On 9 April, Israel elected a new Knesset (parliament), giving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party a slim majority and enabling him to form a coalition government under his renewed premiership.
Israeli parties vied with one another throughout the election campaign to see which would promise the most aggressive support to the foundation and expansion of armed zionist settlements in the West Bank of what is supposed to be a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu’s coalition includes settler factions, some obscurantist religious sects and even some former members of the fascist Kach party, outlawed in Israel and banned in the US as a terrorist organisation.
In accelerating the zionist land grab on the West Bank, Netanyahu need fear no impediment from the main opposition Blue and White party, run by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz and reflecting the hawkish views of Israel’s military.
When it comes to crushing the rights of Palestinians, there is little to choose between the zionist parties. After all, the brutal siege of Gaza (now entering its thirteenth year) and the fascist Operation Cast Lead (the bombing campaign against the imprisoned population there which claimed over 1,400 Palestinian lives in 2008-9) were started under the leadership of Ehud Olmert and the Kadima party, which is seen as a liberal, centrist party.
In point of fact, Netanyahu has until now been wary of formally endorsing the open annexation of the West Bank, preferring to let armed settler vigilantes achieve the same result in stages, under the radar. Creeping annexation, quietly creating ‘facts on the ground’, is easier for the hypocritical ‘international community’ (ie, US imperialism) to ignore.
But now, perhaps as a way of distracting attention from damaging corruption allegations that threaten to mire Netanyahu, he recently told the media: “We will move to the next stage. I am going to extend [Israeli] sovereignty and I don’t distinguish between settlement blocs and the isolated settlements.” (Annexation of West Bank may provide key to unlocking Netanyahu’s legal troubles by Jonathan Cook, Global Research, 17 April 2019)
By openly spelling out Israel’s intention to annex (or ‘extend sovereignty over’) the whole West Bank, Netanyahu wakens a whole kennel full of sleeping dogs, revealing splits in the imperialist camp and enraging the world’s masses.
In this, it must be said, he follows dutifully in the wake of his master, US president Donald Trump, whose own recent unilateral ‘recognition’ of Israel’s ‘sovereignty’ over the Golan Heights (territory stolen from Syria) was condemned not only by Russia and China, but even by Britain, France and Germany, along with all the rest of the United Nations security council bar one.
Instead of letting issues like the status of Jerusalem, the Golan and the West Bank simmer away on the diplomatic back burner, both Washington and Tel Aviv are exposing the full rottenness of the apartheid Israeli state to plain view.
Twenty percent of the Israeli electorate is Palestinian, but their inclusion on the electoral roll as a permanent minority serves purely as ‘democratic’ window dressing, helping to mask the fact that Palestinians have been relegated to the status of, at best, foreigners in their own country, or, at worst, enemy aliens.
For Likud, however, even this shadow of democracy is seen as a threat – so much so that on election day the party gave its activists 1,200 secret cameras to film polling stations in Palestinian areas, supposedly to ‘detect fraud’, but more likely as yet another way of intimidating Palestinians.
But the Palestinians are not so easily fooled or intimidated. Visitors to Israel who would like to know where real democracy is to be found should begin their enquiries with a visit to the Gaza Strip on any Friday. There they can observe the reality of Israeli democracy, spelt out in tear gas cannisters and live bullets aimed at unarmed demonstrators.
There they can also witness the reality of the democratic struggle for a free Palestine, played out by Palestinians every week for over a year now in the Great March of Return. The future is theirs.