Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gained the approval of the Knesset majority (63 votes) for his government, the 37th in Israel and the sixth headed by a leader of the right-wing Likud Party. This new government can be described as the most right-wing and most extreme in the history of Israel. It, actually, includes MPs formerly convicted of criminal charges.
Netanyahu announced the action plan of his new government, which includes settlement expansion in the Palestinian territories, thwarting Iran’s attempts to develop its nuclear weapons, and reshaping Israel’s foreign policy in line with international changes that may lead to a multipolar world.
The problem of settlement expansion remains one of the most serious issues that impede the establishment of a Palestinian state so far. This is not new, of course, but under the current government, which is the most extremist in the history of the Israeli government, the situation is completely different this time. All indications are that the worst is to come.
Two days before the government was sworn in, the Knesset passed the so-called “Deri Law,” named after the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, Aryeh Deri. The amendment allows him to be appointed as a minister in the government, despite his conviction of financial crimes and a suspended prison sentence. It is expected that Deri and Smotrich, of the Religious Zionist Party, will rotate in the position of Minister of Finance.
Before the government’s formation, the Knesset approved another controversial legal amendment, called the “Ben Gvir Law”, after the name of the appointed Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir. This is where the amendment will give him expanded powers over the police in Israel. Ben Gvir, known for his far-right views, has in the past been convicted of inciting racism and supporting the Kach movement, which is banned in the United States and Israel.
Also, during the election campaign, Ben Gvir promised to address police shortages in areas with a high crime rate, and to be “tough on terrorism.” He said he wanted to “relax” shooting restrictions to enable police officers to shoot stone-throwing protesters and to strengthen security forces’ legal immunity. Another point of concern is the participation of the far-right “Noam” party, which puts Arabs and gays in one basket.
For the picture to appear clearer, the parties participating in the government signed a document that includes the foundations on which the government coalition was built, and states that the Jewish people have a pure and indisputable right to the land of Israel and that the government will work to develop settlements and promote Jewish immigration to Israel. Concerning occupied Jerusalem, the document emphasized work to strengthen the status of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to preserve the status quo in everything related to sanctities. On the Palestinian issue, the declaration of the participating parties in the government said that the latter would be keen to support the security forces and support the soldiers in the war on “terrorism”. The declaration also authorized the security service (the Shin Bet) to intervene in combating violence and crime in Arab society and to monitor social media networks under the pretext of preventing incitement and rioting.
The Netanyahu government’s extremist agenda will represent a dangerous escalation and a violation of international legitimacy resolutions, especially concerning the two-state solution. Over the past decades, Israel has expanded settlement construction in the West Bank under all of its governments. The new coalition could push further for settlement expansion and the legalization of smaller outposts. The settlements are considered illegal in accordance with the international law, which Israel objects to and rejects, but what is certain is that the political vision is not yet clear, and it may be foggier for the Palestinian cause in light of the continuing conflict and internal division between the Fatah and Hamas movements.
Dr. Hatem Sadek – Professor at Helwan University