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Who is the arch-racist poised to head Israeli government?

A new coalition has selected Naftali Bennett, an arch racist, to head the Israeli government, replacing Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Bennett is a staunch advocate of illegal Israeli settlements and the annexation of 60% of the West Bank coupled with the expulsion of the Palestinians who live there. He has repeatedly incited violence against Palestinian people.

If approved by the Israel’s parliament, Netanyahu’s government will be replaced by what the establishment media is calling “a coalition of the left and right.” They have chosen Bennett to be Prime Minister until 2023, and then to be replaced until 2025 by former TV host Yair Lapid who the media calls a “centrist.”

While this coalition included a few liberal Zionists, greens and even an Arab party, its choosing a rabid anti-Palestinian racist such as Bennett as Prime Minister shows that this is really a right wing coalition whose rule will not be significantly different than that of Netanyahu.

This choice also reflects the utter bankruptcy of Zionism, both its left and right versions, and exposes as utterly false its illusion that there can be any legitimacy in building a Jewish-only state in the Middle East by exterminating, expelling and starving the original inhabitants of the land — the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is already baiting the new coalition from the right, claiming its most right wing members have “sold out” by aligning with “the left” and with Arab lawmakers.

New government coalition filled with racists

After 12 years in office, Netanyahu is currently on trial for corruption charges, and has isolated much of his right wing base. With 30 seats of the 120 Knesset seats held by his Likud party, his opponents have repeatedly found it hard to piece together a coalition to unseat him. A series of elections, the last one in March, have ended in deadlock and not resulted in the formation of a new government.  

Negotiations to form a coalition large enough to unseat Netanyahu have been underway since March, and only came together hours before a deadline that would have mandated yet another election.  The main obstacle? Racism. Unable to form a government on their own, right wing groups were unwilling to form one by including Ra’am, a religious party supported by Palestinians living inside Israel’s 1948 borders, whose 4 parliament seats were needed to form a majority. The racists finally but reluctantly gave in at the 11th hour.

This is the very first time an Israel-based Palestinian party has been included in the government. Ra’am was promised no cabinet seats.  It hopes that entering the government will give it some leverage to ease restrictions on Palestinian housing.

Who is Naftali Bennett?

In 2012 Bennett became head of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home Party. He now heads the Yamina Party, a far right organization that is vehemently opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Bennett has proposed that Israel annex 60% of the West Bank and calls for a “population exchange,” which means driving the Palestinians out of that area.

He headed the Yesha Council, a political body representing settlers living on Palestinian land. Until the most recent election cycle, Bennett was part of a political alliance with Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the even more rabid religious far right.

Bennett has been part of the Netanayhu government on and off since 2008, invited by the prime minister to serve as his chief of staff, education minister and defense minister. He has repeatedly used his government position to incite violence against Palestinians. In 2013 during a cabinet discussion on Palestinian prisoners he said “If we capture terrorists, we need to just kill them … I’ve already killed a lot of Arabs in my life, and there’s no problem with that.”

In 2018 during the Great March of Return demonstrations that Palestinians in Gaza held at the Israeli border he said that any Palestinian attempting to cross that border should be shot and killed. Regarding Israeli soldiers being instructed to shoot Palestinian children, he said, “They are not children they are terrorists.”

Most recently, on May 20 he posted a video attempting to justify Israel’s 11-day bombing of Gazan homes, schools and hospitals. Speaking with his supposed authority “as Israel’s former defense minister,” Bennett claimed Gaza’s Shifa hospital was the place “where Hamas’ headquarter is located, while they are conducting terror actions against Israel.”

Not only were his allegation about the hospital utterly false, but the photograph in Bennett’s video is not al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city but the Shifa International Hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan thousands of miles away. Meanwhile, not even Israel’s military, which bombed the main road leading to Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, has claimed Hamas uses it as its headquarters.

Complicit with Netanyahu’s crimes

Yair Lapid is being called a “centrist.” But the policies he has supported are not. He was finance minister from 2013-14, during which time Israel conducted a massive bombardment of Gaza. Participation in the Netanyahu government makes both politicians complicit with the Netanyahu government’s war against Palestinians, and reveals this new government to be a continuation the same old poison in new bottles.

In Gaza, they are complicit with the strangling embargo and repeated bombardment of the civilian population there. Within the 1948 borders, their complicity includes the passing of more than 50 laws codifying inequality and apartheid for Palestinians who are 21% of Israeli citizens.

On the West Bank, they are complicit with Netanayhu government turning the “peace process” into a cover for massive Zionist settlement in the West Bank. Today several hundred colonies contain 400,000 settlers with their own roads protected by scores of Israeli military outposts. These politicians are complicit with settler strangulation of the West Bank by using  80% of all its available water, and for piping its untreated sewage onto Palestinian lands, destroying crops and poisoning water.

U.S. vows to ‘defend’ Israel

This is the Israel which the Biden administration has made a top priority to ‘defend,’ even recently reaffirming U.S. “commitment to Israel’s security.” In addition to the $3.8 million in arms the United States gives the apartheid state annually, it will likely fork over another $1 billion to repair Israel’s U.S.-built “Iron Dome” missile defense system.

At this moment, however, the political momentum is not with bankrupt Israeli leaders or their U.S. backers. It is with the heroic Palestinian uprising last month. By taking to the streets with one voice in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, within the 1948 borders and wherever they are around the world, Palestinians have shown that even after 73 years their struggle is not dead, and they will always fight for the right to return and to live in Palestine with full rights.

Palestinians have made it clear that Israel’s government and its Pentagon backers can kill and harm many, but they can never win and will never crush the struggle.

Feature photo: Naftali Bennett with U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper

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