Israel’s years-long political crisis could end with the rise of a far right party that revels in the killing of Palestinians.
Racist warmonger Binyamin Netanyahu’s party Likud emerged with most seats in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in Israel’s election. Already Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Netanyahu is the face of a ceaseless march to the right.
He has overseen repeated bombing and invasion campaigns against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and intensified military occupation in the West Bank. And he thrives on racist incitement against Arabs inside Israel’s official borders.
But now he can only form a government with the support of forces who’ll demand he goes even further. The Religious Zionism party, led by Itamar Ben-Gvir, is chief among them. Ben-Gvir is an admirer of Meir Kahane, who led a terrorist movement for Israel to seize permanently all Palestinian land, segregate Arabs and deny them all political rights.
Until recently Ben-Gvir kept a portrait of Baruch Goldstein—who in 1994 massacred 29 Palestinians as they prayed—in his office.
During his campaign he and his supporters entered the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah—a front line in the Palestinian battle against eviction by Israeli settlers. There, he pulled out a handgun and urged them to shoot any Palestinian that threw stones.
And as election results came in, supporters hailed him with chants of “death to terrorists”. That’s a thinly disguised version of their old slogan, death to Arabs. “It’s time to be the landlords of this country again,” he told them.
Much of the following media commentary still treats Ben-Gvir as a horrible diversion from Israel’s “democratic” norms. In fact he is the most open expression of the racism at the heart of the Israeli state, and the logical outcome of its crisis.
For four years, no Israeli party has been able to form a stable government. The occupation of Palestine and how to manage it is at the root of this.
More than five decades of occupation and settlement-building in the West Bank has tied it inseparably to the Israeli state.
Most Israeli politicians hope eventually to annex the settlements. Yet seizing permanently the stolen land also threatens to bring more Palestinians inside Israel’s border.
That’s an existential crisis for a state premised on maintaining a clear ethnic majority over Arabs. Israel was founded in 1948 through the ethnic cleansing of 850,000 Palestinians.
Its existence today depends upon keeping Palestinians out and under its control, and on its role as the US’s military watchdog in the Middle East. This shapes and distorts every aspect of Israeli society.
All of its Jewish citizens live on land taken from Palestinians. And their citizenship rests on the denial of the same rights to Palestinians.
Since the 1990s Israel has used the false promise of a two-state solution to manage the Palestinian population. This is a distant future where Palestinians might eventually be allowed a state on a fragment of their former land.
In practice, every Israeli government and party has shown it would never accept a Palestinian state that wasn’t under Israel’s military and economic control. And none of them will ever countenance removing the hundreds of thousands of its citizens who live as settlers in the West Bank.
The fiction of a two-state solution has become ever harder to maintain. Israel has responded by strengthening its apartheid system, such as with the Nation State law that enshrines Jewish-Israeli citizenship privileges over Arabs.
Parties that still believe the two-state solution is the best way to keep Arabs out of Israel—such as the once-dominant Labor Party—are marginalised. And figures such as Ben-Gvir have come to the fore.
The outcome of the election is certain to mean even more intensified repression for Arabs in all parts of historic Palestine—inside and out of Israel’s borders.
It’s the outcome of the racism at the heart of the Israeli state. And it’s the reason why the only solution is to dismantle that state, and replace it with a single democratic one in all of Palestine, with equal democratic rights for all its citizens.
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