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How divisive will Israel’s right-wing move be? – DW – Dec 28, 2022

After a year of protests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is back. Almost two months after the Nov. 1 parliamentary elections (his fifth in less than four years), Israel’s newest government is finally preparing to take office on Thursday.

Reflecting growing concerns that Israel will lean further to the right, Israeli President Isaac Herzog recently said the incoming government “must be one that serves all Israeli citizens.” .”

Netanyahu, 73, leader of the conservative Likud party, will have to form a coalition of two ultra-orthodox parties and three far-right parties to regain power, winning a combined 14 electoral seats. Once seen as extremists in Israeli politics, party leaders Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionist Party), Itamar Ben Guvir (Otma Yehudit) and Avi Maoz (Nom) are now in mainstream Israeli politics. It has entered the market and is polarizing public opinion both at home and abroad. A coalition was formed.

Israel’s Netanyahu Forms Coalition Government

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According to the left-leaning newspaper, there is concern about the coalition of “the most extreme right-wing, racist, homophobic and theocratic coalition in Israel’s history.” Haaretz It could further deepen divisions within the country, undermine minority rights, and further exacerbate the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, won a comfortable majority of 64 of the 120 seats in the Knesset for the first time in years. He refutes his criticism that by splitting and redistributing ministries, he ceded considerable power to his coalition partners. To finalize the coalition agreement, the Knesset passed several controversial laws to ensure that the government fulfilled the promises made in the coalition agreement before it took office.

New government may expand settlement program

On Tuesday, the Knesset passed the so-called Deli law, named after Arie Deli, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. This amendment allowed him to be appointed by the government as a minister despite being convicted of tax offenses and given a suspended sentence.

Deli and Smotrich of the religious Zionist party will take turns as finance ministers. In the meantime, Deli will serve as Minister of Health and Home Affairs. Already, Israeli civil rights groups have petitioned the High Court to reverse the amendment.

General view of the Israeli Jewish settlement of Shiloh.Rows of houses on a hill with a road leading to them
The new government is expected to further expand Israeli settlements in the occupied West BankImage: Shadi Jarar’Ah/APA/Zuma/picture Alliance

Particular attention is paid to the fact that Smotrich, part of the Settler Movement, controls, through another amendment, part of the Civil Affairs Bureau, which operates under the Ministry of Defense. The agency manages both Israeli and Palestinian affairs in the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians claim as their own land. This could give him broad powers over the expansion of Jewish settlements in Area C, which is about 60% of the West Bank. Critics argue that this could lead to a “virtual annexation” of the territory.

“their [the far right’s] The ideology is Greater Israel,” said Gideon Rahat, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The term “Greater Israel” usually refers to right-wing ideologies that assume Israel to consist of all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. “They say this is our biblical land and we have a right to everything here,” Rahat said.

Over the past decades, under all governments, Israel has expanded settlements in the occupied West Bank. The new coalition could push further settlement expansion and legalization of smaller settlements. The settlement is considered illegal under international law, a judgment Israel is challenging.

Ben-Gvir wants more powers over police

On Wednesday, the Knesset passed another controversial law, albeit a more flexible version than the far-right had first envisioned. The so-called Ben Gubir Act, named after the Minister of State for National Security Itamar Ben Gubir, will give him expanded powers over the Israeli police force.

Known for his far-right views, Ben-Gubir has been previously convicted of inciting racism and supporting the Kaha terrorist group, which has been outlawed in the United States and Israel.

Politician standing in parliament with phone
Itamar Ben-Gvir’s appointment as Minister of National Security has been controversial because of his far-right views.Image: Abil Sultan/AP/picture Alliance

During the campaign, Ben-Gubir promised to tackle police staffing shortages in areas with high crime rates and to be “tough” against terrorism. He said he wanted to “relax” wildfire restrictions and strengthen legal immunity for security forces to ensure that they are safe.

Another concern is the inclusion of the far-right homophobic and anti-Arab Noam party. Avi Maoz, the party leader representing his one seat in the Knesset, is expected to become deputy minister in the prime minister’s office in charge of the newly created “National Jewish Identity” post. This new organization will have authority over content in Israeli schools taught outside the regular curriculum and will be able to control the informal organizations that participate in teaching in schools.

Known for his staunch anti-LGBTQ stance, Maoz says he wants to cancel Jerusalem’s annual gay pride parade and restore “family values.” But Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed “no harm” to the gay community.

International response has been sluggish

Potentially controversial policy changes — the far-right curtailing the powers of the Supreme Court and pledging to change anti-discrimination laws — have already alarmed liberal Israelis, human rights groups and businesses. It could also cause tensions between Israel and its closest allies, but so far the international response has been lukewarm.

US Secretary of State Antony Brinken said in early December that the US “continues to unequivocally oppose any action that undermines the prospects for a two-state solution, including but not limited to settlement expansion.” [and] We are moving towards the annexation of the West Bank. “

In interviews with a number of US media outlets, Netanyahu defended his controversial choice of Ben Gabil as national security minister. Netanyahu also insisted he would take the lead, not a coalition partner. “They are with me. I am not with them.”

Editing: Rob Madge

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