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Israel's new government pushes country towards the precipice 

The far-right coalition will continue to oppress Palestinians, but with more disregard for global censure than ever before
Right-wing Israeli Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir attends the swearing-in ceremony for the new government in Jerusalem on 15 November 2022 (AFP)
Right-wing Israeli Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir attends the swearing-in ceremony for the new government in Jerusalem on 15 November 2022 (AFP)

Was it really a big surprise to wake up on the morning of 2 November to find out that the Israeli government and Knesset would now be run by a dominant majority of nationalistic religious Jews, Zionists and hardline politicians who have previously advocated official ethnic-cleansing and shoot-to-kill policies against Palestinians?

One of them is likely to become public security minister, and others will hold key positions in government. This should not come as a surprise: Israel has been lurching further rightwards for the past two decades, and this coalition has nearly won previous elections, so it is not that shocking that they are now in power. And yet, one should ask: how different will Israel be after these elections?

Any remaining charade of democracy will disappear under this new regime

With a clear majority in the Knesset and a firm hold on the executive branch, this old-new political elite will continue to do everything that previous governments have done over the past 74 years - but with more zeal, determination and disregard for international condemnation.

It will likely begin by expanding the Judaisation of the occupied West Bank and Greater Jerusalem, and by expanding military activity in what is already on track to be an exceptionally deadly year for Palestinians. Since the start of 2022, Israeli forces and settlers have killed more than 130 Palestinians, including more than 30 children, across the occupied West Bank. 

The new government will surely intensify the provocative visits of Jewish politicians to al-Aqsa Mosque complex. We can also expect an escalation in house demolitions, arrests without trial, and a free hand being given to settler vigilantes to wreak destruction at will. 

Suppressing Palestinian identity

It is less clear how far this new elite will go in its policy towards the Gaza Strip. Since 2008, Israel’s policy in Gaza has been so callous and inhumane that one finds it difficult to imagine what could be worse than a siege, blockade and occasional brutal air bombardments on a civil society. 

Similarly, it is difficult to predict the new government’s policies towards Palestinians inside Israel. Under the 2018 nation-state law, Israel formalised its status as an apartheid state. One suspects that, as in the occupied West Bank, much of the same and worse can be expected. We will probably see a continued disregard for the rise of criminal activity, along with stricter policies on house expansions in Palestinian rural areas.

Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man at a demonstration near Yatta village in the occupied West Bank on 15 January 2021 (AFP)
Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian man at a demonstration near Yatta village in the occupied West Bank on 15 January 2021 (AFP)

We can also expect a continued suppression of any Palestinian collective attempts to express the minority’s national identity - whether through waving Palestinian flags on campuses, commemorating the Nakba, or in other ways expressing the rich cultural heritage of this community. 

In short, any remaining charade of democracy will disappear under this new regime.

Yet, despite the massive shift in global perceptions towards Israel in recent years - manifested in its depiction as an apartheid state by major international human rights groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and the willingness of the International Court of Justice to discuss the decolonisation of the occupied West Bank - there seems to be a general reluctance to acknowledge the possibility that there is Jewish racism, as much as there is Christian, Muslim or Buddhist racism.

Dangerous ideology 

Suddenly, UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 (passed in 1975 and later revoked), which equates Zionism with racism, no longer seems to be a declaration detached from the realities and complexities in Israel and Palestine. The African and Arab member states that pushed the resolution showed foresight in pinpointing racism as the main danger that Zionism as a state ideology carries with it - not only for Palestinians, but for the region as a whole. 

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The disappearance in this election of the Zionist left can also be easily understood if one appreciates the depth and breadth of racism within Israeli society, particularly among youth. As a son of German Jews who escaped German racism in the early 1930s, and now studying it as an adult, I am deeply disturbed at this picture of a society mesmerised by racism and bequeathing it to the next generation.

Will Jewish communities recognise this reality or continue to ignore it? Will governments in the West, and particularly the American administration, acknowledge or disregard this trend? Will the Arab world, which has embarked on a process of normalisation with Israel, treat this as irrelevant, as it does not undermine their regimes’ fundamental interests?

I have no answers to these questions. From an activist point of view, it is actually not necessary to answer these questions, but rather to do everything possible so that one day, they will be answered in a way that saves both Palestinians and Jews from a disastrous fate - and stops Israel from leading us all towards a precipice whose edge is now more visible than ever. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

Ilan Pappe is a professor of history, and director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies and co-director for the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies at the University of Exeter.
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