Over the past decade Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu has overseen two major wars on Gaza and the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian protesters.
That’s not to mention the expansion of Israeli settlements and the introduction of a racist law denying Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
Yet he’s about to spend the next few months defending himself from accusations that he has been “soft” on Palestinians. That’s because Israel is gearing up for an early election in April that will be shaped by forces even further to his right.
Netanyahu’s warmongering Likud party will face off against a new lash-up of the figures that have propped him up since 2015.
He was forced into calling the election in the weeks following the resignation of Avigdor Lieberman as defence secretary last year.
Lieberman quit in anger at a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in November. After several days of bombing Palestinians, Netanyahu halted the assault. Lieberman’s resignation drew on the outrage of the vocal section of Israeli society that wanted war until the complete destruction of Gaza.
Now two more ministers—Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked—have formed a new right wing party to challenge Likud.
They were brought into Netanyahu’s coalition as leaders of the Jewish Home party. Its base is the extreme end of the religious settler movement which camps on Palestinian land then uses violence to drive Palestinians out.
Their new party, the New Right, aims to broaden out and mop up support from secular right wing Israelis who believe Netanyahu has gone “soft”.
It’s an indictment on Israeli society that this toxic mix has become a serious force in mainstream politics.
Built and sustained on racism against Arabs, ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and the defence of Western imperialism, Israel’s politics has always been rotten.
Few parties—including much of what passes for the Israeli left—challenge Israel’s claim to Palestinian land, or criticise its military and its wars.
And Israeli politics is shifting rightwards still.
Israel’s dependence on US military aid shaped it into a highly militarised society. This fuelled the growth of a high-tech warfare industry—locked into the needs of US imperialism—that has become a driving force in Israel’s economy and politics.
Repression against Palestinians will get even worse because it is hardwired into the Israeli political system
At the same time, the reality of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has squeezed out those who still call for a two-state solution.
Through settlement building, Israel has a deliberate policy of annexing ever more Palestinian land—making the idea of a Palestinian state alongside Israel more obviously impossible.
But annexing Palestinian land also means more Palestinians living inside Israel’s border. The prospect of this is an existential crisis for a state premised on maintaining a clear ethnic majority over Arabs.
Israel’s Labor Party has responded to this with open racism against Palestinians while promoting the two-state solution as the best way to keep Jews and Arabs separate. It’s currently struggling at some 7 percent in the polls.
Politicians such as Bennett and Shaked who openly call for taking over all of Palestine and expelling Palestinians have been more successful.
Their main election policy is complete opposition to any Palestinian state. Even Donald Trump’s “deal of the century”—which will reportedly leave Israel in control of a fragmented Palestinian non-state—is denounced as a betrayal.
So far Likud politicians have responded by trying to show they’re the only ones who can really take a “tough” line against Palestinian statehood.
So one certainty coming out of the election is that repression against Palestinians will get even worse. That repression is hardwired into the Israeli political system.