In contrast to the standard narrative, the Hamas war is manna from heaven to Benyamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, which has escalated the suppression of Palestinians ever since international attention has focused on the proxy war in Ukraine.
In July, the ex-chief of Mossad Tamir Pardo (2011-16) charged prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu for bringing parties “worse than the Ku Klux Klan” into his government. He had a point.
The hollow men of the Netanyahu government
Since the tumultuous ’70s, far-right politics, violent Messianic settlers and ultra-nationalists like rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach have given rise to far-right movements, massacres of Palestinians and political parties like Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power),” Kach’s ideological successor. Its leader Itamar Ben-Gvir first gained national notoriety in 1995 by brandishing a Cadillac hood ornament that had been stolen from Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s car. “We got to his car, and we’ll get to him too,” Ben-Gvir said proudly. Weeks later, Rabin, the architect of the peace process, was assassinated.
As Netanyahu’s minister of national security, Ben-Gvir has espoused Kahanism. As a settler, he lives in an illegal settlement. He has openly called for expulsions of Arab citizens. His provocative visit to the Temple Mount, the locale of al-Aqsa Mosque, contributed to the onset of the ongoing turmoil.
Another fatal mistake of the Israeli government has been the decision of Netanyahu’s energy minister Israel Katz that no “electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter” until the “abductees” would be free. Reminiscent of Nazi practices, such collective punishments are morally flawed and counter-productive in practice. When revenge massacres are imposed on innocent civilians, they will breed new resentment, new bitterness, and generations of resistance.
Through his 20 years of participation in Israeli cabinets, Katz has fought for more resources for settlements. Opposing any two-state solution, he pushes for the annexation of the West Bank and wants to make Gaza Egypt’s headache.
Netanyahu’s minister of defense is Bezazel Smotrich, a vehement opponent of a Palestinian state, and a self-proclaimed fascist, racist and homophobe, who also lives in an illegally-built West Bank settlement. In 2021, he declared that Israel first prime minister David Ben-Gurion should have “finished the job” and kicked all Palestinians out of Israel when it was founded. He believes members of Israel’s Arab minority communities are citizens, but only “for now.”
When Smotrich was entrusted with much of the administration of the occupied West Bank, the fox took over the henhouse. It was a signal to Palestinian Arabs: Leave!
These are the hollow men in Netanyahu’s government. Neither they nor their peers will ever support policies recognizing the sovereign and human rights of the Palestinians (Figure 1).
From democracy to autocracy
Since January, the Netanyahu government has pushed for highly controversial judicial reforms; a series of changes to the judicial system and the balance of powers. The effort has been led by Netanyahu’s deputy PM and minister of justice Yariv Levin and the chair of the Knesset’s constitution committee, Simcha Rothman.
Levin fought Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, opposes a two-state solution and supports settlers. A critic of Netanyahu’s corruption trial, Rothman represents the militant, anti-Arab Religious Zionist Party that promotes far-right Kahanism and Jewish supremacy and supports the annexation of occupied territories to Israel.
The amendment was passed by Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, in late July. It seeks to limit the Supreme Court’s power to exercise judicial review, granting the government control over judicial appointments.
The judicial reform effort reflects descent toward autocracy and was opposed by most Israelis in massive protests. It caused a massive political and constitutional turmoil that came to a head on September 12, when the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case.
In the past, Israel’s judiciary has regularly upheld policies, practices and laws that helped enforce “Israel’s system of apartheid against Palestinians,” including upholding administrative detentions, green-lighting the destruction of villages, and imposing restrictions on family reunification. But on some occasions, the Supreme Court has intervened in protecting Palestinian rights.
If the institution loses power to the government, even this “slim and inconsistent” protection would disappear. In view of critics, the proposed overhaul would have chilling implications for Palestinian rights.
Hoping to undermine the Israeli democracy, Netanyahu’s bedfellows seek to transform Israel within and annex the occupied territories. Given that the coalition government held a 64-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset prior to the Hamas War, opposition parties can do little within the legislature to stop judicial reform.
It is these hollow men who are pushing for a massive ground assault in Gaza, followed by legal and/or military expulsions of Palestinians from the West Bank.
Author’s note:The original 6,400-word analysis was published by The World Financial Review on Oct 19, 23, see https://worldfinancialreview.com/whats-behind-the-hamas-israel-catastrophe