With today set as the possible start date for Israel annexation of Palestinian territory in the West Bank – with plans seemingly stalling today – Robert Wilkinson analyses on the political machinations behind the plot.
The surprising outcome to long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s seemingly endless manoeuvring has been the conclusion of a power sharing deal between him and his apparent nemesis Benny Gantz. The coalition was described by The Times of Israel as a ‘resurgent Netanyahu’ who ‘can advance annexation and has a guarantee of elections if High Court disqualifies him’ as a result of ‘his indictment on corruption charges’.
Netanyahu accused the Supreme Court as being part of a ‘judicial deep state’ along with what he sees as the ‘liberal establishment’ and the media in their continuing attempts to bring him to trial on charges of corruption.
The Times of Israel article concluded that ‘Gantz has merely handed Netanyahu at least another six-month stint as prime minister, during which the incumbent will further boost his current much improved popularity by quashing the pandemic, healing its economic consequences, and pushing ahead with annexation’.
Expectations that the most recent election had enabled Benny Gantz of the Kahol Lavan (Blue and White) bloc to oust Netanyahu had been dashed by Gantz’s reluctance to form a government that relied for its majority upon support from the centre and Left parties.
Benny Gantz and his Kahol Lavan coalition had received the support of many voters (especially from the Druze ethnic minority) in the expectation that he would effect changes in the recently adopted ethnically exclusionary ‘Nation State Law’. Gadeer Kamal-Mreeh of Gantz’s own party Israel Resilience, the first Arab-Druze woman elected to the Knesset, vowed she would not join Gantz in the new government. She said ‘I came to politics to replace the racist, divisive government of the Nation State Law and not to be a partner in it’.
Gantz’s acceptance of the post of Prime Minister in waiting (set to take office in 18 months’ time) and Netanyahu’s policy of the unilateral annexation of the Jewish settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories on the West Bank, resulted in many of his former supporters denouncing him as weak in the face of Netanyahu’s mishandling of the Covid19 crisis and ‘moral rottenness’.
The Communist Party of Israel said in a statement that the ‘formation of the new far-right annexation government means an end to the two-state solution and the dismantling of the rights of the Palestinian people as established under international law and resolutions and more neoliberal economic and social capitalist policies’.
The ‘liberal’ newspaper Haaretz in an editorial warned that Israel was ‘Heading for a Shin Bet Police State’ as emergency regulations had been enacted to control the spread of the coronavirus. The Shin Bet (Security Service) and the police had been given extensive surveillance powers to monitor the population. It argued that ‘Shin Bet’s recklessness in the occupied territories, the methods put at its disposal and its almost unlimited powers, with no real judicial and public supervision, are the foundation on which the state now leans in seeking to move these methods into Israel proper.’ It certainly appeared that chickens were coming home to roost.
The new right wing coalition government is headed by what the Israeli media described as a ‘bloated’ cabinet whose membership has been enlarged by apostates from the Kahol Lavan bloc without too many of Netanyahu’s Likud Party being disadvantaged. They have even considered implementing a ‘Norwegian Law’ so that government Ministers would resign their seats in the Knesset being replaced by the next candidate on the Party Lists with which Israeli elections are fought out.
No matter how many times the Israeli political establishment shuffles the pack, they are playing with a marked deck of cards. Hopes for a just peace with the Palestinians will never come whilst the Joker remains in the White House. Even the normally compliant King Abdullah of Jordan has denounced the annexation plan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to withdraw from the security agreements that had been agreed in the Oslo Accords.