March of the right


A Likud election campaign billboard depicting U.S. President Donald Trump shaking hands with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem on February 4. PHOTO/Ammar Awad/Reuters

Benjamin Netanyahu’s win for a fourth consecutive term in office could accelerate the process of turning Israel into a full-fledged Jewish state in which Palestinians may have no rights at all.

The victory of the extreme right-wing coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party in the Israeli general election held in the second week of April is bad news not only for Palestinians but for the entire region. Netanyahu has won an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in office. In all, he has held the Prime Minister’s post for a record five times and is set to emerge as the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israel’s history. Netanyahu’s election could accelerate the process of turning Israel into a full-fledged Jewish state in which its Palestinians citizens are legally deprived of their rights. More and more countries are now of the view that Israel’s policies in the West Bank bear comparison to apartheid, which was practised in South Africa.

In fact, the African National Congress-run South African government has downgraded relations with Israel because of its racist policies towards Palestinians. The South African ambassador was recalled after the Israeli army fired on peaceful protesters along the Gaza-Israel border in 2018. The South African government has indicated that it will ask the Israeli ambassador in Pretoria to leave. “When South Africa says ‘No’ to Israel, it is doing so in the name of Nelson Mandela, who supported the Palestinians in their struggle and felt a moral obligation to assist them,” the perceptive Israeli commentator Gideon Levy wrote in a recent article. “There is no doubt that Mandela too would have supported the severing of relations.”

In his column in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz written after the election results, Levy said that Israel was the last colonial regime left in the world. “The next government will be a continuation of the previous one, but stronger, more ultranationalist and racist, less legitimate and democratic,” Levy said. Gerard Araud, the outgoing French ambassador to the United States, in an interview with The Atlantic magazine, categorically stated that Israel had become an “apartheid state”.

Netanyahu had pledged to build more settlements on Palestinian land. Under his watch, Gaza will continue to remain an overcrowded open-air prison with no end in sight for the suffering of the people. According to a United Nations estimate, 183 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces last year. Many of them were children who were protesting along with their parents for an end to the occupation. The military invasions by Israel have totally devastated the infrastructure of Gaza. More than 97 per cent of Gaza’s water supply is severely polluted. It has adversely affected the health and lives of the residents of Gaza, especially children.

One of Netanyahu’s coalition partners this time was the racist “Jewish Power” party, which wants to annex all of the West Bank and encourage all non-Jewish citizens to leave the state of Israel. The ultimate goal of the right wing in Israel is to expand its borders to achieve the goal of “Eretz Israel” (Greater Israel) extending from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S.-led peace process, a perennial non-starter, has now been completely sabotaged by the Trump administration. President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are threatening to unveil the so-called “deal of the century” to end the Israel-Palestine dispute, but only Netanyahu is looking forward to it.

The victory of the corruption-tainted Netanyahu did not come as much of a surprise to the observers of the region. His campaign was similar in style to that of his friend and ideological soulmate, Narendra Modi. The majority of the populace lapped up his xenophobic and jingoist speeches on the campaign trail scapegoating his enemies and Palestinians. As the results of the last few elections have revealed, the Jewish majority has sharply veered to the right. Like Modi, Netanyahu ran on a platform extolling patriotism and vilifying the minorities. Netanyahu presented himself as the only candidate who could protect Israel from its enemies.

Saeeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said that the election results showed that the Israeli voter had said “no” to peace and “yes” to occupation. Only a handful of Israeli legislators elected in the April election support the “two-state” solution. The Labour Party, which once monopolised power in Israel, has been routed in the election. It now has only six members in the Knesset. The overwhelming majority of Israel is quite happy with the creeping colonisation of the West Bank.

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