To say that the new Israeli hardcore right-wing, ultra-religious, chauvinist government desires to destroy Israel’s democracy and turn it into a reactionary, backward country is not hyperbole. Within days of being appointed, Israel’s new National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, along with heavily armed guards, entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in East Jerusalem, asserting a false claim to the Muslim Noble Sanctuary. This potentially deadly provocation against Muslims and Palestinians is a taste of things to come.
Moving ever rightward. Israel’s most recent parliamentary election was held on Nov. 1, 2022. It was the fifth legislative election in four years. Left-wing, center, and Arab parties suffered losses, and far-right parties gained seats. A turn by Israelis to the right, and to fundamentalist religion, has been growing exponentially. Recent surveys found that 80% of Israelis call themselves religious, whereas 30 years ago only 25% did. During this same time, conservative and religious parties became openly racist against Arabs, extremely ultra-right, and anti-democratic.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, Likud, received the largest number of votes in November. Likud allied with hard-right religious parties and obtained a majority of 64 of the 120 seats in the parliament — Knesset. Netanyahu was named Prime Minister.
Most of the members in this coalition government live in illegal settlements in the West Bank. The majority have criminal records — for corruption, money laundering, and racist violence against Palestinians. Netanyahu himself has a trial for fraud, breach of trust, and bribes still proceeding. He has only one goal: to create a law that will keep him out of prison. The aims of his partners are to take total control over the life of the Palestinians in the occupied territories and Israeli Arabs, and to convert Israel into a religious state, much like Iran and Afghanistan. This new government plans to do both.
Plans to overhaul the judicial system include having politicians, rather than a committee of experienced judges, make all judicial appointments, including those for the Supreme Court. In addition, the Knesset will have the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority.
The appointments of new ministers will make it easy to activate an ultra-orthodox and extreme chauvinist agenda. Most dangerous among the crop is Itamar Ben-Gvir, a leader of violent incidents of settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. He has been indicted over 50 times for hate speech against Arabs and support of a Jewish terrorist organization. Netanyahu immediately placed Ben-Gvir in the new post of Minister of the National Security Office.
Ben-Gvir plans to terrorize Israeli Arabs, expel all Palestinians from the West Bank, and annex it under the settlers’ rule. A celebrity criminal and renowned racist, he has complete control of the police and he is now also responsible for the Border Police in the West Bank — a role previously under the army — which carries out arrests and deals with public disturbances. This gives de facto permission to settlers to increase their violence against Palestinians.
Avi Maoz, an extreme homophobe who promised to cancel the Jerusalem Pride Parade, is in line to head a host of educational programs on dozens of subjects, such as civics, Jewish identity, human rights, and gender equality. He will also be responsible for government collaboration with civil society groups. Most outrageous is the finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who has said he will base his policies on the Old Testament, which the settlers use to “prove” the West Bank belongs to Israel.
Ultra-religious schools — that are private and don’t teach core subjects such as math and science — are slated to receive twice the funding per student of secular, public schools. And claims of “religious reasons” will allow businesses to discriminate against women and LGBTQ+ people, and will allow doctors to refuse treatments.
New policies are afoot to reduce women to second-class citizens. Public spaces would be separated by gender, with women forced to sit in the back of the bus and at the upper gallery in theaters. Women will undoubtedly be harassed for not dressing “modestly enough,” and no image of a woman will be allowed in public.
The pushback. The Palestinian people, in response to increased Israeli aggression, have ramped up self-defense efforts (see article here). In the United States, Jewish people have spoken out strongly against this new government. Hundreds of U.S. rabbis signed an open letter to stop far-right Israeli lawmakers from delivering community speeches. And the Jewish Federations of North America, which is the world’s biggest vehicle for donations to Israel, recommended that donations be made to Israeli organizations but not to the government.
Meanwhile, Israelis have begun mass demonstrations against the new order. On Jan. 7, 20,000 protested in Tel Aviv. Many organizations, including the army, have sounded the alarm. Given the growing protests, the government could be slowed down or stopped from implementing some of its most backward plans. Only time will tell.
The author is an Israeli American and staunch supporter of Palestine. Send comments to FSnews@socialism.com.