During his previous terms in office, Benjamin Netanyahu oversaw some of the most brutal attacks on Gaza, attacks that caused thousands of civilian casualties. He was also indicted on corruption charges, and yet enough Israelis found him suitable to return to the post of Prime Minister, and he was elected with a comfortable majority.
In the United States, Netanyahu is respected in spite of his 2002 appearance in the U.S. House of Representatives saying that, “If you take out Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.” The Iraq War cost countless lives and billions of dollars and caused disastrous reverberations in the region.
Kahane disciples in power
What is most disturbing is that Netanyahu owes his return to power to the students of the racist, Arab-hating thug Meir Kahane. Kahane founded the Jewish Defense League, which the FBI designated a terrorist organization. Kahane preached for the forced transfer of most of the Arabs from Palestine and the creation of Jewish only beaches, schools and towns. Much of what he preached is already reality in the state of Israel, but the brashness of his discourse was too much, even for Israelis.
Kahane was elected to the Knesset in 1984, but he was completely shunned, and even though there was a right wing government in place at the time, he had no chance whatsoever of getting a seat at the table. A government post for him could not have even been considered. Fast-forward to 2022 and the very disciples of Kahane – not only ideologically but actual disciples – are not running the tables. Itamar Ben-Gvir who studied at Kahane’s yeshiva in Jerusalem (yes, Kahane had a yeshiva in Jerusalem where he taught hate and violence to young Israeli Jews) is a racist thug who enjoys tremendous popularity among the country’s youth, is going to be a major part of the next Israeli government.
At a recent event commemorating Kahane, Ben-Gvir said, “It is thanks to him that I became a religious man.” The type of religion that Kahane taught was hate, racism and violence. And that is precisely what Ben-Gvir and his followers bring to the table. He is demanding and is likely to receive the post of Minister of Internal Security and a seat at the highly sensitive inner Security Cabinet. Other posts he and his partner Bezalel Smotrich are demanding include the defense portfolio and treasury. It is not clear yet what the final deal will look like, but they will be in major, powerful and sensitive positions.
Will it be worse?
It would be naive to claim that Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are any worse than what Israel had in any previous government. Benny Gantz and Netanyahu were responsible for the killing of so many Palestinians that it might take Ben-Gvir and Smotrich a lifetime to catch up. However, their placement in key, sensitive positions will undoubtedly make things worse for Palestinians. Their success gives license to a more cruel, violent and more openly racist discourse and policies. It is not unlikely that the Knesset will see an even bolder and more radical anti-Palestinian legislative agenda than it had in the past.
Another aspect of Ben-Gvir’s success that should raise grave concerns is the empowerment of the settler movement. This is a particularly lawless, racist and violent population that are already taking Palestine by storm and terrorizing Palestinians everywhere. They were hardly ever held accountable, but now they are empowered to a point where their anti-Arab violence could reach new levels.
So the answer to the question, “will it be worse”, is a definitive “yes”. It will be worse both from a policy-legislative perspective and from the violence that Palestinians will experience by the nationalist anti-Arab gangs.
Even though there were tensions between Netanyahu and the Obama administration, when Joe Biden visited the State of Israel he shook hands very warmly with Netanyahu, and we may expect that the Biden administration will receive him warmly. What is already clear is that the Biden administration is not as comfortable with Netanyahu’s coalition partners. The people holding the Defense and Internal Security portfolios in the Israel government maintain close ties with the American administration, and team Biden is not keen to work with Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, both of whom are on the short list for these posts.
Israeli newspapers report that the Biden administration has unofficially stated their displeasure at this possibility and their hopes that Netanyahu will join forces with the war criminal Benny Gantz, who they find less offensive. Even the Israeli president, who is legally bound to remain neutral, expressed his desire to see Gantz and current prime minister Yair Lapid form a government with Netanyahu, rather than Ben-Gvir.
Loyalty pays off
The various groups that make up the so-called “Netanyahu Block” are political parties that held fast and remained loyal to Netanyahu through and through. Now the time has come for them to reap their reward. They sat in opposition and waited patiently for the return of their benefactor, and now they will receive fat budget increases for their constituents, cabinet positions that will allow them to pursue their political and social agendas, and a seat at the table where decisions are made.
With his comfortable lead, Netanyahu does not need to include anyone but those who are the most loyal to him. He will sit in the prime minister’s office and they will rape and pillage Palestine to their hearts content.
I have written and said on many occasions that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is in grave danger. Now, with the very people who want to see it burned down and replaced by a so-called Jewish temple in key positions, the danger is imminent. Last August, I joined a tour that was organized by the so-called “Temple Mount Movement” onto the Al-Aqsa compound. It was during the Jewish holiday of Tish’a Be’av when Jews commemorate the destruction of the temple, an event that took place two thousand years ago.
Having walked with these hate-filled, anti-Palestinian Jewish supremacists and having followed their activities and their statements, one cannot but see the imminent danger to the site of Al-Aqsa. This magnificent, fifteen hundred-year-old site that has been maintained and cared for by Palestinians and where countless Muslims come to pray, has been under threat for decades. Now, with the new Netanyahu government, that threat is more real than ever before.
Feature photo | Far-right Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks to journalists outside of the Likud Party headquarters after meeting with Nov. 1 poll winner Benjamin Netanyahu about forming a government, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, Nov. 7, 2022. Maya Alleruzzo | AP
Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”