In the next few days, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may announce his new coalition government. It is expected to be the most extreme government in Israeli history, after the electorate decided to turn to the far-right and elect Kahane 2.0 in the form of Itamar Ben-Gvir and place the Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich in control of the occupied West Bank, which he calls Biblical Judea and Samaria. Meanwhile, far-right Avi Maoz is stuck in the pre-medieval age and trying to reform Judaism to his way of thinking, as legislators change the law to allow corrupt politicians like Aryeh Deri to take ministerial positions.
What do the Palestinians want more than this? Their political opponent is back with a government that looks like a Jewish Daesh in its medievalism. It is as far from modernity as one can imagine. What’s more, Netanyahu is doing this in full view of the world. How can he claim that Israel promotes values shared with the West when his ministers and coalition partners are so backward-looking?
This places his allies in an awkward situation from which they cannot escape because the far-right ideology and religious fanaticism that now props up the Israeli leader is incompatible with the West. Or so it is claimed, but let’s see what happens when apartheid Israel, with great irony, recreates a racist environment the like of which destroyed Europe and accelerated support for the Zionist state in the 1940s.
As the Yair Lapid government gets ready to step down, those in the White House and other Western governments who cossetted him out of fear of Netanyahu’s return, no matter the price paid by the Palestinians, will get ready to be embarrassed by Israel and its prime minister yet again. The conscience of the world has been broken, and now that the government that presented a relatively civilised face for Israel is stepping aside, the international community is confronted with an openly and proudly racist government in the occupation state which doesn’t even try to keep a fig leaf of decency in place.
The world feared that the Bennett-Lapid government would fall, and so it was allowed to get away with murder — literally — in the effort to keep Netanyahu at bay. This “moderate” government has been responsible for the most killings of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank in recent years and has continued to steal even more Palestinian land for illegal settlements. It has disregarded the Palestinians and ignored their leaders. The West permitted all of this in order to stop Netanyahu. That strategy has failed, despite the rhetoric about the “two-state solution” even while Palestinians were being slaughtered on a daily basis. The secular coalition included an Arab Party to provide some cover and was in harmony with Western secularism. Now Netanyahu is back to test the international community and see if it really cares that the Palestinians are the only ones paying the awful price for allowing the Zionist state to act with impunity.
No matter what claims were made about being right, left or centre, all Israeli governments have denied the Palestinians their legitimate rights, with the full support of the West. Western prevarication has bought Israel time to establish facts on the ground while tightening the grip of the military occupation under which Palestinians live. This has been ongoing for decades, with bribes paid in the shape of “aid” to keep people sweet and happy to continue without a political solution on the horizon.
The new Netanyahu government includes far-right extremists who have already expressed their intention to “solve” the problem of the Palestinians. This should be seen as positive by the people of occupied Palestine. The stalemate that has affected them ever since Camp David more than twenty years ago has done enough damage to the national project, and strained internal relations to the point of disintegration. This gave the impression to the world that the Palestinians were happy to continue in this way forever.
Smotrich threatens to annex the West Bank and shut down the Palestinian Authority. If he manages to do that, then he is going back to square one, because the PA was always intended to be temporary, not a permanent institution relying on international handouts to survive. The Palestinians will once again be seen more clearly as a people under occupation and fighting — legitimately — for self-determination, without taking the cost of that occupation off the apartheid state by having their own “authority” funded by international donors. That complex and unworkable situation will be no more.
Israel will not establish a single state for all people between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea, as that would contradict the Zionist objective of a “pure” Jewish state with its racist value system. However, the “two-state solution” requires the PA to be its cornerstone, without which it isn’t going to happen. So what happens next? An openly, brazen apartheid government, that’s what. It’s already in place, but the last vestige of cover and decency will be removed exposing apartheid’s raw cruelty for all to see. If Smotrich succeeds, he will have done the Palestinians a favour.
The Netanyahu government will give the Palestinians more room to manoeuvre at the international level. Which genuine democrat will dare to defend such an openly racist state as apartheid Israel when all of the fig leaves have been swept away? Netanyahu will not be able to rein-in the extremists because he is one of them, albeit the weakest. Europe has already suspended the Europol agreement for the exchange of information and the White House is counting the days. American Jews are in a quandary and may withdraw their political and financial support from such an extreme government in Israel.
Unwittingly, therefore, Netanyahu and his extreme far-right government will restore the importance of the Palestinian cause, and this is essential. What is most important, though, is for us to determine how the Palestinians will benefit from such an opponent. That is the crucial question.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Ayyam on 18 December 2022
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.