Supporters of the Palestine cause will have noticed that Benyamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud Party (“Consolidation” in English) recently began his sixth term in office as the Prime Minister of Israel. Nothing new there then!
However, the response of many commentators to its formation in December 2022, both inside and especially outside Israel, has not indicated that this is simply “business as usual”,
The new government has been commonly described as the most right-wing and religiously conservative in the history of the state. What has made commentators, including several of its most prominent supporters, catch their breath and issue words of warning? Who’s new in the apartheid firmament, capable of unsettling apologists who have witnessed what we have all seen over many decades?
Because it’s a coalition, several of the members of the Government are themselves leaders of smaller political parties and they have been given portfolios in exchange for their support by the Likud leader.
- Itamar Ben Gvir (National Security and Police) is leader of “Otzma Yehudit” – Jewish Power in English.
- Bezalel Smotrich (Finance and Settlement Development) is leader of National Union-Tkuma – Religious Zionist Party – lives in Kedumim, an illegal settlement and has described himself as a “fascist homophobe.”
- Avi Maoz (Education) of the Noam Party – English “Pleasantness” – has as the main plank of policy the restoration of family values and hostility to LGBT rights.
- Aryeh Deri (Interior and Health, then, possibly in two years, Finance) currently Head of the Shas Party (“Sephardic Guardians”) which represents the Haredi religious population advocating a return to orthodox Jewish lifestyles.
However, it can be argued that one “virtue” of the new brutal face of the regime is that its position is being made crystal clear. That’s a problem for those who make common cause with Israel. Since one of the myths about the Israeli state that is bandied about by its supporters is that it is a member of the western family of democracies, just like us in the enlightened and progressive Free World, it doesn’t take much imagination to see why the composition of such a government presents a problem to its apologists. How can we airbrush the likes of Ben Givir and Smotrich out of our cosy picture of the only democracy in the Middle East?
Gideon Levy, perhaps alone of Israeli journalists, had a different take on this new government: “…one cannot help but ask: is the threatened change really such a radical one? …Consider the 166 Palestinians, including at least 39 children, who died by acts of the Israeli military and settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem since the beginning of this year (written December 2022)…Were they killed under the terrifying new government?…The new government will force the West to look at Israel and admit, at least to itself: this is an apartheid state. Continuing the masquerade ball with Israel will become untenable.”
We, in Stop the JNF, will do our best to contribute to that end.