Netanyahu’s future uncertain but his successors are tragically predictable

Israeli police investigation is closing in on Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Nothing will save him now.

After several investigations by police into his alleged corruption in various scandals, Netanyahu was recently questioned for the first time in an investigation into a dubious submarine deal with Germany at the cost of $2 billion. He was also questioned in a telecom corruption case in which he is a prime suspect.

Merely a week after his questioning by police, his wife, Sara, was officially indicted, alongside his office director general, Ezra Saidoff, for fraud and breach of trust.

Thus, it is no surprise that Netanyahu’s right-wing allies are ramping up rhetoric regarding a possible war on Gaza. “Security” crises have been used in the past by Israeli politicians to avert political crises at home, resulting in manufacturing war on Gaza. This may do nothing more than only win Netanyahu time, nothing else.

The latest and most serious of such statements was that of Gilad Erdan, who told Israeli Army Radio that Israel might be forced to launch “a large-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip.” Erdan justified his likely war in the name of “deterrence” – often referred to by Israeli officials as the ‘downgrading of terrorist infrastructure.’

Judging by the fact that Gaza’s latest resistance strategy has been largely non-violent popular mobilization, one is justified in believing that the prospects of war are meant as a distraction of the possible collapse of the right-wing coalition in Israel, one that has been sustained by Netanyahu’s skills as a cunning politician.

Netanyahu’s two decades of rule have spawned new right-wing creature, and has moved all of the country’s political ideologies further to the right

Ramzy Baroud

Gaza’s kite-runners

The Israeli war rhetoric is, strangely enough, focused on Gaza’s kite-runners, especially those who release kites into Israel after setting them alight. Israel is of course uninterested in discussing the grievances of thousands of Palestinians who have protested for many weeks at the Israeli fence that has enclosed besieged Gazans for years.

Instead, Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, called on the army to kill those who burn kites, alleging that they are “controlled by Hamas.” The inaptly named “Justice Minister”, Ayelet Shaked attempted to rationalize this discourse in an interview with Army Radio, saying that “there is no difference between a burning kite and a Qassam rocket.”

Meanwhile, Erdan is not in the least disturbed by the fact that most of the kite-runners are children. “Age doesn’t matter,” he said, “they’re terrorists and the danger they create must be prevented.”

While such twisted and violent logic is a familiar Israeli official discourse, one ought to question the timing of this push for violent military escalation at a time when Netanyahu is growingly beleaguered by corruption scandals.

The Prime Minister’s coalition is still standing, but only for now. But as his future becomes uncertain, it is most likely that these very politicians would be jockeying to replace him, or, at least try to advance their parties in whatever new government coalition could possibly result from Netanyahu’s exit.

Judging from what we already know, it seems that regardless of Netanyahu’s political future, Israeli policies towards Palestinians will remain unchanged.

That said, we should still dread future possibilities, as Netanyahu’s two decades of rule have spawned a new right-wing creature, and has moved all of the country’s political ideologies further to the right.

Netanyahu’s political throne

The following are seen as possible heirs to Netanyahu’s political throne:

Naftali Bennett: Education Minister and leader of Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party, Bennett is a right-wing, ultra-nationalist politician. He is vehemently opposed to any talks with Palestinians and has long advocated the full annexation of all illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio last March, Bennett made it clear that he would run for the post of Prime Minister when Netanyahu “exits the political stage”, In recent remarks made at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference, Bennett, a champion of the settlers’ movement, insisted that neither illegal settlement blocs nor large sections of the Occupied West Bank will ever be relinquished.

He was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that any criticism from the West regarding the annexation of occupied land is likely to be fleeting. “After two months [of annexation] it fades away,” he said, “and 20 years later and 40 years later it’s still ours. Forever.”

Moshe Kahlon: Head of the centrist party, Kulanu (All of Us), and the country’s Finance Minister, Kahlon, is a vital member of Netanyahu’s right wing-extremist coalition. He was a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and differs with Netanyahu only on few domestic issues.

Although Kahlon advocated the resumption of the so-called peace process, he, like Netanyahu, places the blame mostly on the Palestinian leadership, not on Israeli policies predicated on the continued expansion of illegal settlements.

If he is to become Prime Minister, he is likely to reproduce Netanyahu’s political strategy to keep his party as close to the right as possible, and to engender future coalitions with the country’s ultra-nationalists and extremists.

Gideon Sa’ar: Sa’ar is also an ex-Likud member. Despite his popularity in the party (as shown in the results of the 2008 and 2012 elections), he stepped down from politics in 2015 due to strong disagreements with Netanyahu. He had made it clear that his ultimate “goal is to lead the country in the future”.

‘Two-state slogan’

As he is now back in politics following Netanyahu’s corruption scandals, Sa’ar is articulating his political programs on various media platforms. He dismissed the ‘two-state solution’ as a ‘two-state slogan,’ not because he is a believer in co-existence in one democratic state, but because the status quo suits Israel well.

Ayelet Shaked - one of the most outspoken right-wing, ultra-nationalists, known for her racially-loaded and often outrageous views. She is a particularly influential member of Bennett’s Jewish Home Party, serving as the Justice Minister in Netanyahu’s current coalition.

What is most problematic about Shaked’s views is not simply her lack of interest in a Palestinian state, as she has repeatedly made clear, but rather her views on non-Jewish minorities in the country and on democracy as a whole.

“There are places where the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state must be maintained, and this sometimes comes at the expense of equality,” she told the Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz. “Israel is a Jewish state. It isn’t a state of all its nations. There is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights.”

Avi Gabbay: finally, there is Avi Gabbay who split from the Kulanu Party four years ago to run for, and eventually lead, the Labour Party, the leading ‘left’ party in Israel.

Gabbay’s political views are as hawkish as those of Netanyahu and other right-wing politicians regarding illegal Jewish settlements, as he understands that the most powerful political constituency in Israel is now that of the right.

Soon after taking over Labour, he said in an interview that peace with the Palestinians does not necessarily require dismantling the illegal Jewish settlements.

Israeli politics can be complicated, as often displayed in their intricate government coalitions. However, when it comes to Israel’s military Occupation of Palestine, leading Israeli politicians are, more or less, the same.

Regardless of Netanyahu’s political future, Israeli policies towards Palestinians will remain unchanged, leaving Palestinians with the urgent responsibility of developing their own unified political strategy to counter the Israeli Occupation, human rights violations and illegal Jewish settlements.

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Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is ‘The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story’ (Pluto Press, London). Baroud has a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California Santa Barbara. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:03 - GMT 11:03
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