Rabbinic group condemns new Israeli government as ‘threat to Jews and Palestinians’
A Jewish human rights group says the government being formed by Benjamin Netanyahu imperils the rule of law in Israel and poses a direct threat to the safety of both Jews and Palestinians.
“Israel’s new government is a stark display of rising fascism and racism,” Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah, an organisation representing over 2,300 rabbis and cantors in North America, said in a statement on Thursday.
“Netanyahu’s coalition government gives power to violent, right-wing extremists who seek to incite political violence and who will put lives at risk…from the top down. Netanyahu and his new coalition endanger both Israelis and Palestinians."
Netanyahu’s bloc sailed to victory in the October elections thanks to an alliance with far-right religious Zionist parties.
The parties' leaders have secured positions in a future government that may help them push through policies such as annexing large swaths of the occupied West Bank, expanding illegal settlements, and allowing Jewish prayer at al-Aqsa Mosque.
Bezalel Smotrich, a self-declared homophobe and settler activist, has been tapped to become finance minister and will be placed within Israel’s defence ministry, with oversight of settlements inside the illegally occupied West Bank.
The post gives Smotrich authority over building permits in settlements, demolitions of Palestinian homes, and land issues. He will also oversee two military units in charge of running civilian and security affairs in the occupied West Bank.
Itmar Ben Gvir, who was previously convicted in Israel of incitement to racism and supporting a terrorist organisation, is set to become national security minister, with oversight of police and the force that controls security at al-Aqsa Mosque.
Violence and instability
“Members like Itamar Ben Gvir and Betzalel Smotrich are religious extremists who seek to dismantle systems of checks and balances and fuel violence and instability,” Jacob said, adding that the appointments put Israeli democracy and the human rights of Jews and Palestinians “more at risk than ever”.
Netanyahu and his allies are also pushing for changes to Israel’s judicial system which could allow them to enact laws previously deemed unconstitutional by courts, including legislation to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. The move could also help Netanyahu evade charges of corruption.
“Perhaps most dangerous to Israeli democracy, this coalition has pushed forward an ‘override clause', legislation that would allow the Knesset to overrule High Court rulings. Passage of such a bill would undermine an essential check on power,” Jacobs said.
Jacob’s called on the Biden administration to reject Israeli attempts to unilaterally annex the occupied West Bank and reaffirm that parts of Jerusalem will someday form the Palestinian capital.
Rumors that the Biden administration was lukewarm on Netanyahu's political allies do not appear to have impeded Washington's support for Israel.
On Wednesday, Axios reported that the Biden administration was pressing UN human rights chief Volker Turk not to expand a list of companies that operate in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The list put pressure on some international corporations to stop business activity in the region.
The letter also asked for enhanced oversight of military and security assistance to Israel. Israel receives $3.8bn in military aid from Washington each year, the largest recipient of any country.
The Biden administration has refused to rule out dealing with far-right lawmakers in Israel’s expected new government. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that Washington will judge the government based on its policies and not the people comprising it.