The most important mitzvah [commandment] in this religion is to avoid stepping on landmines so I deny this religion.” Similar statements were made by advocates of the New Right, such as, “We must change every politically correct discourse that has caused the emasculation of our thinking”; “Political correctness is an epidemic that must be emancipated”; and “Beware of the political correctness coming from Europe.”

It is possible to agree with the analyses that believe the repressive and dictatorial actions of the two ministers from the Justice and Education Ministries who have founded the New Right party will be the basis of the party, enabling them to remove what remains of liberalism and push the justice system backwards. Equality will soon be alien to Israeli justice and politics.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 2 January 2019

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