Israeli Elections: A Second Zionist State in Palestine and the Legitimization of Corruption?
The world saw Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir, in December 2021, grabbing his pistol, even though he was surrounded by Israeli soldiers, and pointing it at the Palestinians of Sheikh Jarrah. This scene embodies his program on which he ran in the recent Israeli elections, and now he and those who share the same program will most likely be part of the upcoming government, and the second force in it. They explicitly seek to establish new security forces, separate from the Israeli army, new ministries, different institutions, and different judicial systems, whose mission is to target the Arab presence in Palestine, from the sea to the river, and they want to legalize shooting at them physically and politically, without hesitation, without accountability, and minimizing Court powers to pursue politicians.
It is not enough to say that the current government in Israel is the most right-wing in its history in order to understand the political scene and its expected repercussions. Rather, the main variable is understanding what the electoral bases are for the political forces that entered the Israeli Knesset and are candidates to lead the Israeli government and politics.
It is not enough to say that the current government in Israel is the most right-wing in its history in order to understand the political scene and its expected repercussions. Rather, the main variable is understanding what the electoral bases are for the political forces that entered the Israeli Knesset and are candidates to lead the Israeli government and politics. Perhaps the most accurate classification of the right and centre in Israel is the talk about the government of settlers and religious Zionism, and a government that believes or does not mind making a major change in the structure of the state in favour of creating parallel entities that abolish the institutions of the deep state.
According to the elections that took place on November 1, the head of the Likud Party, Benjamin Netanyahu, returned to the forefront of the Israeli political scene, with his Likud party winning 32 of the 120 seats in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset), and he was forced to leave power, in favour of a government coalition. He led Israel starting in June 2021, with the participation of eight parties that united with the primary goal of preventing Netanyahu from continuing to lead the government, which he continued to lead for 12 years (2009-2021). However, what was new in the election results was the rise of a bloc called “religious Zionism” to be the third political force in Israel, and the candidate to be the second largest force in a government led by Netanyahu, as it won 14 seats, after winning the votes of more than 516,000 voters. This bloc soon split into three parties (according to a prior agreement between them), the first of which is called “Religious Zionism” with seven seats led by Bazalel Smotrich (42 years old), and the Jewish Power, with six seats led by Itamar Ben Gvir (46 years old), and Noam (1 seat). One), and this division means, among other things, that negotiations to enter the government will take place with each party separately. It appears that Netanyahu could form a right-wing government with a majority of up to 64 seats.
|Right-wing/national Zionist (will lead the government)||32||Likud|
|Centre-Left economically and socially||24||Yesh Atid|
|Right-wing/religious Zionist (candidate to enter government)||14||Religious Zionism|
|Centre||12||National Unity Party|
|Religious fundamentalism/Mizrahi Jews (candidate to enter government)||11||Shas|
|Religious fundamentalism/Ashkenazi Jews (candidate to enter government)||7||Jewish Torah Union|
|Right-wing/Russian Jews||6||Yisrael Beiteinu|
|An Arab accepts coexistence with the Zionist project||5||United Arab List|
|Zionist Left||4||Israeli Labour Party|
The current government headed by Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz, and Naftali Bennett has adopted policies that reject negotiations with the Palestinians and the political process and supports the settlers. However, it differs relatively from the governments of Netanyahu and his right, in that it relies to a large extent on an Israeli electoral base inside the territories occupied in 1948, which is an extension of For Israeli Zionist policies, it believes to some extent in building the Zionist state on secular national foundations, traditionally, less populist and less factional, meaning that it does not represent a specific religious or sub-ethnic current within Israeli society, and they try to present themselves as “statesmen” and not, Specifically Lapid and Gantz, a direct part of the settlement movement. However, the figures of the next government differ in many matters, including with regard to internal Israeli political life.
While Netanyahu has been on trial for corruption for years, Aryeh Deri, head of the Shas movement that won the elections, has been convicted of crimes twice previously; He was imprisoned for 22 months in 2000 on charges of bribery during his work as Minister of the Interior, and he was tried again this year (2022) on the background of tax violations. He resigned from the Knesset and paid a fine of $56,000 with a suspended prison sentence, to settle the issue. Now, there are attempts by Deri and Netanyahu to find a legal way out that would allow his appointment as a minister, as his party, led by his leadership, won 11 seats, and there is an opinion that the suspended prison sentence makes his appointment illegal, and he said in press interviews: The decisions of the Supreme Court of Justice should not be obeyed, and indicated that he is with Issuance of a new law cancelling the legal provision that prevents him from the ministry. He says that the Jewishness of the (religious) state is more important than the law and more important than democracy.
As for Itamar Ben Gvir, the candidate to be among the most prominent government ministers, he was prevented in the past from serving in the Israeli army, because he was considered more extremist than accepting it, and he was convicted several times on charges of racial incitement and membership in a terrorist group.
Netanyahu has a record of trying to interfere in the appointment of prosecutors and judges. As for Smotrich and Ben Gvir, they have a specific electoral program for the judiciary. According to the “Times or Israel” newspaper, one of the results of the amendments proposed by Smotrich is the rejection and dismissal of the cases in which Netanyahu is being tried, and Smotrich wants Revoking the powers of the Israeli Supreme Court of Justice to monitor the extent to which laws agree with the Basic Law (the constitution), that is, he wants to give the Knesset the powers of any legislation, even if it is unconstitutional. In 2015, he tried to propose a law saying that the Torah is the source of Sharia and laws, and that any law must be examined in terms of its agreement with the Torah, and that the Torah is above the law. Smotrich and Ben Gvir want the government to appoint judges, including judges of the Supreme Court of Justice, which may try ministers and deputies. They also want to prevent the courts from scrutinizing the behaviour of politicians (in practice, this means expanding the door to offering interests to companies, businessmen, and political forces in exchange for funds and political and media services, which are usually means corruption charges).
Settlement expansion, the abolition of the Palestinian Authority and the “right to kill”
Increasing settler violence in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque, and calls for a complete rejection of Jordanian guardianship in Al-Aqsa
With the necessity to remember the similarity of the positions of Israeli governments on issues such as the political solution, the position on the Palestinian state, and the rights of refugees, there are limited, but influential differences on the ground. At the time of the Netanyahu governments, the pressure on the Palestinian presence increases. For example, regarding the issue of granting the right to “unification”, i.e., the existence of a mechanism that allows husbands and wives (who are married to persons holding a Palestinian identity that allows them to reside in Palestine), the Netanyahu governments did not make any approvals for that. In the government of (Lapid, Bennett, Gantz), the government agreed to settle the situation of thousands who live in Palestine without this identity, and granted them, even if it was not given to people residing abroad, except in a few cases that do not exceed the fingers of the hand, and worked to give work permits to Palestinians in Gaza Strip to operate within the Green Line.
A government led by (Netanyahu, Ben Gvir, Smotrich) has another program, besides the settlement expansion and legal recognition of dozens of new settlement outposts (that is, what may be between a caravan or a tent, or any other construction carried out by settlers), and converting them into recognized villages and cities and providing services and support. To her, these forces want to cancel any “independence-like” symbol of the Palestinian Authority. Ben Gvir also particularly wants to grant legal immunity from prosecution of soldiers who shoot Palestinians, regardless of the circumstances. According to reports, including those published by the New York Times, Ben Gvir used to hang in his home until recently a picture of Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Palestinians while they were performing dawn prayers. In 1994, in the Ibrahimi Mosque. There were video clips of Israeli soldiers in Hebron threatening the Palestinians, that the next stage and “the coming of Ben Gvir will change everything and end it.”
Both Ben Gvir and Smotrich live in settlements in the West Bank. Indeed, Smotrich was, until at least a short time ago, residing in a settlement considered illegal under Israeli law itself, and their electoral base is primarily settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, Jordan and normalization
Ben Gvir is one of the most enthusiastic about the settlers’ continuous incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque, and it is – as previously mentioned – part of the settlement offensive in Sheikh Jarrah and all of Jerusalem. The increase in settler violence in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque and calls for a complete rejection of the Jordanian guardianship of Al-Aqsa. However, foreign policy in general may remain closer to the Likud party, which wants to proceed with plans for normalization with the Arabs, and reduce the international reaction to the new government, with the aim of proceeding with settlement plans and blocking the road to any Palestinian state with the least possible external opposition.
The Ben Gvir and Smotrich parties believe in the policy of deportation of Palestinians from Palestine and are ready to do everything possible to facilitate this, especially in terms of restrictions on daily life. All of this is a recipe for a new wave of Palestinian-Israeli confrontation with all its regional repercussions.