Israel is the sort of state where a record of violence, racism and war can make someone its longest-serving prime minister.
Binyamin Netanyahu won his third consecutive term as Israeli prime minister last week.
He’ll be propped up by right wing parties including groups that demand a devastating war on Gaza and the expulsion of Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s Likud party narrowly beat its main opponent, the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz.
Gantz was seen as the “centrist” candidate—or even left. Yet on the issue of Palestinians, he barely differed with Netanyahu.
Gantz bragged that—as head of Israel’s military during its 2014 war on the Gaza Strip—he sent parts of Gaza “back to the stone age”.
And like Likud, his party wants to keep control of swathes of occupied Palestinian land, and to deny Palestinian refugees the right to return home. But in an election that supposedly wasn’t about Palestinians, Palestine was the issue that won it for Netanyahu.
In the run-up to the election, he promised to annexe all Israeli settlements
in the Palestinian West Bank. He got US president Donald Trump to recognise Israel’s claim to the Golan Heights—land stolen from Syria in 1967.
And on the eve of the election he got his vote out by warning that Israel faced a “leftist” government.
This, coupled with support from the right wing parties that agree with him, guaranteed him the election.
Politics in Israel is defined by two things—the exclusion of Palestinians and defending US power in the Middle East.
Israel was founded on the basis of achieving a state with a Jewish ethnic majority in as much of Palestine as possible. When it was established in 1948, some 850,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes.
It’s been sustained by billions of pounds worth of US aid designed to ensure it has the most powerful military in the Middle East.
Israel’s military industry and its relationship with the US are integral to its economy and politics.
Meanwhile racism against Arabs is ingrained in Israeli society.
So even so-called “left wing” parties
refuse to allow Palestinian refugees the right to return to Israel, and stress that they’re committed to protecting Israel’s “security”.
As Israel expands settlements across the West Bank—land all of its major parties want to keep—the prospect of a separate state for Palestinians vanishes.
Yet annexing Palestinian land comes with its Palestinian population—threatening Israel’s Jewish majority.
So Israel has two options—increase violence towards Palestinians or give up on the idea of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state. In Israeli politics, the latter is unthinkable.
The only solution is a single, secular state for Jews and Arabs, with equal democratic rights. But that means challenging the Israeli state—not looking for change inside it.
It was Trump wot won it
A comment in the Financial Times argued last week that Netanyahu “owes his re-election” to Trump. “Rarely has a US president done so much to assist a foreign leader to be re-elected,” wrote Edward Luce.
Binyamin Netanyahu touted his close relationship with Donald Trump—and a “peace deal” that will hand even more Palestinian land to Israel.
Details of the deal—branded the “deal of the century” by Trump—have been kept secret. But apparent leaks suggest it will hand land in the occupied West Bank to Israel, and allow Israel to keep “security control” over Palestinian territory.
Meanwhile it will deny Palestinians a capital anywhere in Jerusalem, and US officials have refused to confirm that the deal gives Palestinians their own state.
Trump has previously said he’s not committed to a two-state
solution, and given signals that he supports Israel’s claim to Palestinian land. He has already recognised all of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And since his election, Israel has accelerated its settlement-building in the West Bank.
Far from ending the occupation, Trump’s deal would make it permanent.
‘They are all united in hate’
There was a reported low turnout in the elections by Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Often referred to as “Arab Israelis,” they are Palestinians who managed to remain after Israel was created in 1948.
Some commentators blamed a split in the Arab parties, which had previously run together.
This agreement broke apart earlier this year.
But many Palestinians in Israel refused to participate in a political system that excludes them.
A “Nation State” law passed last year confirmed that Israel was a state for its Jewish citizens only.
And both main parties ran campaigns that cast Arabs as the enemy of Israel.
One Palestinian, Rafik, told The Independent news website, “The country is becoming far right and blatantly anti-Arab.
“I usually vote for the Arab parties but they have given us nothing. Go to the polls for what?”
Student Joul Elias said not voting was “an attempt to boycott the body that actively tries to erase our Palestinian identity”.
And shop owner Khaled Salaymeh told the Jeruslaem Post, “The Zionist parties may disagree on everything, but when it comes to the Arabs, they are all united in their hatred for us.”
Nasty coalition of the far right
The United Right coalition of far right parties is part of Netanyahu’s coalition.
It includes Jewish Home, whose support is based in the settler movement that established “outposts” on occupied Palestinian land (pictured).
It also involves Otzma Yehudit—which advocates taking over all Palestinian land.
Supporter calls for ‘liquidation’
Former defence secretary Avigdor Lieberman has repeatedly demanded war on the Gaza Strip until Hamas, the group that runs Gaza, is destroyed.
The Yisrael Beiteinu party leader resigned last year after Netanyahu agreed to stop a bombardment of the strip. Now he has reportedly demanded the “liquidation” of Hamas in return for backing Netanyahu.
Extremists in government
Bezalel Smotrich (above), leader of the Tkuma party, is in Netanyahu’s government.
Even Trump’s “deal of the century” looks too soft for him. He said he would never accept “a plan that is going to establish a terrorist state” on Israel’s border.