After coming third in last week’s election, Israel’s ultranationalists are seeking portfolios that will grant them control over the Occupied West Bank. Religious Zionism, as their joint slate is known, won 14 seats in the 120-seat parliament. The unprecedented gain saw Israeli politicians and parties, who are often accused of being openly fascist, becoming the lynchpin of the current government which will be led by former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Politicians who head Religious Zionism are expected to occupy key ministerial positions in the upcoming Netanyahu-led government. Their top ten candidates in last week’s vote include nine members of the Knesset residing in Jewish only settlements in Occupied West Bank.
Itamar Ben Gvir is one candidate who has enjoyed a meteoric rise. Last month, the 46-year-old head of the Otzma Yehudit party brandished a gun in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Occupied Jerusalem and threatened to shoot Palestinians. He is said to be the disciple of Meir Kahane – the racist, American-born rabbi whose Kach party was eventually banned from the Knesset.
Ben Gvir has threatened to deport “disloyal” Israelis, including two current Arab lawmakers. Up until just a few years ago, he had a photo of Baruch Goldstein hanging in his home, the Israeli doctor who massacred 29 Palestinians at Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. Despite his extremism and what many describe as openly fascist views, it has not blocked his rise or disqualified him from becoming part of the Israeli government. The ultranationalist politician is now expected to wield greater power over the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank.
According to the Israeli Haaretz, Religious Zionism has pledged to advance a master plan for the construction and expansion of settlements and to conduct a population census among the Palestinians in Areas C, which is over 60 per cent of the West Bank that is administered by Israel. The ultranationalist block is said to be considering census in the event of the annexation of Area C, to make sure that Palestinians from other parts of the West Bank do not move there.
The Party is said to have presented a master plan of the stages by which unauthorised outposts will be legalised by Israel. Bills will be drafted to legalise illegal outposts and connect them to the national grid and offer other essential government services. It will not be applied to Palestinian towns and villages.
Religious Zionism leaders are expected to demand portfolios that will help them realise their goal of settling in the West Bank in Jewish only settlements. Government committees that oversee planning in the Occupied Territory and approve construction of settlements will be given a boost to expedite further takeover of Palestinian land.