The extreme rightwing led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is set to form the next government in Israel following elections yesterday, giving the apartheid state its most hardline ruling coalition ever. Supporters of the Palestinian cause should prepare for a period of intense struggle.
Some votes remain to be counted, but it is clear that Netanyahu’s Likud party will remain the largest force in parliament. Combined with the seats of three other parties, there is a clear majority to support a new government led by Netanyahu, who is currently standing trial on corruption charges, but is likely to use his new majority to legislate immunity for himself. Two of these coalition partners are “ultra-Orthodox” parties that represent the sections of Israeli society who follow a fundamentalist interpretation of Judaism and are opposed to secularism.
The third and most important coalition partner is an alliance called Religious Zionism, whose leading figure is a politician named Itamar Ben-Gvir. Ben-Gvir is a follower of a political current called “Kahanism,” which found political expression in a party called Kach until it was banned as a terrorist organization by the Israeli government. Kahanism stands for a theocratic, dictatorial form of government that would expel all non-Jews from the country. Ben-Gvir is the leader of a party called Jewish Power, the legal successor to Kach.
Ben-Gvir has been indicted dozens of times and was convicted in 2007 of supporting a terrorist organization and incitement to racism, and prominently displays a portrait of Baruch Goldstein in his home — the perpetrator of a massacre in 1994 in which he burst into a mosque and murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers. Religious Zionism came in third place overall in the election, a historic breakthrough that mainstreams the most fascistic and genocidal ideas. Celebratory chants of “death to Arabs” filled the hall where their supporters gathered on election night when the exit polls were announced.
This election result coincides with intensified resistance by Palestinians. As the Israeli government steps up its support for settlements on occupied Palestinian land, it is becoming ever clearer that prospects for a “two-state solution” — where Palestinians are able to establish a sovereign government in some parts of their historic homeland alongside an Israeli state — are absurdly remote. Confrontation with the Israeli occupation is the only way to change the situation, a perspective being embraced with great heroism by masses of Palestinians.
In the city of Lydd, which is inside the original 1948 borders of Israel, the large Palestinian population rose up in May of last year as Israel was conducting yet another massacre in Gaza. The rebellion was so fierce that the city was briefly liberated and police had to temporarily withdraw. The Lydd uprising, which sparked fears of a full-scale revolt of Palestinians within Israel, was a significant theme in the election, especially in the far right’s campaigning.
In the West Bank, military action against the Israeli occupation is heating up. A new armed struggle group called the Lion’s Den has emerged, concentrated in the cities of Nablus and Jenin and largely composed of very young fighters who have quickly won widespread admiration with their bold actions. The Israeli military has besieged entire Palestinian cities hunting for members of the Lion’s Den, which have been answered by huge general strikes that have shut down the West Bank.
Negotiations will now begin to form the new far-right government. Itamar Ben-Gvir’s main demand is that he be named the Minister of Public Security, which would mean he would head the country’s police forces and prison system. This is enormously dangerous: A convicted terrorist supporter who openly celebrates the indiscriminate massacre of Palestinians would be put in charge of the main instruments of anti-Palestinian repression, aside from the regular military.
Whether or not Ben-Gvir gets his main prize, a new Netanyahu government is virtually certain to employ breathtaking violence as it seeks to suppress the Palestinian people’s struggle for freedom. The brutal, criminal nature of the Israeli apartheid regime will be on display for the world to see, and the global movement in solidarity with Palestine will have a major opening and responsibility to push for the international isolation of Israel. Nowhere will that be more important than inside the United States, the main sponsor of the Israeli regime.