As Benjamin Netanyahu, head of the Likud party that won the Israeli elections, rushes to form his new government, unprecedented international and US warnings have been made calling for right-wing Knesset members not to participate. These include Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich of the Religious Zionist party, as their participation would harm the shared values between Israel and the US.
The US, the West and some Arabs fear that the participation of extremist ministers in the next government could lead Israel to become hostile to the Western regime. The post-elections stage may witness the formation of a complex conservative military alliance that depends on extreme members who publicly pledge to change the political system through arbitrary measures.
If the next government takes such measures, Israel may move away from its identity and its association with Western countries and quickly become one of the hostile countries, such as Russia and China. This would put a stumbling block in front of the interests of the great Western countries in the region. Israel will appear to challenge the international regime created by the US, thanks to which it has acquired security, social and economic modernisation in recent decades.
The US, in particular, and Western countries, in general, are not accustomed to publicly interfering in Israeli elections, especially by mentioning certain ministry candidates’ names. However, Washington and Europe have noticed a change in Israel’s external relations towards the Ukraine war. They fear a coup could occur if the extreme Israeli right-wing comes into office due to Netanyahu’s strong relationship with Putin, his coldness towards US President Joe Biden and his reconciliation with the European right wing.
Israelis fear that the participation of extremist right-wing figures in the next government, who adopt the crude Jewish religious rhetoric, may force the US to gradually abandon maintaining Israel’s national security. Israel would become at the mercy of a repressive tyrannical regime that is ready to collude with other world powers that show hostility to the US and seek to change the international regime to achieve its goals in the first place, such as China and Russia.
Concern surrounding the growing movement of racism prevailing in Israel does not stop at the Palestinians only; there are Israelis who share this concern as well, albeit from another angle. This racism can lead the country to a real catastrophe, considering the increasing rates of Jewish extremism towards Palestinians and opposition to secular ideas. Israelis’ concerns are increasing, and they are terrified to think, even for a moment, that these extremists will be an important part of the next government.
These candidates include religious figures who lead settler incursions of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, organising flag rallies and the slaughtering of sacrifices. They no longer only represent themselves but, rather, lead a large group of the right-wing and are becoming more and more popular. This is a worrying indicator for the state, because an assassination could emerge from such a group, just like Yigal Amir, who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
At the same time, Israeli fears are increasing about the hypothesis of the formation of a full right-wing government, in which Smotrich and Ben-Gvir may be an essential part of the political structure, and they may put on the agenda racist ideas concerning Palestinians, including the Palestinians of 1948. Therefore, Israelis say that these people being a main part of the future government would be a nightmare and, in this case, Israel will not only experience an internal partisan political struggle, but a struggle threatening the character of the state, taking it towards more destructive darkness and fascism.
The fear of these people joining the government is not because of their size, which made them the third bloc in the Knesset, and may make them the next force for change, but because they will take advantage of Netanyahu’s obsessive tendency to maintain his position, which may legitimise the rise of the apartheid rhetoric. He indeed committed many atrocities in the past, but we’re facing a different kind of threat this time, bringing back to our memories what was said by racist ministers Rehavam Ze’evi, Avi Eitam, Raphael Eitan, Geola Cohen and Rabbi Meir Kahane.
Netanyahu and Likud leaders did not express real objections towards Ben-Gvir’s racist plans against the Palestinians of 1948; rather, they may support them. This means that their recent statements about the possibility of a new catastrophe will indeed lead to a real catastrophe. This gives legitimacy to international concerns about the rise in the power of the extremist Kahanist movement in the next stage after its increasing influence in the elections and turning into the third force in the Knesset, which may weaken Israel at the international level. For the past 75 years, Israel has maintained the approval of the international community to establish its state on the land of Palestine. However, putting these extremists in major government positions in the next government under the auspices of Netanyahu will have negative effects on its reputation around the world.
Israelis expect that the rise of the far-right will isolate Israel’s allies and perhaps help its enemies, because the international community knows that once Netanyahu wins, he will restore his 2020 plan, in which he wanted to annex 30 per cent of the West Bank unilaterally. He has long stopped promoting the two-state solution with the Palestinians and has already clashed with the US administration over the Iranian nuclear deal.
Netanyahu’s return as the prime minister will also mean upgrading and strengthening his alliance with extremist politicians determined to prevent any strategic flexibility. They aim to annex the entire West Bank to Israel, encourage the 1948 Palestinians to leave their country and deny them access to anything. These extremists also intend to destroy the Israeli political system in preparation for turning Israel into a theocracy, with constant promotion of settlers’ incursions of Al-Aqsa Mosque and leniency in the instructions of the Israeli army to open fire on Palestinians.
The rise of this Kahanist group will inevitably harm Israeli relations with the US, raising questions about the fate of the normalisation agreements and relations with Egypt and Jordan. The group’s public plans will pour more oil on the fire of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), and the public support that Israel receives from many international forums, especially military aid, will decrease because the group continually seeks to exacerbate the situation with the Palestinians and incite against them.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.