A highly diverse company – Palestinians, Arab countries, retired military, the US, which has its own interests in the Middle East, and even the Israelis themselves, is opposing the most radical right-wing government in Israeli history.
The Israeli top brass is seriously concerned about what they see as a possible encroachment by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu into their area of responsibility by expanding the powers of a number of far-right ministers. The IDF believes this could adversely affect the armed forces and lead to chaos in strategic decision-making.
Chief of General Staff Aviv Kochavi, resigning, told Netanyahu that the situation in the army is intolerable – in fact, two ministers now head the Defense Ministry, and the military does not understand who to obey. The IDF leadership opposes the re-subordination of the civil administration and the Palestinian Territories Government Coordinator Office to the head of the Religious Zionism Party, Betsalel Smotrich, who claims to be an “additional” or “junior minister” in the Israel Ministry of Defense.
The army is also dissatisfied with the possible granting the right to command the Israel Border Police (Magav) to Itamar Ben-Gvir, a leader of the Otzma Yehudit party and Minister of National Security. Such an innovation, according to the General Staff, not only disrupts the command chain, but also undermines the authority of the Central District generals.
Another feature by the far-right relats to the desire of the country’s Chief Rabbinate to grant itself the right to appoint the IDF rabbi, and this is supposedly dictated by the need to correct the “questionable moral situation within the army.” In a message to Netanyahu, General Kochavi urged the Prime Minister to first consult with professional military personnel before making a final decision. Netanyahu promised to look into it before making a decision.
The current military was supported by some 1,197 retirees, including Dan Halutz, who served as Chief of Staff in 2005–2007, former commander of the Israeli Air Force Avihu Ben-Nun and former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate Amos Yadlin. In a letter to the Supreme Court, the Office of the State Attorney and other Israeli justice bodies, they asked to “stop the calamity that is engulfing the country”, referring to the far-right who won the elections.
A third intifada threat
But this is not the only and perhaps not the biggest problem caused by the return of the far-right to power. As we know, bloody clashes between the IDF and armed Palestinian militants have long been commonplace in the occupied Arab territories. But a third intifada is out of the question as long as Palestinian factions are divided. But that could all change if radical Israeli ministers deliberately provoke the Palestinians into action.
This is “outrageous” politicians especially true such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, who forbid displaying the Palestinian flag in public places, or actually storm the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which, we should remember, is Islam’s third most important holy place. As for Hamas, it has so far refrained from firing rockets at Israel, but this has not prevented it from organising Palestinian resistance. Therefore, the mobilisation of various Palestinian factions for the intifada cannot be ruled out, and this is a very dangerous moment.
According to the UN, last year was the deadliest since 2006, when more than 170 Palestinians were killed, including 30 children. By comparison, only 20 people were killed in terrorist attacks in Israel. The situation is standard: violence in response to violence. Besides, it is clear what can be expected if the Israeli policy towards the Palestinians under the new government has only got tougher.
Netanyahu’s allies claim that he is trying to avoid conflict as much as possible, but if events continue to unfold as they have recent weeks, it cannot be ruled out that the situation will get out of the Prime Minister’s control.
Israeli indignation has also been sparked by the Netanyahu government’s intentions to encroach on the judiciary foundations. The plan of Minister of Justice, Yariv Levin, a member of the right-wing Likud party, is to pass a law that would make it possible to set aside the Supreme Court decisions. Levin considers the present judicial system reform to be sound, for it would, in his view, give too many rights to judges and legal advisers, for whom no one voted.
The judiciary reform opponents, among them the former Minister of Justice, Gideon Sa’ar, believe that if the reform bill is passed by the Knesset, it will lead to a “regime change” in Israel: a partial democracy instead it will be an openly authoritarian government. Netanyahu’s enemies are certain that the new cabinet has deliberately opted for a judicial reform in order to protect the returning prime minister from prosecution.
As we know, power corruption and abuse several criminal cases were opened against Netanyahu even before his re-election.
Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid also criticized the judicial reforms, arguing that “regime change” could lead to a civil war. Then the Ministry of Defense former head Benny Gantz, called on Israelis to “march en masse and make the country tremble” – some ninety thousand people followed his call.
After Israel’s most right-wing government came to power, Washington has serious concerns about Tel Aviv’s plans to permanently annex the West Bank. The US administration is convinced that the legalisation of dozens of Israeli settlements in the occupied territory undermines hopes for an independent Palestinian state.
Recall: when Washington pushed the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan as well as the Saudis to normalise relations with Israel, it promised to give the Palestinians statehood in return. Now it turns out that Tel Aviv is not eager to facilitate the emergence of a Palestinian state, but will continue to try to expand ties with the Arabs — especially with the rich countries of the Persian Gulf.
However, these countries, too, are disappointed with the rise of right-wing politicians to power in Tel Aviv and openly declare that the normalisation of relations with Israel has been one-sided and extremely ugly. This is not what was expected when the Abraham Accords was signed. Perhaps this is why the Palestinians perceive the Agreement as a betrayal.
In any case, the hatred and contempt shown by the new Israeli government for the Palestinians is the reason why Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tariq, refused to ratify the relations a law that will ban normalizing relations with Israel. Although until a couple of months ago, the Sultanate was considered next in line to sign Abraham Accords with Israel. The Israelis attribute this to a change in Oman’s political orientation in favour of Iran.
Between Kyiv and Moscow
After Netanyahu’s team won the elections, it was thought that Bibi would begin to mend relations with Moscow, which his predecessor Naftali Bennett had almost reduced to a plinth. Indeed, shortly after New Year’s Eve Foreign Minister Eli Cohen phoned his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Their conversation was not made public and they do not say much about it in Moscow or Tel Aviv. Nevertheless, that telephone conversation very fact gave the reason for the foreign affairs Kyiv minister Dmitriy Kuleba to declare that Netanyahu’s cabinet was changing its foreign policy towards Russia.
Meanwhile, there has been no particular change, although Netanyahu did say after he was elected that Israel would limit its aid to Ukraine to humanitarian aid. In reality, mercenaries are still coming from Israel to Ukraine and Israeli specialists, together with Americans, are testing new weapons in the war zone, course, while they are in Ukrainian combat ranks.
It would not be a bad idea to deal with the Israeli “humanitarian aid”, which in addition to body armour and helmets, includes electronic anti-drone weapons and air-raid warning devices.
In short, what Netanyahu wants from Moscow is for the Kremlin not to react too painfully to Israeli strikes on Syria and the Iranian installations on its territory. However, such strikes may over time become more destructive and one day may even go nuclear.
This is not a silly joke. Tzachi Hanegbi spelt the head of the National Security Council this out Council, at the Chief of General Staff change ceremony (General Herzi Halevi was replacing Aviv Kochavi, who was retiring). He said that if everyone turns their backs on Israel and Israel is left alone, it will do everything to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state, and therefore it will deal a crushing blow to its nuclear facilities.
Recall: Palestinians fire rockets into Israeli territory after an Israeli military operation. The Iron Dome went off. The Israeli army reports the interception of at least two rockets. The situation escalated after the Israelis carried out a surprise and swift operation in the West Bank. Backed by armoured vehicles, the military entered the town of Jenin and eliminated several members of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group.
Locals clashed with the Israelis but suffered casualties. Nine Arabs were killed and dozens wounded. The Palestinian Authority deemed the operation an illegal invasion of its territory and said it could no longer hold a political dialogue with Tel Aviv.
The Israeli Air Force struck Hamas training centres. Aircraft and drone strikes were carried out.
On Friday evening, Israeli police reported a terrorist attack on a synagogue in East Jerusalem. Local media reported that at least eight people were killed and 10 injured in the Neve Yaakov area. The police later specified that the victims were seven.
*It should be recalled that Israel has never officially announced that it has nuclear weapons.