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Will the West really not deal with far-right Israeli ministers?

November 7, 2022 at 3:28 pm

Former Israeli Prime Minister and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu attends during a campaign event in Tel Aviv, Israel on October 30, 2022. [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

Since Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisive victory in last week’s Israeli General Election, several governments have said that they will not deal with any far-right ministers that he may appoint in the coalition that he eventually cobbles together.

A possible coalition will be made up of Netanyahu’s Likud, ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism, and the far-right Religious Zionism party led by Bezalel Smotrich, which includes extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit faction. It will be the most extreme far-right Israeli government in history.

Both Washington and Westminster have made known their concerns very clearly that the incoming Israeli government might not be committed to so-called Western democratic values.

“We hope that all Israeli government officials will continue to share the values of an open, democratic society including tolerance and respect for all in civil society, particularly for minority groups,” said US State Department Spokesman Ned Price last Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, the American news website Axios reported that the Biden administration is likely to boycott Ben-Gvir, whose far-right faction won 14 Knesset seats, if he is appointed to a ministerial post, as expected. Reports by Israeli media claimed today that he has asked to be given the Education Ministry. The Internal Security Ministry has also been mentioned.

According to a spokeswoman for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, “We would call on all Israeli parties to refrain from inflammatory language and demonstrate tolerance and respect for minority groups.”

Netanyahu himself is not welcomed by many European leaders because he fosters relationships with right-wingers such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. He has also engineered a coalition of central European allies, creating a wedge within the European Union.

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Israeli journalist Emanuel Fabian pointed out to the Times of Israel that the Americans and Europeans have their own far-right groups and parties and should deal with their own problems related to the far-right and fanatical politicians. He described Israel’s democratic choice of far-right politicians as a natural phenomenon that could happen in any society, so it should not be regarded as a concern.

It is hard to believe that US and Western concerns about the far right being part of the Israeli government are serious; actions speak louder than words, not least in international politics. The same US which claims that Ben-Gvir’s participation in the Israeli government might undermine democratic values, has just removed the ultranationalist group, Kach, wherein his extremism was nurtured, from its list of designated “foreign terrorist organisations”.

“Our review of these five FTO designations determined that, as defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the five organisations are no longer engaged in terrorism or terrorist activity and do not retain the capability and intent to do so,” announced the State Department. This is a clear indication that public opposition to the likes of Itamar Ben-Gvir is a façade.

Nevertheless, what are Ben Gvir and Smotrich likely to do if and when they become ministers? For a start, they will probably push for the formal annexation of the occupied Palestinian West Bank; Palestinians will be expelled from their homes in the West Bank and Israel; and many Palestinians will be killed. The US will do and say nothing of note in response to such illegal actions.

Furthermore, Matthew Axelrod, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, has told the American Jewish Committee that those complying with the Arab League’s boycott of the Israeli occupation will be obliged to acknowledge their “wrongdoing” and be subject to penalties if their foreign subsidiaries comply with the boycott. The Americans are basically trying to ensure that the Israelis can continue to kill Palestinians with impunity, because nobody will be willing to make any noise about it out of fear of US sanctions. This is “democracy”, US style.

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French President Emanuel Macron, meanwhile, called and congratulated Netanyahu, and pledged to strengthen the “already strong” mutual relations between Paris and Tel Aviv. US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said that President Joe Biden had not called yet due to the midterm election campaign and his busy schedule, not because of plans to isolate Israel should its government include far-right politicians.

The British government has never dared to apologise for giving the land of Palestine to the Zionists, so it is unlikely that it will ever dare to isolate Ben-Gvir or Smotrich, even if they become prime minister of the occupation state.

“It is Israel’s decision [to shift to the far-right],” said Asger Christensen, a Danish member of the European Parliament who was touring Israel during the election. “We will cooperate with that decision.” Even if Israel has a far- right government, he added, “We want to expand cooperation with Israel in Europe.”

Lazar Berman of the Times of Israel was correct to say that, “Many leaders, especially in Europe and the US, like to speak about the importance of values on the world stage, but ultimately national interests determine relations between states.”

It is clear that those so-called democratic nations care neither for democracy nor democratic values; only their interests. Biden expressed the mindset behind his country’s unconditional support of the occupation state when he said, “If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one.”

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