At the time of writing, there is still uncertainty about a new government being formed in Israel. Current and perhaps soon-to-be former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is panicking. The Biden administration has told the Israeli defence minister to make sure that he doesn’t launch missile strikes against Iran’s nuclear programme in an effort to block a Lapid-Bennett coalition government. Israeli media, meanwhile, do not rule out the possibility of massacres in Jerusalem or elsewhere before the country’s longest-serving prime minister leaves the stage.
Nevertheless, it is believed that Netanyahu will retire from politics and go back to being a regular citizen, and thus have to face trial on charges of corruption, bribery and misuse of power. This is a good thing, and makes Palestinians happy. Many Israelis who are tired of Netanyahu’s games and divisive role sabotaging hopes of peace, will also be happy if this happens. King Benjamin of Israel may well spend years, possibly the rest of his life, sleeping next to a urine bucket in a cramped prison cell. That is what my friend Yaqob Diwani is gloating about. Diwani is a former prisoner, writer and political analyst; he wishes for Netanyahu the same conditions that he and his fellow Palestinians had inside Israel’s prisons.
Whatever happens, and regardless of any personal feelings we may have if Netanyahu finally leaves office, we should not be deceived by the new government. Prime Minister-in-waiting Naftali Bennett is a man who is proud of having personally killed a large number of Palestinians, and who has expressed his willingness, and perhaps his hope, to kill more of them in the future. He is a man who sponsors illegal settlements in occupied Jerusalem and the West Bank, heads the settlement council there and opposed the “Deal of the Century” because it dealt “generously” with the Palestinians. He is someone who rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state, even on a small fragment of occupied Palestinian land.
Bennett combines in his arrogant Zionist mind the ideological tendencies of both religious and nationalist extremism. When he was Minister of Education, he adopted a curriculum to perpetuate the Judaism of the state and forbade Palestinians and liberal Zionists from visiting schools and universities so that they could not spread their “poison”. Unlike the Likud and its security approaches, he believes in the reconstruction of Israeli society on an extreme religious and national basis, which makes him a prime candidate to kick-start the next hundred years of war, to uproot the Palestinians, confiscate their rights and obliterate their identity, heritage and sanctities.
His political partner, Ayelet Shaked, is no different, while his ally Gideon Sa’ar had earlier become fed up with Netanyahu and the Likud, and resigned in order to establish a party much further to the right. As for Yair Lapid, who is described as “centre” in the Israeli and international media (and, unfortunately, in the Arab media), he is actually a right-winger, to the right of whom even more extremist forces have arisen. It’s not like he was on the right and moved to the centre; rather he found himself in the centre after many forces rushed to his right.
The left in the proposed coalition government, as well as the Unified Arab List of Abbas Mansour, is marginal, reflecting its position in the Knesset. There is no government or coalition in Israel that can make peace with the Palestinians. No one in Israel can be a partner for peace. The two-state solution, which collided with Netanyahu, will collide with the Lapid-Bennett government and its “coalition for change”. There will be no change.
The proposed government will not end the political crisis in Israel, as it is a fragile alliance, united only by hostility to Netanyahu, and it is likely that it will fall at the first hurdle, probably well before the end of its four-year mandate. Yair Lapid may have to wait even longer to become prime minister.
The Palestinians have no choice but to make their own way, and not wait for what the ballot boxes or the Israeli politicians may cobble together. Confrontation with Israel, not peace, is the distinguishing characteristic of the next stage, so let us prepare for it on both sides of the river, because Bennett has shown that he is no good for the Palestinians or the Jordanians.
Middle East Monitor