Donald Trump (AKA Benjamin Netanyahu) will apparently serve an unprecedented fifth term as Israel’s prime minister. Netanyahu, whose similarities to Trump are striking – right down to the criminal charges against him – saw his Likud party go from 30 seats up to 36. His main challenger, Benny Gainz of the also right wing Blue and White Party, won 35 seats. Support from a total of 61 members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is needed to become prime minister. Therefore, given that there has never been a majority government in Israel, small parties can play an outsized role in the Israeli government.
Bloc of the Right and “Jewish Power” Party
Netanyahu had played a key role in bringing together five small and far right parties to form a coalition of five extreme right wing parties (even further right than Likud). One of those parties is the “Jewish Power” party which descends from the fascist Meir Kahane. They had two candidates running for office in the coalition – Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben Gvir. Ben Ari was banned from running for office because he was such an open racist, but Ben Gvir ran on the coalition ticket. He is an admirer of Baruch Goldstein, the Kahane follower who massacred 29 Palestinians while they were praying at a mosque in Hebron in 1994.
Another member of this bloc is the Jewish Home party. This is not only also a racist party like Jewish Power, it’s also a religious reactionary party that, among other things, is openly homophobic.
The formation of this coalition, and its inclusion of Jewish Power, even forced AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee to speak out, calling their ideas “reprehensible”. As The NY Times reported, ‘Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Fla., called Mr. Netanyahu’s actions a “slap in the face to American Jews” as they grapple with new political challenges posed by Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, and other supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. Aipac clearly understood “that if they need to defend Israel to America, then Israel needs to be able to be morally defensible,” Rabbi Salkin said.’
What’s happened is that Zionism has come under pressure in the United States. That pressure is reflected in the role of newly elected Representative Ilan Omar, and in fact the attacks on her have actually helped make opposition to the racist State of Israel more acceptable!
Despite that, Israel will continue to move in its present direction. According to the Wall St. Journal, “Netanyahu had the support of almost two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds and 54% of 25- to 34-year-olds.“
Basically, Netanyahu’s policies Regarding the Palestinians is “working”. The settlers have increased their numbers in the West Bank to over 400,000, and no really powerful opposition has been able to stop it. Within Israel, the Israeli Arabs have been further marginalized. And of equal importance, Israel is now starting to break through its isolation in the region.
Saudi Arabia and the Kurds
According to Reuters, “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said in a published interview that Israelis are entitled to live peacefully on their own land, another public sign of an apparent thawing in ties between the two countries.”
There are also numerous reports of behind-the-scenes contacts between various Kurdish groups, including the PYD (the main Kurdish group on Syria) and Israel. As the Tunes of Israel reported, ‘“[The Syrian Kurds] are a community of people who are willing to cooperate with Israel,” Professor Ofra Bengio, head of the Kurdish studies program at Tel Aviv University, told The Times of Israel on Thursday. There have not been any pro-Israel public declarations by Kurdish Syrians leaders, Bengio said, “but I know some that some have been to Israel behind the scenes but do not publicize it.”’
This is a product of the further division of the world into rival capitalist camps, in this case those aligned with US vs. Russian imperialism. In the former lies Saudi Arabia and increasingly the Kurdish separatists, including the PYD. In the latter lies Iran and Turkey. Of course, these are not hard and fast. Erdogan of Turkey, for example, plays both sides against the middle to an extent. On the other hand, the Saudi regime rests of Islamic fundamentalism so it must oppose Israel’s move to dominate Jerusalem, which has important religious significance to all three religions of the region – Islam, Christianity and Judaism. And while Israel is the US’s main ally in the region, Netanyahu is also very friendly with Putin.
Despite this dismal situation, there is a clear ray of hope: The world revolutionary upsurge that is, once again, centered in this very region. In Sudan, the movement (apparently led by women) has succeeded in ousting Omar Hassan al-Bashir,, head of what has been considered to be one of the world’s most corrupt and repressive governments. The fact that a military general has announced his seizure of power is far from the end of the story as the same revolution has utterly rejected him. Prior to his ouster, Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had also been forced out due to similar protests. And while it apparently has not reached the same proportions, protests – including workers strikes – have been seen in Iran.
These movements recall the 2011 “Arab Spring”. During those days, a similar movement broke out in Israel, where tens of thousands occupied the streets of Tel Aviv to protest the high cost of housing. Unfortunately, not even the left in Israel was raising the “housing” issue for Palestinians who were and are being evicted from their homes in the West Bank. However, the potential was there.
The 2011 protests were largely defeated. In Egypt, a new “Mubarak” has taken power in the person of General al-Sisi. In Syria, the Assad dictatorship has apparently managed to stabilize his rule through a combination of the most extreme repression plus air power – both his own and that of Putin. However, as the new movements show, this is far from the end of the story, especially since these protests are part of a more global movement, spreading from France to the Balkans to Poland and Hungary and beyond. In Palestine itself, the movement has been controlled by bourgeois nationalists who vacillate between trying to reach a deal with the Israeli racists and military attacks. Both avenues are equally futile.
A key will be the developments in Saudi Arabia, where an unstable Prince bin Salman is shaking up that regime. Often it is tremors at the top that open up the space for revolts from below. A revolt in Saudi Arabia would transform the situation in that part of the world, just as would a more generalized revolt in Iran. It would also tend to open the space for a new movement from below among the Palestinian people. It is through this sort of process that hope for change in a positive direction inside Israel can be found.
Two State “Solution”
The “solution” of two independent states always was a mirage. How could West Bank and Gaza ever be anything more than a vassal of Israeli imperialism? But it was a useful mirage both for the more strategic representatives of US imperialism, such as Obama & Co., as well as also the bourgeois leadership of the Palestinians. It was also a useful mirage for the more thoughtful Zionists inside Israel.
That mirage has now evaporated in the hot sands of Israel’s open turn to the far right. During the election campaign, Netanyahu promised to formally incorporate the settlements into the State of Israel. This should be taken seriously. If he does so, then this would mean another step down the road towards the “transfer proposal” – the formal expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank. That, in itself, would further expose nationalist forces such as the Kurds, as well as regimes like the Saudi’s. It would further destabilize the entire situation throughout the region and, in fact, throughout the Muslim world and increase the reactionary nationalist and communal forces.
The alternative is a clear class appeal linked with the construction of a working class socialist movement. Some would argue that the Israeli working class is too racist to ever change, but what is the alternative?