Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is facing a crisis. In just under six weeks, the racist warmonger will stand in his second general election in a year.
Netanyahu had to call a snap election in June as he couldn’t find enough support in parliament for his government. Now it seems he’s worried he may not even have enough support in his own party, the right wing Likud.
Last weekend Likud’s candidates were made to sign a loyalty pledge specifically to Netanyahu over WhatsApp. He and his family members had been warning of a “coup” or a plot against him.
“The prime minister and the Likud chairperson, Benjamin Netanyahu, is the sole Likud candidate for prime minister, and there will be no other candidate,” it said.
Netanyahu’s spokesperson said the pledge marked the collapse of the “plot to replace Netanyahu”. But, as one opposition leader Yair Lapid taunted, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean we’re not after you.”
In Israel the largest party in parliament usually has to form a coalition with others to make a majority. Likud won the last general election in April. But Netanyahu had to call another one because the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party wouldn’t join his government.
Now it looks as if the coming election could end with Yisrael Beiteinu—whose leader Avigdor Lieberman wants rid of Netanyahu—calling the shots.
Lieberman has said he might help form a “national unity government” with Likud and its biggest challenger, the Blue and White Party.
But he and Blue and White’s leader Benny Gantz have all but explicitly said Netanyahu would have to go.
On the surface it looks as if this stalemate is simply about the horse-trading that goes on between Israel’s political parties. Yet underlying it is a profound political crisis over something at the heart of the Israeli state itself—the occupation of Palestine.
Every Israeli government has looked for ways to exclude Palestinians from Israeli society, while denying them a state of their own. They could never have done this without the support of the US, which relies on Israel to protect its interests in the Middle East.
Billions of pounds’ worth of US military aid over decades shaped Israel’s economy and society into the highly militarised one it is today—one tied to the needs of US imperialism.
Over the past 25 years or so, the US has encouraged the idea of a two-state solution—which promises a Palestinian state, but in reality allows the occupation to continue.
But Israeli settlements are far too established on Palestinian land. And more than 50 years of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has tied the Palestinian economy and society inextricably to Israel’s.
In effect, Israel is already creating a single state in all of Palestine. But that’s a problem for a state built on the idea that Israel is entitled to Palestinian land where Palestinians must always be a minority.
In the face of this, support for right wing parties that demand the full annexation of Palestinian land and the expulsion of Palestinians has grown. And for most of his career, Netanyhau has relied on the support of these parties to prop up his government in parliament.
He’s had to strike a balance between them and the demands of the US. Now that’s falling apart.
His only way out of the crisis—Donald Trump’s phony “peace deal” which allows the occupation to continue indefinitely—is stalling.
That’s partly because the crisis is stopping Netanyahu from forming a government, and partly because there’s so much resistance to the deal among Palestinians.
Lieberman—who frequently calls for devastating wars on Palestinians in Gaza—has seen an opportunity to get rid of Netanyahu.
He’s willing to work with so-called “centrist” parties such as Blue and White, which oppose Netanyahu’s domestic polices but promise no less violence towards Palestinians, to do it. But whatever the outcome of the elections, the crisis won’t go away—and neither will the Palestinians.