The new government will annex the West Bank, expand illegal Jewish settlements and discriminate against LGBTQ people.
Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn in for his sixth term as prime minister of Israel. While his prior tenures resulted in the commission of war crimes against the Palestinian people, Netanyahu’s new regime promises to be the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israel’s history.
Netanyahu won reelection despite facing criminal charges for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
In order to secure a sixth term, Netanyahu made a devil’s bargain with the extreme right-wing religious elements in Israel. Aside from Netanyahu’s largely secular Likud Party, all other parties in his new coalition are religious, with two of them representing ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis, or Haredim.
“The ministers of Netanyahu’s new government have been salivating for weeks at the thought of what they will change once in power,” Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Truthout. “Now that they’ve been sworn in, there is no doubt plans are already afoot for massive settlement expansion, establishment of de facto (albeit illegal) annexation of large parts of the West Bank, widespread increases in house demolitions and forced evictions of Palestinian families, all aimed at escalating what earlier governments also called the ‘Judaization’ of occupied East Jerusalem and most of the West Bank.”
Netanyahu’s coalition declared the Jewish people’s “exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel.” This goes even further than the 2018 “basic law” — which enshrined apartheid in Israeli law — by stating that only Jews have the right to self-determination.
Under the new government, Palestinians “will face even more horrific discrimination. Military assaults on Gaza, arrests and detention of children, collective punishments — all will escalate,” Bennis said, adding that “the violations will get worse, not only quantitatively but qualitatively as well.”
Israel’s new national security minister is extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was convicted of supporting terrorism and inciting anti-Arab racism. He will oversee Israel’s police force.
Five days after Netanyahu was sworn in, Ben-Gvir entered Islam’s third holiest site, the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, infuriating Palestinians. Hazem Qassem, spokesperson for Hamas, told Al Jazeera that Ben-Gvir’s action is “a continuation of the Zionist occupation’s aggression against our sanctities and its war on its Arab identity.”
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry referred to Ben-Gvir’s “storming” of Al Aqsa as an “unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict.” Indeed, Al Jazeera noted, “Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s entrance to the site in 2000 sparked the second Palestinian Intifada or uprising.”
Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism Party, will serve as minister of finance. He will appoint the military unit that supervises border crossings and permits for Palestinians. Smotrich has advocated eliminating the authority to indict public servants for breach of trust and fraud, a change that could make charges against Netanyahu disappear.
The coalition also plans to amend the current anti-discrimination law to allow businesses and service providers to refuse services that violate their religious beliefs. It would permit them to discriminate against LGBTQ people and women.
Palestinians are not surprised at the escalation of repression promised by the new government. “Its annexationist agenda of Jewish supremacy is now very blunt and clear,” Husam Zomlot, Palestinian ambassador to Britain, told The New York Times.
Several Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, including Adalah, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Peace Now and Physicians for Human Rights Israel, signed a joint statement warning that “the occupation and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories have made Jewish supremacy the de facto law of the land and the new government seeks to adopt this into their official policy.”
More than 100 retired Israeli ambassadors and senior Foreign Ministry officials signed a letter to Netanyahu expressing “profound concern” about possible damage to Israel’s foreign relations.