Bibi and the One State Solution

 BY GILAD ATZMON

bibi one state.jpg

By Gilad Atzmon

I am slightly amused by the many voices who celebrate what is perceived as the end of the Netanyahu era. Of course, I am not a Netanyahu supporter, far from it, but I will give Netanyahu credit where he deserves it.  ‘King Bibi,’ as his Jewish supporters often refer to him, was actually a crucial factor in the rise of Palestinian resistance and Palestinian unity.  Bibi was a pragmatist who managed to pull his nation, the region and even the entire world into a chain of disasters in a desperate but relentless attempt to save himself. Bibi is not a conspirator. He did it all in the open, and despite this, he is still the most popular politician in Israel.

As I have pointed out many times before, Israel is not politically divided. The vast majority of Israeli Knesset Members (MKs) are to the right of Netanyahu. Israel’s political establishment is divided over Netanyahu, but primarily due to personal rifts.

Israel is now governed by a very weak coalition unlikely to hold together for very long. One minor border clash in Gaza or a Jewish right-wing march in Jerusalem could topple the government and bring to an end to the ‘spirit of change’ in Israel. Since the current government enjoys a majority of just one Knesset member, every member in the coalition possesses the power to topple the government, or alternatively to mount significant pressure on the leader. The Government is practically paralyzed.  

But the issue is far deeper. Netanyahu’s potential disappearance (be it through retirement from politics or shelter from his legal issues in a friendly country) will see the immediate collapse of the current coalition in favour of an ultra-right government. Such a government would enjoy the support of at least 80 Knesset members. It would include whatever is left out of the Likud party, the rabbinical Orthodox parties and of course around 20-25 of Netanyahu’s right-wing rivals who happened to end up (momentarily) in the so called ‘change coalition’.

In the complicated political stalemate that emerged due to the unresolved tension between Netanyahu and his rivals within the Right (such as Naftali Bennett, Gideon Sa’ar and Avigdor Lieberman), the Islamist party and its leader Mansur Abbas became kingmakers. On the face of it, the success of Abbas could bring many more Israeli Arabs to the polls. If Arabs in Israel see a benefit in their political participation and decide to go to the polls at a similar rate to their Jewish counterparts, they could almost double their representation in the Knesset. Israeli Arabs could easily become the most significant political bloc in the Jewish State.  Yet Netanyahu’s disappearance would lead a shift in the complete opposite direction. With a right-wing Jewish coalition comprised of 80 MKs, no one would be dependent on the support of Ra’am or any Arab party.

What are the chances of Netanyahu disappearing? It depends how his trial evolves. But despite some calls to replace him within the Likud party, every grassroots Likud activist knows that Likud’s future and its electoral survival are totally dependent on Netanyahu and his charisma. Not only did he fail to prepare a successor, he worked tirelessly to undermine every gifted politician around him. He turned every rising right-wing alternative into his bitter enemy, and to a certain extent owes himself his own demise.

 

Unlike the naïve voices who speak for Palestine in the West but hardly understand the region and are too scared to ask what is it that drives the Jewish State, Hamas’ strategists see it all. They helped Bibi stay in power: he let them win, they let him paralyze Israel and let it spiral down. I also believe that Mansour Abbas can read the map. He knows that the Israeli Left is a comical compromised act. He knows that Meretz and the Labour party have removed themselves from the conflict and are solely concerned with climate issues and  Identitarian matters  (LGBTQ in particular). Mansour Abbas made a strategic effort to bond with the Jewish right wing, to form a coalition with the Orthodox parties. Bibi was happy to take Abbas into his coalition but Abbas failed to achieve his goal because the ultra-right Jewish parties identified his strategy and worked hard to undermine it.

I would have thought that in light of the above, those who wish for one state between the River and the Sea should consider accepting that Bibi may be the safest and fastest route towards such a goal. 

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Israeli General: 11-Day Gaza War Just ‘First Stage’ of Wider Campaign

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° on 

Israeli soldiers work at an artillery unit as it fires near the border between Israel and the Gaza strip, on the Israeli side May 17, 2021

Morgan Artyukhina
After the Second Intifada uprising and the 2006 election victory of Hamas in Gaza, Israel was forced to pull all its settlers out of the Gaza Strip, at which time it imposed a cordon sanitaire around the territory that has dramatically impacted access to basic necessities by its more than 2 million Palestinian inhabitants.

During an interview with Israel’s Channel 13 on Thursday, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, head of the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command, said that the IDF limited its recent war in Gaza due to civilian pressure “on the home front,” but noted the military is “totally prepared” to continue if necessary.

“The operation ended, or at least its first stage did. The next stage will happen if we see that the security situation has changed,” Toledano said, according to the Times of Israel. That “first stage” involved roughly 1,500 airstrikes on targets in the Gaza Strip, which the IDF said targeted members of Hamas and the group’s facilities. The group’s militant wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, fired more than 4,300 rockets and mortars at Israel during the 11-day war.

While most of Hamas’ projectiles were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome air defense system, Gaza has few air defenses and the bombs fell on apartment buildings in the densely populated city, killing 254 people, 67 of whom were children and 80 of whom were militants, according to local health officials and Hamas. In Israel, 12 civilians, including two children, were killed by Hamas rockets.

Toledano said the IDF tried to “make the most” of the conflict while public opinion in Israel was on their side.

“We don’t have operations like this every week or every month because we understand the burden that this puts on civilians, especially on the home front. And therefore when we launched this operation, we had to make the most of it,” he said, adding that “these wars are complicated in terms of the rockets.”

“We are totally prepared to continue from the 11th day, with the 12th day, with the 13th day. It’s all contingent upon the security situation,” he continued. “If we succeeded with this first stage, that’s great. If we didn’t, we’ll have to continue.”

Israel’s previous major military operations in Gaza, in 2009 and 2014, each lasted several weeks and killed thousands of people, the vast majority of them Palestinians in Gaza, but also saw significantly increased numbers of Israeli civilians killed and injured as well.

In the aftermath of the May 20 ceasefire, both the IDF and Hamas have claimed victory. Hamas called the operation “Sword of Jerusalem” and said its intent was to halt the attacks by Israelis police against worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque and in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, where several Palestinian families are at risk of being evicted after an Israeli court ruled in favor of Jewish settlers.

However, while the IDF claimed to have destroyed large numbers of stockpiled rockets and Hamas infrastructure and shot down some 90% of the rockets launched, the Times of Israel said after the conflict that the IDF’s “Operation Guardian of the Walls” had not been the resounding victory Jerusalem hoped for.

The wildcard now is the Wednesday formation of a government with New Right chief Naftali Bennett at the helm. While the right-wing figure recently referred to the bombardment of Gaza as part of Israel’s “just war against terrorism,” the kingmaker United Arab List, a small Palestinian party that helped the coalition to reach a majority in the Knesset, could be a moderating factor on some of Bennett’s more aggressive intentions.

A Palestinian party has never before been part of an Israeli government, and leader Mansour Abbas said on Wednesday that he only agreed to join the coalition after reaching “critical agreements on various issues that serve the interests of Arab society,” including education, welfare, employment, economic development, planning, construction, and crime and violence, according to Haaretz, as well as granting official status to Arab Bedouin settlements in the Negev Desert.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been head of the Israeli government for 12 years, warned right-wing members of the Knesset on Thursday to oppose what he characterized as a “dangerous left-wing government” coming into power, saying it was “selling” the Negev to the Bedouin.

Israel’s new government will deepen rifts, not heal them

Mansour Abbas (R) signs a coalition agreement with Yair Lapid (L) and Naftali Bennett in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv, on 2 June 2021 (AFP/United Arab List)

Jonathan Cook

4 June 2021 10:03 UT

The symbolic moment of a Palestinian party sitting in government alongside settler leaders will turn sour all too soon

The photo was unprecedented. It showed Mansour Abbas, leader of an Islamist party for Palestinians in Israel, signing an agreement on Wednesday night to sit in a “government of change” alongside settler leader Naftali Bennett.

Caretaker Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will fervently try to find a way to break up the coalition in the next few days, before a parliamentary vote takes place. But if he fails, it will be the first time in the country’s 73-year history that a party led by a Palestinian citizen has joined – or been allowed to join – an Israeli government. 

There will be a reckoning for this moment, and Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens… will once again pay the heaviest price

Aside from the symbolism of the moment, there are no other grounds for celebration. In fact, the involvement of Abbas’s four-member United Arab List in shoring up a majority for a government led by Bennett and Yair Lapid is almost certain to lead to a further deterioration in majority-minority relations.

There will be a reckoning for this moment, and Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens, a fifth of the population, will once again pay the heaviest price.

The sole reason that this makeshift coalition exists – the only glue holding it together – is the hostility of the various parties towards Netanyahu. In most cases, that is not a hostility towards his political positions; simply towards him personally, and towards the corrupting stranglehold he has exerted on Israel’s political system for the past 12 years. 

The “change” referred to by this proposed government coalition begins and ends with the removal of Netanyahu.

Doubly offended

It barely needs stating again that Bennett, who will serve first as prime minister in rotation with Lapid, is even more right wing than Netanyahu. In fact, three of the new coalition’s main parties are at least, if not more, rabidly nationalistic than the Israel’s longtime leader. In any other circumstances, they would be enthusiastically heading into government with his Likud Party.

As Bennett and Mansour huddled inside a hotel near Tel Aviv to sign the coalition agreement as the clocked ticked down on Lapid’s mandate to form a government, far-right demonstrators noisily chanted outside that Bennett was joining a “government with terror supporters”.

Much of the ultra-nationalist right is so incensed by Bennett’s actions that he and other members of his Yamina party have been assigned a security detail for fear of an assassination attempt.

Bennett, set to serve first as prime minister, attends a special Knesset session on 2 June 2021 (AFP)
Bennett, set to serve first as prime minister, attends a special Knesset session on 2 June 2021 (AFP)

No one has forgotten that it was Bennett’s own settler camp that produced Yigal Amir, the man who in 1995 shot dead the then-prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in a bid to foil the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians. Amir killed Rabin in large part because the latter was seen to have betrayed the Jewish people by allowing “Arabs” – Palestinian parties in parliament – to prop up his minority government from outside. They did so to pass legislation necessary to begin implementing the Oslo process.

The chain of events that followed the assassination are well-known. Israelis lurched further rightwards and elected Netanyahu. The Oslo track with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was derailed. A Palestinian intifada erupted. And – coming full circle – Netanyahu returned to power and is now Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

Today’s potential Yigal Amirs are doubly offended by Bennett’s behaviour. They believe he has stabbed the right’s natural leader, Netanyahu, in the back, while at the same time allowing Abbas – seen by the right as Hamas’s man in the Knesset – to dictate policy to the Jewish owners of the land.

Digging in heels

It was notable that Bennett and Abbas were the last to sign the coalition agreement, after both made great play of digging in their heels at the final moment for more concessions. Each risks inflaming their own constituency by being seen to cooperate with the other. 

Commentators will try to spin this agreement between a settler leader and the head of an Islamic party as a potential moment of healing after last month’s unprecedented inter-communal fighting inside Israel.Israel’s incoming government is so unnatural only Netanyahu can keep it togetherRead More »

But such a reading is as misleading as the narrative of the recent “Jewish-Arab clashes”. In fact, protests by Palestinian youths against systematic discrimination escalated into confrontations only after Israeli police turned violent and let Jewish gangs take the law into their own hands. Just as the balance of power on the streets was weighted in favour of Jewish vigilantism, so the balance of forces in this new coalition will work solidly against Abbas.

When Bennett spoke publicly on Sunday, as the horse-trading began in earnest behind the scenes, he underscored his credentials as the former head of the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements. That will be the theme of this proposed “government of change”. 

Pact with the ‘devil’

During the coalition-building negotiations, the more moderate Labor and Meretz parties conceded time and again to the demands of the far-right and settler parties on ministerial positions and policy. That is because the moderates have nowhere else to go. 

They have built their whole electoral strategy on ousting Netanyahu at any cost, using the anti-Netanyahu street protests of the past two years as their rallying cry. They cannot afford to be seen as missing this opportunity.

By contrast, as the death threats highlight, Bennett has far more to lose. Some 60 percent of his party’s voters recently told pollsters they would not have backed him had they known he would join a coalition with Lapid. Equally at risk are Gideon Saar, whose New Hope party broke away from Likud to challenge Netanyahu, and Avigdor Lieberman, a settler politician whose right-wing base has found in him their local strongman.

The Achilles heel Netanyahu will keep prodding as viciously as he can is the fact that his rivals on the right have made a Faustian pact with the Arab ‘devil’

These three must now do everything in their power during the term of this new government – if it happens – to prove to their constituencies that they are not betraying the far-right’s favourite causes, from settlements to annexation. Baiting them from the sidelines at every turn will be Netanyahu, stirring up passions on the right – at least until he is forced to step down, either by his party or by a verdict against him in his current corruption trial

The Achilles heel Netanyahu will keep prodding as viciously as he can is the fact that his rivals on the right have made a Faustian pact with the Arab “devil”. Netanyahu has never been shy to incite against the Palestinian minority. To imagine he will restrain himself this time is fanciful. 

Bennett understands the danger, which is why he tried to legitimise his dealings with Abbas on Thursday by calling him “a brave leader”. But Bennett was also keen to emphasise that Abbas would not be involved in any security matters and that he was not interested in “nationalism” – in this case, indicating that Abbas will neither offer support to Palestinians under occupation nor seek to advance national rights for Palestinian citizens of the kind Israeli Jews enjoy. 

Early on Thursday, Netanyahu had decried the new coalition as “dangerous” and “left wing”. He will most likely be in the driving seat, even while in opposition. Far from healing the country, a “government of change” could rapidly provoke yet more street violence, especially if Netanyahu believes such a deterioration would weaken Bennett as prime minister.

Extracting benefits

Abbas, the United Arab List leader, reportedly held out until last before signing. His whole electoral strategy was built on a promise to end the permanent exclusion of Palestinian parties from Israel’s national politics. He will be keen to show how many benefits he can extract from his role inside government – even if most are privileges the Jewish majority have always enjoyed by right.

Abbas trumpeted that the agreement would “provide solutions for the burning issues in Arab society – planning, the housing crisis, and of course, fighting violence and organised crime”. He has reportedly secured some $16bn in extra budgets for development and infrastructure, and three of the many Bedouin villages the state has long refused to recognise will be given legal status.

Abbas, the United Arab List leader, is pictured in Jerusalem on 5 April 2021 (AFP)
Abbas, the United Arab List leader, is pictured in Jerusalem on 5 April 2021 (AFP)

Abbas is also pushing for the repeal of a 2017 law that makes tens of thousands of homes in Palestinian communities inside Israel vulnerable to demolition.

One of his fellow legislators, Walid Taha, observed of the United Arab List’s new role: “For decades, Arab Israelis [Palestinian citizens] have been without any influence. Now, everyone knows that we’re the deciding votes as far as politics goes.”

Abbas has every incentive to use such claims as a whip to beat his rivals in the Joint List, a coalition of several other Palestinian parties that are staying in opposition. He needs to emphasise his role in bringing about change to make them look weak and irrelevant.

Hostility and disdain

But despite the promises that lured Abbas into the new government, he will face a rough ride getting any of them translated into tangible changes on the ground.

Lapid will be busy as foreign minister, selling this as a new era in Israeli politics. Meanwhile, Benny Gantz, the current defence minister who just oversaw the destruction yet again of Gaza, will offer continuity.

Back home, the key internal ministries will be held by the far-right. Lieberman will control the purse strings through the finance ministry, directing funds to settlements before Palestinian communities inside Israel. Bennett’s partner, Ayelet Shaked, will be interior minister, meaning the settlements in the occupied West Bank will be treated as more integral to Israel than the communities of Palestinian citizens. And Saar will be justice minister, helping to drive the legal system even further to the right.Israel: Four reasons Benjamin Netanyahu’s era is not over yetRead More »

Faced with this bloc, all of them keen to be seen as upholding the values of the right, Abbas will struggle to make any progress. And that is without considering the situation he will find himself in if Bennett pushes for annexation of the West Bank, or authorises another police invasion of al-Aqsa, or oversees the expulsion of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah, or launches a fresh attack on Gaza. 

Abbas put the coalition negotiations on pause during Israel’s assault on Gaza last month. He won’t be able to do the same from inside the government. He will be directly implicated. 

As a result, Palestinian citizens are likely to end up growing even more disillusioned with a political system that has always treated them with a mix of hostility and disdain. They will finally have representatives inside government, but will continue to be very much outside of it. The triggers for the protests that erupted among young Palestinians in Israel last month are not going away.  

The most likely scenario over the coming months is that Netanyahu and Bennett will engage in a furious competition for who deserves the title of champion of the right. Netanyahu will seek to break apart the coalition as quickly as possible by inciting against Abbas and the Palestinian minority, so he has another shot at power. In turn, Bennett will try to pressure Likud to abandon Netanyahu so that Bennett can collapse the “government of change” as quickly as possible and rejoin a large majority, far-right government with Likud. 

Rifts will not be healed; coexistence will not be revived. But the preeminence of the ultra-nationalist right – with or without Netanyahu – will be restored. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

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