electronic intifada

Israel’s government: Same ax, new executioner
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Jun 14 2021

I appeared on satellite channel TRT World to talk about the new Israeli government headed by Naftali Bennett that was sworn in after narrowly winning a vote of confidence on Sunday night. For Palestinians, I explained, the new leadership is merely like changing the executioner. It may matter for the spectators, but for the person whose head is on the chopping block, it makes absolutely no difference whose hands are holding the ax. I highlighted delusional statements from many in the so-called international community marketing the new government as an opportunity to work for “peace” and a “two-state solution.” US Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, asserted:

We are hopeful that we can now begin serious negotiations for a two-state solution.

EU envoy Sven Koopmans also looked forward to “working with the new government of Israel towards lasting peace and security.” The leaders of the US, Britain, Canada and Germany also gave Bennett a warm welcome. As I told TRT World, Bennett has over the last decade attacked his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu from the right. While Netanyahu was willing to publicly pretend to support a Palestinian state, albeit under impossible conditions, Bennett has never even been willing to do that. Bennett has pushed for formal apartheid, in which Israel annexes most of the occupied West Bank without giving the vast majority of Palestinians any rights. As a young officer, Bennett was involved in Israel’s Apr 1996 massacre of more than 100 refugees sheltering at a UN base in southern Lebanon. He reportedly bragged later:

I have killed lots of Arabs in my life, and there is no problem with that.

Of course, Bennett is not alone in the government. As I recently wrote, the new cabinet contains a collection of other war criminals and genocidal fanatics. The new interior minister is Ayelet Shaked, a senior member of Bennett’s Yamina party. In 2014, she notoriously promoted a call for genocide of the Palestinian people, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.” Staying on as defense minister is Benny Gantz. He has now led two major massacres in Gaza, the one in 2014, when he was Israeli army chief of staff, and the one last month, a record of slaughter and destruction he brags about. Meet the new executioners, same as the old.

A placeholder government going nowhere
Omar Karmi, Electronic Intifada, Jun 14 2021

Israel’s new coalition has brought about the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s long tenure, who after 12 long years is finally a former prime minister. And it has been particularly amusing to see Netanyahu go full Donald Trump. Allegations of election fraud caused by a conspiracy of left-wing terror supporters, dog whistles to his base and a final, angry, paranoid farewell speech linking the Jewish holocaust with US policy on Iran. It’s all there. That, however, is the only positive thing about a new coalition that initially will be led by Naftali Bennett, a man who brags about “killing Arabs,” wants to annex large swathes of the West Bank and supports neither sovereignty for Palestinians nor equal rights. Bennett said in 2020:

I strongly oppose the giving of even one inch of land to the Arabs.

Bennett is one component of a loose coalition that runs from the United Arab List and Meretz through Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid to Bennett’s Yamina and Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu. It’s an eight-party group that holds a single-seat majority in Israel’s parliament and indeed was confirmed by just 60-59 votes with one abstention in Israel’s parliament yesterday. It is a constellation of parties that agrees on only one thing, ousting Netanyahu. And it will almost certainly fall at the first or second significant hurdle. That first hurdle might come sooner rather than later. On Tuesday, Israeli Jewish nationalists are supposed to be marching through Jerusalem to loudly proclaim their exclusive ownership over the city.

It is the kind of provocation that provided the spark for last month’s escalation and led to an Israeli assault on Gaza and the deaths of at least 67 children. Final approval for the route is expected Monday, after Israeli police on Friday gave the go-ahead as long as marchers do not walk through the Old City. Hamas has already warned that the march could imperil a “fragile ceasefire.” A statement from its military wing, the Qassam Brigades, called on Jerusalem’s youth to confront the marchers and on the “military wings of Palestinian factions to be on high alert and to defend Jerusalem if needed.” A full escalation might not happen. But it could. And while there may be a new prime minister, but the defense minister is the same: Benny Gantz, no longer PM in waiting. The Israeli military will act with the brutality it always does.

Whether the United Arab List can stay in a coalition killing children in Gaza remains to be seen. Will Mansour Abbas, the first leader of a party representing the Palestinian minority to become a part of an Israeli government, be able to prevent that from happening? No. So when it comes to policy on Palestinians in occupied territory there will be no significant change. There will be no change in the international approach either, judging by the many welcoming statements from around the world. There is audible relief in some of these statements. It’s almost as if Netanyahu embarrassed all these fine, upstanding Western politicians by not only disregarding mild European or US protest and hand-wringing, but repeatedly lecturing Europeans and Americans on how to behave better.

International politicians may feel more comfortable around Bennett, but he offers no similar solace to Palestinians anywhere. While attempts to ensure a bigger budget for Israel’s Palestinian population are certainly welcome, there have been no similar proposals to reform a discriminatory legal system that lies at the root of Palestinian discontent inside the country. On the occupied territory, Bennett is as hardline if not more so than Netanyahu, and he was a fervent advocate of unilaterally annexing swathes of West Bank land as implicitly sanctioned by Trump’s Ultimate Deal. He is of course constricted by a coalition which will almost certainly have to avoid any tough decisions on the Palestinian issue if it is to survive. But that cuts both ways, and to those politicians and “Middle East experts” who believe the time is ripe to restart some kind of dead-end peace process, the answer is clearly: not going to happen. For as long as Western countries continue to hold their hands over Israel, protecting it from sanctions and any other consequences of its violent discrmination against and oppression of the land’s Indigenous population, no Israeli government is going to take any significant strides anywhere. Least of all this one, which is simply a placeholder.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.