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Middle EastNews

Netanyahu wins Israeli elections: the worst is yet to come for Palestinians

A change in the Israeli government has no significant bearing on the treatment of Palestinians but the reappointment of far-right Netanyahu is worrying.

A change in the Israeli government has no significant bearing on the treatment of Palestinians but the reappointment of far-right Netanyahu is worrying.

Israel’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has again achieved his long-desired goal of obtaining a majority with his religious and far-right allies to retread the highest steps of power.

Despite his corruption trial, Netanyahu and his allies from the ultra-Orthodox parties and the far-right “Religious Zionism” list won 64 of the 120 mandates in the Knesset, three more than the threshold of the majority, the electoral commission announced on Thursday evening.

Known as “Bibi”, far-right PM Netanyahu had not left political life as his opponents wanted but had clung to the post of leader of the opposition to return to set up an immunity vote by the other MPs and annul his corruption trial.

Following Israeli electoral law, the final results of the legislative elections will be transmitted on November 9 to Israel’s President Isaac Herzog, who will then have to officially mandate the candidate who has received the most recommendations from the parties to form a government. Netanyahu will then have 42 days to form his team.

The news of his victory in Israel’s legislative elections, the fifth in three and a half years, occurred in the context of renewed Israeli violence towards Palestinians.

On the eve of the election, Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed his opposition to creating a Palestinian state. He also said he wanted to continue colonisation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The hope of seeing a relaunch of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians seems to be waning.

For Palestinians, more than seven decades of oppression, theft and colonisation have shown that Israeli left or right makes no difference. Palestinians don’t want different prison guards. They want to break free of the prison,” said Yara Hawari to the Guardian, a senior policy fellow at Al Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.

This week, the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) hit “military sites” in the Gaza Strip after rockets were fired from this Palestinian enclave towards Israel. And on Thursday, four Palestinians, including a teenager, were killed by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

With this new win, Netanyahu and his ultra-Orthodox allies are set to lead Israel’s most far-right government ever. Indeed, concerns are being raised around the possibility of a future defence minister Smotrich and a future public security minister Ben-Gvir. 

According to a former Shin Bet deputy chief, Smotrich plotted to blow up vehicles on a major highway in 2055 while protesting against the evacuation of Israeli settlements in Gaza. He was, however, arrested before carrying out the attack. While, Ben-Gvir, the leader of Otzma Yehudit, multiplies the call to use force against Palestinians and to “show who is the master in Israel”.

On election night, Ben-Gvir gave a victory speech in which he said, “The time has come for us to return to being the landlords of our country, which belongs to all of us.”

Undoubtedly, under these two far-right kingmakers, Palestinians will become like “drugged cockroaches in a bottle”, for both ideologies exclusively feed on conflicts.

A few weeks before Tuesday’s elections, Ben-Gvir appeared holding a gun in the Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem of Sheikh Jarrah amid Israeli raids. As a lawmaker who lives in an illegal settlement in Hebron, Ben-Gvir mainly spends his days defending colonial settlers accused of violence towards Palestinians. In 2015, he stood up in favour of the Israeli settlers who burned the Palestinian family of Dawabshe, including an 18-month-old baby. 

In his youth, Ben-Gvir was denied military service for being an “adolescent instigator”, according to Haaretz.

Recently, he opened a makeshift office in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, leading to an 11-day fight with the Palestinian resistance.

For Ben Gvir, there is no such thing as a Palestinian people. He is known for supporting Israeli terrorists and chanting “Death to the Arabs” slogans against Arabs and Palestinians. Ben-Gvir represents a significantly extreme version of Israeli oppression inspired by rabbi Meir Kahane whose Kach movement Ben-Gvir campaigned for. The Israeli MK is also known for being a Goldstein sympathiser, an Israeli settler responsible for the death of 29 Palestinian worshippers at a mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron in 1994.

The possibility of the ultra-orthodox Zionist fascist Ben-Gvir becoming part of the new Netanyahu government is particularly concerning, knowing he has a criminal record of more than 50 indictments, including incitements to hate speech or violence for killing journalists. 

Following the death of Al Jazeera Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, Ben-Gvir said in a tweet, “I fully support IDF soldiers. Al Jazeera correspondents have used to obstruct their work by intentionally standing in the middle of the battlefield.”

If he is chosen to take up senior cabinet posts in Netanyahu’s new government, Ben-Gvir is set to implement a series of anti-human rights measures such as:

  • offering technical services to the IOF
  • arming Israeli reserve soldiers
  • allowing Israeli soldiers to use live ammunition against Palestinian protesters
  • adopting laws granting Israeli soldiers immunity from legal prosecution
  • imposing the death penalty on Palestinians and tightening prison conditions for detainees inside Israeli jails

On an international scale, Netanyahu’s triumph has been welcomed by Israel’s allies in the West. For instance, Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky said it was “important to see real democracy in action” and that Ukraine and Israel “share common values and challenges that now require effective cooperation.” 

Netanyahu’s longstanding allies, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Hungary’s Viktor Orban, were among the first to congratulate the new Israeli prime minister. 

While the US State Department urged Israel’s officials to respect “the values of an open, democratic society.” Meanwhile, the United Kingdom called on all politicians to “refrain from inflammatory language” and respect minorities.

Indeed, the US is particularly concerned about the extremist route the Israeli government is about to take. Often compared to Donald Trump, Netanyahu could lead Israel, which is sometimes referred to as an “experimental laboratory”, to be isolated in foreign policy matters. 

Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat and chairman of the Foreign Policy Committee, reportedly warned Netanyahu during his election campaign that a government with right-wing extremists could “seriously threaten” bipartisan support in Washington.

The Middle Eastern allies newly acquired through the Abraham Accords – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – could also dissociate themselves from Israel.

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