By RICHARD CAPRON
The recent parliamentary elections in Israel have resurrected Binyamin Netanyahu from the ashes of corruption charges to yet another term as prime minister. However, this time the coalition that has returned him to power is a new combination of right-wing extremists and ultra-orthodox factions. In the past, Bibi had been able to cobble together a center-right coalition to gain a parliamentary majority for Likud. This time around, his center-right allies have abandoned him, having little stomach for becoming a party to his corruption and refusing to join with the new coterie of extremists who have joined his team.
The new team PM Netanyahu has welcomed to power includes the Religious Zionist party, led by Bezalel Smotrich, and the Otzma Yehudit faction, led by Itamar Ben-Gvir. The latter formation, which translates into English as “Jewish Power,” is comprised of the followers of the late Meir Kahane and his Kach party. Though Kach was banned in 1994 when Kahane was assassinated, its extreme right-wing and anti-Arab views continue to be embraced by Ben-Gvir and the Otzma Yehudit membership.
It is worth noting that Baruch Goldstein was member of Kach. He was the perpetrator of the 1994 massacre of Palestinians at prayer in the Ibrahim Mosque in Hebron, leaving 29 dead and 125 wounded. Ben-Gvir regards Goldstein as a hero of Israel and embraces his racism. For many years, Goldstein’s photograph hung in Ben-Gvir’s home. Moreover, in 2007, Ben-Gvir was convicted by an Israeli court for incitement to racism and supporting a Jewish terrorist organization.
As for Smotrich, he has pushed for Israeli annexation of the West Bank, a clear violation of international law. Staunch advocates of building illegal settlements on Palestinian land, both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir seem bent on ethnic cleansing of Arabs, not only by stealing land, but by stripping Israeli Arabs of citizenship. Those deemed “disloyal” to the Jewish state could no longer claim the rights in Israel that are accorded to Jewish citizens.
Both men (and their followers) are also intent on weakening the judiciary, subordinating much of its independence and power to the Knesset, where the ruling coalition can assert control. This is music to Bibi’s ears, as he works to make his corruption charges go away. Moreover, the debt Likud owes to the Religious Zionists and Otzma Yehudit seems certain to lead to significant cabinet appointments for Smotrich and Ben-Gvir.
Another component of the looming repression of the new government is an all-out attack on LGBTQ rights in Israel. A possible first step might be the lifting of a ban on conversion “therapy.” Such “therapy” has been emphatically rejected by medical and clinical experts as based on pseudoscience and as being potentially harmful to children and youth. Rights groups are also concerned about a ban on pride parades. Even though Bibi has stated his intent to uphold LGTBQ rights, he will face serious pressure from extremist groups such as the Noam faction of Religious Zionists, seeking to subvert whatever intentions he expresses. A weakened judiciary may portend success in the effort.
None of these signs are good for Palestinians, both inside Israel and in the Occupied Territories. Life was never very easy under a Likud government with Netanyahu at the helm. However, this is the most extreme right-wing government since the founding of Israel.
Many Palestinians fear a new Nakba is in the making. There are many questions to be raised in the days ahead. Will the United States continue its unwavering support for the Zionist state? And will it persevere in providing cover for Israel’s human rights abuses? Will the Palestinians stage another Intifada—and will it lead to a global Intifada, as some have predicted?
Whatever the course of events presents in the future, the role of socialists is clear: solidarity with the oppressed, resistance to the drift into a fascist-like government, and an end to racist supremacy!
Photo: Binjamin Netanyahu (EFE)