Israel and the religionization of politics, half of the new Jewish army soldiers are extremists 

Story Highlights
  • The scene of the Israeli parties: unified ideas for many characters
  • Religionization of politics
  • Privatization of occupation
  • Israel's International Relations: Liberalization and Normalization
  • The decline of the American factor

Politics and Society Institute held a discussion session on the Israeli scene, its complexities, and how it can be read in a Jordanian or Palestinian context, presented by Dr. Ahmed Jamil Azm, Professor of Political Science at Qatar University, in addition to several experts, academics and writers in this field.

      The session, moderated by Rami Adwan, resident director of the Netherlands Institute for Democracy, discussed the Israeli electoral and political intellectual scene, the transformations of the Israeli economy and the economy of the occupation, in addition to what Dr. Azm called the “achievement of NGOisation” Israeli politics and public diplomacy and the religionization of the Israeli political scene, the international and regional systems, normalization and American withdrawal, political parties and political fragmentation in the Israeli scene.

The scene of the Israeli parties: unified ideas for many characters

     Dr. Azm clarified that the 25th election scheduled for next November is the fifth in the last 3 years, and this is evidence of the acute division in the political scene, but the paradox lies in the almost disappearance of intellectual and political differences between the Israeli parties, thus the political difference between the parties is limited, related to the grassroots of each candidate rather than the political and even economic programs.

     Azm explained that the parties participating in parliament, especially in the government, seem to be personal rather than ideological, Netanyahu, who relieved the Likud and support the party to regain power, actually exclude anyone who is not subjected to his leadership, thus the significant number of the leaders of the “opposition” parties are originally from the Likud or those who worked with it. Examples include Avigdor Lieberman, head of Yisrael Beitenu, Netanyahu’s assistant in 1988, and the director of the Likud Party in the (1993-1996) period. As well as, Naftali Bennett, the millionaire who raises the slogan of settlement and religious Zionism, worked as the manager of Netanyahu’s team from 2006-2008, and ran his campaign in the party’s 2007 internal elections, his main controversy with Netanyahu, is the issue of the settlement building freeze under US President Barack Obama. Bennett headed the Jewish Home party, and now leads the Yamina party, and the most prominent member of this Yamina party is Ayelet Shaked, the former Minister of Justice, who was Netanyahu’s chief of staff, in the (2006-2008) period, who is close to Netanyahu’s wife.

     Azm presented another example of members from outside the Likud, originally from Netanyahu’s staff, Zvi Hauser, who was previously assigned by Netanyahu with tasks in the telecommunications sector, which he usually seeks to control, and then appointed as the Secretary-General of the Government, in the (2009-2013) period, then he became a member of the Land Path Party (Derech Eretz), In addition to Gideon Sa’ar, a former contender for the leadership of the Likud party, a deputy who left the Likud at the end of 2020 and won 6 seats, became deputy prime minister, and is currently the Minister of Justice.

      Religionization of politics

     DR.Azm explained that the downfall of the current government came with the resignation of Edith Suleiman, a member of the Knesset, which was under a strict religious heading, as she declared, “I can’t stand it anymore (..) I cannot continue to harm the Jewish identity of the State of Israel.”

     Israeli newspapers reported that Suleiman was referring to a dispute with Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, over allowing bread to be brought into hospitals during the Jewish Passover holiday since Jewish law forbids the use of leaven, which is added to bread, during the week-long Passover, which coincides with Fatwas (religious opinions) issued by the Jewish clergy not to obey politicians in some cases.

     Azm pointed out that at the level of the army, the percentage of religious officers increased from 2.5 percent in the 1990s to half the number of new officers today. He clarified that the increase also applies to the percentage of religious Jews (Haredi), whose number in Israeli society is expected to double in the coming years, which reaches today.

      Privatization of occupation

      Dr. Azm spoke about assigning many of the occupation’s tasks to the Israeli private sector, and the impact of this on creating economic forces that prefer the continuation of the occupation, as there is a huge control structure carried out by private sector companies, starting from streets and cameras, to bridges and border crossings, to the “canteen” of prisons who sells goods and needs to prisoners, also Azm pointed out that there are projects failed to employ Palestinian university graduates in settlements as cheap labor to serve the Israeli economy.

       Azm affirmed the Israeli occupation has transformed from a colonial settlement occupation to an occupation that combines this with “exploitative settlement,” as there is an Israeli interest in continuing the occupation as a source of cheap labor and a market for Israeli goods.

    On the role of Israeli NGOs, which are controlled by former Israeli security officers, Dr. Azm explained that it operates as part of the machine of attacking the Palestinians and the legitimacy of their struggle and is strongly funded, starting with prisoners, to art, to literature, locally and internationally.

Israel’s International Relations: Liberalization and Normalization

       Azm pointed out how Israel’s international relations with countries such as China have developed, which has become the largest investor in the Israeli market today, as well as the development of relations with India, and trade exchange has multiplied 25 times, which is considered one of the points of contention with the American administration, especially concerning China.

     On the normalization projects with Arab countries, Azm stressed that it was a reason for the decline of the Arab political role in the Palestinian issue, also Azm clarified that the geopolitical transformation resulting from normalization negatively affect the Jordanian role, and led to the decline of the “buffer zone,” notion as well as the decline of the meaning of the term “difficult number” in the Palestinian context.

  In terms of the Israeli influence on social media, Azm pointed out that this penetration reached the presence of former employees of the Israeli administration in the joints of managing social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter. 

      The decline of the American factor

      Azm believes that the US role in the region will decline, which is caused by the United States’ unwillingness to play an active role in oil security and the region, and to shift its priorities to the east, especially China, and consequently, the unwillingness of the countries in the region to provide what Washington wants regarding Russia and China, and stressed that Russia is not qualified to play a greater role in the region.

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