Netanyahu’s Most Anti-Palestinian Government Yet

There is an effective way to pressure Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and violation of the rights of the Palestinians, writes Marjorie Cohn.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 2018. (World Economic Forum, Flickr, Manuel Lopez, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

By Marjorie Cohn

Benjamin Netanyahu has been sworn in for his sixth term as prime minister of Israel. While his prior tenures resulted in the commission of war crimes against the Palestinian people, Netanyahu’s new regime promises to be the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israel’s history.

Netanyahu won reelection despite facing criminal charges for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

In order to secure a sixth term, Netanyahu made a devil’s bargain with the extreme right-wing religious elements in Israel. Aside from Netanyahu’s largely secular Likud Party, all other parties in his new coalition are religious, with two of them representing ultra-Orthodox Jewish Israelis, or Haredim.

“The ministers of Netanyahu’s new government have been salivating for weeks at the thought of what they will change once in power,” Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Truthout “Now that they’ve been sworn in, there is no doubt plans are already afoot for massive settlement expansion, establishment of de facto (albeit illegal) annexation of large parts of the West Bank, widespread increases in house demolitions and forced evictions of Palestinian families, all aimed at escalating what earlier governments also called the ‘Judaization’ of occupied East Jerusalem and most of the West Bank.”

Netanyahu’s coalition declared the Jewish people’s “exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel.” This goes even further than the 2018 “basic law” — which enshrined apartheid in Israeli law — by stating that only Jews have the right to self-determination.

Under the new government, Palestinians “will face even more horrific discrimination. Military assaults on Gaza, arrests and detention of children, collective punishments — all will escalate,” Bennis said, adding that “the violations will get worse, not only quantitatively but qualitatively as well.”

Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir

Israel’s new national security minister is extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was convicted of supporting terrorism and inciting anti-Arab racism. He will oversee Israel’s police force.

Five days after Netanyahu was sworn in, Ben-Gvir entered Islam’s third holiest site, the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, infuriating Palestinians. Hazem Qassem, spokesperson for Hamas, told Al Jazeera that Ben-Gvir’s action is “a continuation of the Zionist occupation’s aggression against our sanctities and its war on its Arab identity.”

Itamar Ben-Gvir, on phone, with radical right political activist Bentzi Gopstein in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem in February 2022. (CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry referred to Ben-Gvir’s “storming” of Al Aqsa as an “unprecedented provocation and a dangerous escalation of the conflict.” Indeed, Al Jazeera noted, “Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s entrance to the site in 2000 sparked the second Palestinian Intifada or uprising.” [The U.N. Security Council’s meeting on the incident on Thursday resulted in an expression of concern, Al Jazeera reported.] 

Bezalel Smotrich, head of the Religious Zionism Party, will serve as minister of finance. He will appoint the military unit that supervises border crossings and permits for Palestinians. Smotrich has advocated eliminating the authority to indict public servants for breach of trust and fraud, a change that could make charges against Netanyahu disappear.

The coalition also plans to amend the current anti-discrimination law to allow businesses and service providers to refuse services that violate their religious beliefs. It would permit them to discriminate against LGBTQ people and women.

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Palestinians are not surprised at the escalation of repression promised by the new government. “Its annexationist agenda of Jewish supremacy is now very blunt and clear,” Husam Zomlot, Palestinian ambassador to Britain, told The New York Times.

Several Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, including Adalah, B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Peace Now and Physicians for Human Rights Israel, signed a joint statement warning that “the occupation and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories have made Jewish supremacy the de facto law of the land and the new government seeks to adopt this into their official policy.”

More than 100 retired Israeli ambassadors and senior Foreign Ministry officials signed a letter to Netanyahu expressing “profound concern” about possible damage to Israel’s foreign relations.

Hundreds of rabbis in the United States issued an open letter protesting the coalition’s intention to erode the rights of LGBTQ people and women, allow the Knesset (Parliament) to override decisions of the Israeli Supreme Court, annex the West Bank without allowing Palestinians to vote, expel Arab Israeli citizens who question the government and limit the Law of Return to Orthodox Jews. (The Law of Return, enacted in 1950, provides every Jew with the right to come to Israel. Its purpose was to solidify Israel as a Jewish state.)

“When those who tout racism and bigotry claim to speak in the name of Israel, but deny our rights, our heritage, and the rights of the most vulnerable among us, we must take action. We must speak out,” the rabbis wrote.

For the United States’ part, Bennis says, what is needed is “a shift in U.S. policy towards one that reflects the growing public and media opinion in this country — recognition of Israeli apartheid, and the need to challenge the longstanding levels of uncritical military, diplomatic and economic support for apartheid.”

U.S. President Joe Biden in Israel, July 2022. (U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

The U.S. government is Israel’s chief enabler, to the tune of $3.8 billion in annual military assistance. Indeed, President Joe Biden reiterated his great affection for Netanyahu, “who has been my friend for decades, to jointly address the many challenges and opportunities facing Israel and the Middle East region.” Biden is implementing former President Donald Trump’s illegal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by building a permanent embassy on land stolen from the Palestinians.

Thomas Nides, U.S. ambassador to Israel, echoed Biden’s praise for Netanyahu. “He’s a very talented and very experienced prime minister. We want to work closely with him on mutual values we share, and at this point not get distracted by everyone else,” Nides said. “Here’s to the rock solid U.S.-Israel relationship and unbreakable ties,” he tweeted.

Thomas Nides, U.S. ambassador to Israel, on the tarmac during President Joe Biden’s visit in July 2022. (U.S. Embassy Jerusalem, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Meanwhile, on Dec. 30, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution urging the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. The ICJ, also known as the World Court, is the judicial arm of the U.N. It deals with disputes between U.N. member countries.

The General Assembly resolution seeks an ICJ opinion on the

“legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures.”

In 2004, the ICJ issued an advisory opinion which concluded that Israel’s barrier wall built on occupied Palestinian territory violated international law and ordered Israel to dismantle it and pay reparations. Israel ignored the ICJ’s ruling.

There is an effective way to pressure Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and violation of the rights of the Palestinians. The Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement, an initiative of Palestinian civil society, consists of “non-violent punitive measures.” This includes academic, cultural and economic boycotts; divestment from Israeli and allied companies; and sanctions such as ending military trade agreements.

These measures will last until Israel recognizes the Palestinian people’s “inalienable right to self-determination” and fully complies with international law by: (1) ending the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the barrier wall; (2) recognizing the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and (3) respecting, protecting and promoting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their land as required by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.

“The domination of an unabashedly racist, Jewish fundamentalist, genocidal, and homophobic strand of Zionism in the current Netanyahu far-right government makes the ground even more fertile for the BDS movement to further isolate Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid at all levels,” Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, wrote in an email to Truthout. “But fertile grounds alone do not yield fruit; we still need the passion and the strategic labor of many around the world to plant seeds of change, to amass people’s power and strategically direct it to dismantle systems of oppression.”

Barghouti added, “With this unmasked Israeli fascism in power, it is high time to demolish the colonial hypocrisy of the U.S. and its European allies. They have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia because of its months-long illegal invasion of Ukraine, yet they’ve continued to enable, fund and defend Israel’s decades-long system of violent oppression of the Indigenous Palestinian people.”

BDS has had a measure of success such that Israel sees it as an existential threat. (Those who wish to learn more about the BDS movement can seek information here.)

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and a member of the national advisory boards of Assange Defense and Veterans For Peace, and the bureau of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Her books include Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral and Geopolitical Issues. She is co-host of “Law and Disorder” radio.

This article is from Truthout and reprinted with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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7 comments for “Netanyahu’s Most Anti-Palestinian Government Yet

  1. Dr. Hujjatullah M.H.B. Sahib
    January 9, 2023 at 01:49

    Despite Barghouti’s righteous quip on Western colonial hypocrisy as exposed in the cases of Ukraine recently and Palestine historically, the BDS movement itself cannot escape being seen as another project hatched by the Palestinians’ traditional oppressors to better control them via a proxy publicly seen to “legitimately” champion their just cause !

    • robert e williamson jr
      January 9, 2023 at 15:20

      Dr. Hujjatullah M.H.B. Sahib, maybe maybe not.

      You may be interested in visiting the

      Or you can Google “States voting to make the BDS movement illegal, there are 26 of them attacking free speech by doing so. BDS wiki shows 36 states with more pending. If the BDS was not being effective do you think so many states would care one way or the other?

      What the BDS has exposed simply is just how far Israeli Lobby money has seeped into the everyday politics of Americans. Punishing small and all businesses who wish to exhibit displeasure with Israeli policies sure seems counter intuitive t0 the welfare of this country to me. Which in my opinion why AIPAC protests so loudly. U.S. congressional politicians seem to have verified as much by their positions.

      I’m thinking yours is a reach too far.

      Could you clarify your position for me.

  2. robert e williamson jr
    January 8, 2023 at 15:34

    Marjorie, Piotr, Valerie and ray all have made valid points here. The BDS effort is effective at it’s purported purpose.

    I have just received the Annual Report from IRmep. I advise everyone interested to visit Grant Smith’s and see on the first page GRASSROOTS MOBILIZATION.

    We can do this this and do this we must!

  3. Rebecca Turner
    January 8, 2023 at 03:50

    “it would permit them to discriminate against LGBTQ people and women”, which would bring Israel closer to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where such discrimination has always been deeply-rooted and sometimes lethal. In Israel, as in Gaza and the West Bank, religious bigotry drives hatred of LGBT+ people and the desire to ensure women have a much worse life than men. Yet pro-Palestinian activists, either out of embarrassment or (in some cases) because they share these regressive values, refuse to campaign for better lives for women and LGBT+ people in the OPT.

    “A Hamas-run Islamic court in the Gaza Strip has ruled that women require the permission of a male guardian to travel, further restricting movement in and out of the territory that has been blockaded by Israel and Egypt since the militant group seized power.” (The Guardian, 2019)

    “On August 18, the Palestinian Authority barred the Al Qaws (Rainbow) organization, which combines several LGBT groups, from holding an event in the Nablus area. Palestinian policemen not only forcibly prevented the gathering but issued a harsh and threatening warning to members of the gay community. They asked citizens to provide the police with any information they might have about the organization’s activities, and made the following statement:

    The Palestinian police will prevent the holding of the event and notes that it did not know about the similar previous events that were held in Nablus. The event in question is not suitable to the conservative nature of the city and will offend the values of the local population and the city of Nablus…The event, if held, will constitute an affront to the tradition and a blow to the values that Palestinian society has upheld throughout its history.”” (BESA Center, 2019)

    “Women continued to have fewer rights than men in relation to divorce, custody of children and inheritance. Relatives attacked women who refused to give up their inheritance or sued for other rights relating to personal status, with inadequate protection from the authorities.” (Amnesty International, 2021)

  4. ray Peterson
    January 7, 2023 at 14:23

    Barghouti makes a serious mistake to equate the Russian military
    action in Ukraine to resist US/NATO aggression and give the Russian
    population of Ukraine peace, with Palestinian oppression and loss
    of civil and human rights. Isn’t the same oppressor? American
    funding of Israeli occupation of Palestine and US/ European
    war against Russian national sovereignty.

  5. Valerie
    January 7, 2023 at 13:22

    The traiterous Arab countries “normalizing” relations with israel does not help the Palestinians either. BDS is a good start to help end this arpartheid.

  6. Piotr Berman
    January 6, 2023 at 17:02

    Political polarization within Jewish Israel centers on the question if Jews in Israel should have equal rights (“liberal view”) or not (Orthodox view), while recognition that Arabs, either Israeli citizens or the occupied ones, should have equal rights to is harbored by “extreme” (and increasingly feeble) left.

    The main reason cited by “liberals” not to go full strength in marginalizing and dispossessing Palestinians was that it would “isolate Israel” etc., and they were proven wrong again and again. No wonder that their influence is waning. To many, the fact that Israel can get away with so much bolsters nationalistic mysticism. “Crazy rabbis” are correct after all. In short, the West bears responsibility with dubious benefits.

Comments are closed.