Israeli Prime Minister-elect Benjamin Netanyahu is not going to allow his coalition allies from the far-right Religious Zionism party, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, to embarrass him or outdo him in terms of showing loyalty to the expansionist colonial project.
He will not let them appear to be more Israeli than him in terms of expansion, settlement growth and embedding the occupation even further; or in stating that the Palestinian West Bank is neither Palestinian, Arab nor occupied, but is "Judea and Samaria" and part of the Zionist colonial state of Israel, which has a united Jerusalem as its colonial capital. Moreover, he will not let them go ahead with any extreme action that suggests that they are doing something that he does not want.
Netanyahu is the "king of Israel" in the eyes of the international community; he has been prime minister longer than any of his predecessors. He wants to be able to carry out his duties without being embarrassed by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, or anyone else, in front of the Americans, Europeans and the Arab states which have normalised relations with the occupation state through the Abraham Accords. He has to be top dog, not them.
He has delayed the formation of his new government to strengthen his negotiating position with the far-right religious parties by sending messages to outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid with 24 seats in Parliament; Benny Gantz, the leader of the State Camp list, which has 14 MKs in parliament; and to Avigdor Lieberman, the head of Yisrael Beiteinu, with six seats in the Knesset. The purpose is to let the Religious Zionism leaders know that he has alternatives if they do not respond appropriately to the common interests that brings them together. What is certain, though, is that he is not serious about allying his Likud party with any others except those who were with him on the far-right during the election campaign, including Religious Zionism, Shas headed by Aryeh Deri, and United Torah Judaism headed by Moshe Gafni. They are his extremist allies.
Netanyahu himself is the epitome of extremism. Under his watch illegal settlements have been built and expanded; Palestinian land has been seized; and ethnic cleansing has continued with expulsions, killings, hunger and instability. The structure of the Palestinian Authority has been weakened gradually so that it loses its value, influence and cohesion, and reinforces the political split within Palestinian society.
It was Netanyahu who told the Likud conference when he was criticised for allowing money to be sent to Hamas that, "Whoever is against a Palestinian state should be in favour of transferring funds to Gaza, because maintaining a separation between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza helps prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state." He would like nothing more than to see a Palestinian Authority in Ramallah that is a prisoner of security coordination, and another de facto authority in Gaza, a prisoner of the security truce.
It doesn't really matter who leads the colonial state: Netanyahu, Lapid, Gantz, Smotrich or even Ben-Gvir; they are all the same at the end of the day. There is only one way to respond to them: the Palestinian struggle, for which there is no alternative.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 16 November 2022
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.