Israeli politics

Written by Hafsa Ammar 7:55 pm Articles, Current Affairs, International Relations, Published Content

Israeli Politics and Its New Far-Right Direction

Israeli politics has been making its round on international headlines in the past few months, especially after the historic 6th re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition in November of 2022. The government’s newest version is deemed the most right-wing establishment in Israeli history. It includes the Noam Party, Bezalel Yoel Smotrich of the Religious Zionist Party, and the infamous Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit party.
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Hafsa Ammar is a student of the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at the National Defence University, Islamabad. Her areas of expertise are hybrid warfare, narrative building, and nuclear deterrence in South Asia.

Israeli Government

The Israeli government is a parliamentary democracy that conducts general elections every 4 years. Its infamous parliament is known as the Knesset. Netanyahu’s government was ousted by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. Former rivals had come together to end Benjamin’s long-time rule in Israeli politics. All the while, Netanyahu was under charges for three major corruption cases involving fraud and bribery. However, Netanyahu’s return with an extremely right coalition will further radicalize the politics of the country.

The National Security Minister

A state has several avenues that it needs to secure the well-being of its citizens which include but aren’t limited to food safety, energy, climate change, health and education, foreign influence, and national security. National security includes paramilitary troops; the most dispersed and multifunctional one being the police forces.

Itamar Ben-Gvir
Itamar Ben Gvir 3” by אלון נוריאל is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

The National Security Minister controls and oversees the movement and stationing of domestic police and can even go as far as changing conditions for arrest, detention, and use of force. Such a massive amount of power should not be handed so flippantly to a man with publicly declared racist sentiments.

The 46-year-old ultranationalist Israeli personality Itamar Ben-Gvir is set to become the newest National Security Minister, and it has led to mass panic across Israel itself and in Palestine as well. The man is known for his cutthroat and brutal nature with an affinity for Anti-Arab sentiments.

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Ben-Gvir has a troublesome past, the start of which is marked by the incident of his stealing the Cadillac emblem off of Yitzhak Rabin’s car when he was a teenager; he even proceeded to threaten the former Prime Minister on camera, his fanatic murmurings included the phrase, ‘We’ll get him next time.’

He had many run-ins with the police and legal courts due to his incurable habit of being a provocateur of hate toward Palestinians. His membership in Meir Kahane’s Kach Faction itself proves to be somewhat of a red flag that much of the Israeli citizenship is turning a blind eye towards.

Meir Kahane

Meir Kahane was a right-wing outfit formed by Rabbi Meir Kahane and the Jewish Defense League. Their main aim was to carve a mark into Israeli politics and introduce anti-Arab migration policies that specifically worked towards the reduction of the Arab population in Israel. Making Arabs a minority would give Israel overarching authority and sovereignty over the occupied lands.

The organization wanted to incorporate Jewish legal injunctions into the state system. After tackling territory and legal arenas, Meir Kahane also wanted to establish a stronghold in the nation’s most abundant resource: youth. It wanted to introduce reforms in the educational institutions that promoted Jewish ideals and emphasized the wide chasm of differences between Jewish and Gentile populations. It meant to instill an air of superiority with undercurrents of racism.

The organization ran in the general elections several times (1973, 1977, 1981), but they were disqualified temporarily before the elections in 1984, a decision which they contested and won, proceeding to run and claim a seat in the Knesset. However, by the time the 12th Knesset rolled around in 1988, the party was disqualified entirely due to its manifesto inciting racist sentiments in the masses.

Knesset building
Knesset building” by fscc102599 is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

After Kahane’s assassination in 1990, the organization fractioned into two groups: Kach and Kahane Chai. Both were disqualified from running in the 1992 elections and were declared terrorist organizations. Itamar Ben-Gvir was a vocal member of the Kach faction as it highlighted his views of an Arab-free Israel.

Born to parents from Muslim countries, Ben-Gvir is a danger to the Muslims living in the peripheries of his state. It can only be explained through his act of keeping a framed picture of ‘Dr. Goldstein’ in his living room why many people see him as akin to a terrorist.

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Goldstein was a murderer who opened fire on prostrating Muslims in 1994. Anyone who idolizes such an extremist should not be allowed free reign on the police forces of a sovereign state. It is this very reason that the foreign prime minister Naftali Bennett refused to work alongside Gvir.

Entertainment Politics

One would argue why in such an age of easily accessible Internet and information, would people still vote for and side with politicians such as Ben-Gvir when their ideologies have been publicly denounced multiple times in the past. Social scientists have deduced that the nature of political perception has been changing.

After the wave of democratization, which was heavily capitalized on by the West, now the focus is being shifted toward the pitfalls of said democracy. Right-wing ultranationalist leaders and traditionalists are using unsatisfied populations and pitting them against liberal ideals. Politics has taken the form of a rope in a complex tug of war, and recently one side has gained a massive support base in the form of radicalized youth.

Role of Youth

Youth are often the biggest and most influential population within a nation. They are at the forefront of revolutions and rebellions. The current government of Israel has opened up the previously disenfranchised radicalized youth as a massive voting resource.

IDF has been engaged in youth-based programs since the early 90s. The formation of Gadna (Youth Battalions) played a key role in prepping youth for a life of military servitude. The mentality of a militarized peace and armored glory has been sitting in the minds of a large percentage of Israeli youth, and it has been accessed by Ben-Gvir due to his bold actions and statements.

Inflammatory Acts

Itamar Ben-Gvir has had multiple incidents of skirting the law and inciting violence against Palestinians. His favorite slogan “Death to Terrorists” has aided in the narrative building and association of the Arab population with terrorist attacks and organizations. The residents of Hebron are especially worried and on edge with Gvir’s re-entry into Israeli politics, as Hebron is the central hub of Palestinian citizens and is more often than not raided by unforgiving IDF forces.

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He has been known to antagonize the Jews against the Arabs, especially during times of crisis when emotions are running at an all-time high on both sides. During the Sheikh Jarrah displacements, he took an exceedingly extremist stance which was ultimately covered by Times of Israel too. He had gone onto social media, exclaiming that the IDF should open fire on or detain those who opposed them, be it even with a measly stone.

As he accompanied a group of settlers in harassing and assaulting a Palestinian family in their residence, he was pelted at by stones; the only weapon available to the Palestinians. Ben-Gvir took great offense to the pebbles and pulled out a gun, asking the police officers to shoot the offenders.

His unhinged fanaticism has reared its head in many other instances as well. A recent provocation by the politician took place in the first week of 2023. Ben-Gvir visited Masjid Al-Aqsa on the 3rd of January which was seen as a purposeful attempt to aggravate the Palestinians. He declared the Masjid as “Temple Mount,” a term used by Jews for the sacred space, and open to all. His act of violating religious boundaries was a global shock and several states came forward to address it on international forums such as the UAE, Egypt, Turkey, and China.

Jordan also made its rounds by condemning Israeli actions. The deed also drew responses from non-state entities and extremist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, warning of potential clashes and impending war. The takeaway from these incidents is that the upcoming Israeli government is presenting to be a direct threat to not only its constituents but to its neighbors as well.

However, as the new additions to the coalition, especially the conservatism Noam Party and Arab-deportation-hungry Ben-Gvir, do not have a positive history or citizenry support to fall back on, this new establishment has weak knees from the very start. International condemnation doesn’t bode well for its future either. Only time will tell whether they can stabilize themselves or collapse in Israeli politics.

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