The new Israeli government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, ratified by the Knesset which passed a vote of confidence on 29 December 2022, is considered the most extremist government in the history of Israel. In my opinion, this is such a consumed talk, just an endorsement of a painful reality that does not provide any addition, since this description did not come from only non-Israeli parties, but also from many Israeli forces, institutions and personalities, all of whom saw that this government will represent a stain on the history of Israel, contradictory to the principle of state democracy, and takes it down an untrodden path.
In light of the government composition and the circumstances surrounding it, it can be said that its most important characteristic is not only that it is very extreme, but there is a set of important determinants that must be referred to:
The first determinant: This government, the 37th, was announced after five elections held within four years, reflecting a crisis in the Israeli political system. Hence, there was keenness among Israeli voters to contribute to solving this problem themselves through high percentages voting (almost 72 pecent) in the 25th Knesset elections until a strong and stable government is formed that can last as long as possible.
The second determinant: The new government has 64 seats in the Knesset, allowing it to stay for at least two years with the ability to confront and thwart the no-confidence motions expected to be put forward by the Israeli opposition rejecting and provoking this government.
The third determinant: The Netanyahu government has witnessed the enactment of new principles approved by some legislation passed by the Knesset a few days earlier and aimed at supporting Netanyahu’s position during the negotiations to form the government. Among these laws: the possibility of taking over the government position by any person who has been sentenced to suspended prison so that the leader of the Shas movement Aryeh Deri can assume a ministerial position, and the introduction of the position of the Ministry of National Security instead of the Ministry of Public Security and granting to Itamar Ben Gvir with more security competencies, especially in the West Bank.
The fourth determinant: This government is harmonious in political orientations, as it did not involve any parties from outside the right-wing and religious orientations, in order not to be exposed to problems or bidding from small parties that could lead to the dismantling it at any time.
The fifth determinant: Netanyahu assumes the presidency of the government for the sixth time in his political history, thus becoming the most prime minister to hold this position since the establishment of the state in 1948, surpassing the generation of founders including David Ben-Gurion. Such unprecedented achievement will no doubt increase the strength of Netanyahu at various internal and external levels, especially as he knows that he has always been the preferred prime minister in all public opinion polls during previous years.
The sixth determinant: Netanyahu was keen to finish the formation of the government in any form or price possible and in the last moments of the expiration of the mandate. Therefore, he agreed to unprecedented concessions to his coalition partners, especially to the Religious Zionist Party, in order to block the way for any attempts to prevent him from assuming the post of prime minister and thus in the event of his failure could be exposed to reopen the corruption files in which he is accused, which could have led him to prison.
The seventh determinant: Granting the position of Minister of Defense to General Yoav Galant, a well-known and professional military figure and a member of Knesset for the Likud, in order to prevent the desire of the extremist Smotrich to assume this position. However, the latter was granted a new position, minister in the Ministry of Defense in addition to Minister of Finance.
The eighth determinant: The coalition agreements signed by Netanyahu with his partners in the new government (Shas, Torah Judaism, and Religious Zionism) indicate that all the policies that it will pursue are a set of extremist policies to try to stabilize the pillars of this government so that it remains in power for as long as possible.
The ninth determinant: Netanyahu’s speech in the Knesset during the voting session identified the government’s priorities: (1) preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, (2) improving the internal Israeli situation, and (3) supporting and expanding normalization agreements with Arab countries.
Problems the Government will Face on the Domestic Front:
It is certain that the Netanyahu government will face a set of problems at the internal level, the most important of which is the conflict of security, military and judicial powers between the government and its specialized ministers on the one hand, and the concerned institutions in the other hand. Some ministers succeeded in obtaining powers that were not granted to the government before with new legislation, for example, the security powers that were granted to Ben Gvir in order to implement their policies without any legal accountability on the part of these institutions.
The opposition bloc, headed by Yair Lapid, former prime minister and leader of the Yesh Atid party, intend to take intensive moves to overthrow the government while attempting to mobilize the street opposing the government in this direction.
In dealing with regional and international files, it is believed that the Netanyahu government will move in the following frameworks:
The Peace Process
- Dropping the peace process from its agenda and considering that the principle of the two-state solution has become history. This government will not take any steps on its part to revive the peace process unless it is forced to move in this direction.
- Counter any attempts to resume political negotiations while continuing to exaggerate the security risks posed by the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
The West Bank
- Intensifying settlement operations in the West Bank and Judaizing Jerusalem, in parallel with the continued displacement, arrest, assassination, demolition of houses, confiscation of land and storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
- Not annexing any parts of the West Bank in order to avoid provoking the regional and international position against it, while it is actually carrying out the gradual annexation process by supporting the settlements that devours the Palestinian land.
- The escalation of Israeli actions against the Palestinians will usher in the explosion of the third Intifada, the most violent and some of whose features are already emerging in the West Bank.
The Palestinian Authority
- Limiting communication with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and President Mahmoud Abbas in light of PA’s actions against Israel in international forums, especially the Palestinians’ resort to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
- Ensuring that the PA remains in the most vulnerable state in general, with a focus on continued security coordination between the two sides.
- Closely following up the post-President Abu Mazen phase, and formulating the expected scenarios, including how to confront chaos if the situation in the Palestinian territories explodes.
The Gaza Strip
- Maintaining the current calmness with the Gaza Strip while countering- with excessive force- any rockets fired from the Gaza Strip by Hamas and Islamic Jihad towards Israel.
- Netanyahu’s readiness to have the situation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad reach to the outbreak of a sixth Israeli war on Gaza.
- The crossings continue to be opened for the entry of goods and commodities into the Gaza Strip in order to prevent the deterioration of the economic situation in Gaza, bearing in mind that Israel benefits economically from the movement of trade exchange with the Gaza Strip.
- Ensuring the continuation of bilateral relations with Egypt, as Israel believes that they are strategic relations that must be maintained and supported in all available fields.
- Netanyahu’s desire to continue supporting these relations by visiting Egypt at the earliest opportunity and working to advance bilateral cooperation in the field of energy (exporting liquefied gas from Egypt to Europe).
- Israel is aware of the importance of continuing the pivotal and distinguished Egyptian role, not only at the level of the Palestinian cause as a whole, but also at the level of the situation in the Gaza Strip, specifically with regard to preserving a state of calm, the exchange of prisoners between Israel and Hamas, and reconstruction.
- Seeking to strengthen relations with the four Arab countries with which Netanyahu has already succeeded in signing normalization agreements (UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan).
- Attracting other Arab and Islamic countries to the framework of the Israeli-Arab normalization system, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in order to achieve the supreme Israeli goal of full integration into the Arab region economically, militarily, politically and even at the level of popular normalization.
- Continuing to threaten military operations against Iran if it tries to undermine Israel’s national security, while continuing operations to strike its proxies in the region, especially the destruction of Hezbollah’s military capabilities in Syria.
- Exerting all possible pressure on the United States not to sign the nuclear agreement with Iran or ensure that Iran is prevented from developing its nuclear and missile weapons if the agreement is signed.
- In the assessment, Israel will not dare to take any unilateral military action against Iran except in coordination with the United States first, which has not yet prioritized such action in its dealings with Iran.
The United States
- Working not to escalate differences with the current US administration, which is clearly not in line with some Israeli policies, especially in the Israeli and Iranian files.
- Netanyahu was keen to seek to limit his extremist partners in the coalition in order to prevent the submission of any projects in the Knesset to annex the West Bank or parts of it so as not to provoke differences with Washington. Meanwhile, the Biden administration, for its part, will be keen to confirm the strategic relations with Israel and respond to all its military and economic demands, especially in light of the approaching date for the start of the next presidential elections candidacy.
- Investing the American position in support of the principle of the two-state solution, only in theory, to make this solution far from the possibility of putting it into practice, and retrying to revive the deal of the century in the event that the Republicans return to power.
How to Confront Netanyahu’s Government
In thinking about how the Arab countries can confront this extremist government, we first point out that Netanyahu and his policies is an open book to everyone, as he has not at any time since he assumed the presidency of the government in the mid-nineties attempted to hide his well-known extremist tendencies and rejection of the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, although he was the one who signed the Hebron Agreement in 1997, under which Israeli forces were redeployed in the West Bank city of Hebron .
Thus, in my opinion, there is a set of steps that the Arab and Palestinian sides must take as soon as possible:
The first step: Provide full support to the PA and President Abu Mazen, as this is the most important time to provide such political, economic and security support to the PA and to have Palestinians feel that they are not alone in confronting this extremism.
The second step: The development of an Arab vision to achieve comprehensive peace with Israel, even if this is the peace initiative proposed since 2002. However, it is necessary that any peace plan be accompanied by practical and realistic implementable mechanisms that can be marked to the international community so that it can be a partner.
The third step: Searching for all possible means that would resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which I see as the only political alternative that can change the current reality, and there is no doubt that this matter requires intensive Arab and Palestinian movement with all international parties, including Israel.
The fourth step: Requiring that Israel present its vision for a political settlement of the Palestinian issue, whatever the nature of this vision, as this step will help understand the minimum and maximum limits of the Israeli position. Such vision can be invested in any future negotiations, taking into account that Israel has not yet put forward any detailed vision in this area.
The fifth step: It is important that the Arab countries which have peaceful relations with Israel try to emphasize the importance of resolving the Palestinian issue to achieve stability in the region. As for the Arab side taking positions against Israel if it takes a dangerous unilateral action towards the Palestinians, this is difficult to estimate and will be mainly due to the policy of each Arab country and according to its own interests.
The sixth step: The need to start negotiations to end the Palestinian division under Egyptian auspices. Success in this direction represents an aspect of supporting the Arab position on the one hand and pressure on Israel on the other.
- Data indicates that we are facing a government that is very clear in its extremist orientations and moves openly in all files that affect Arab national security. It will not hesitate to take any steps that it deems necessary from its point of view, even if they conflict with Arab interests, especially in the Palestinian file.
- Therefore, if Netanyahu’s government is that clear and includes extremist parties and personalities, to say the least, does not this require the Arab side to have a plan to deal with it and the ability to use all the tools it possesses, especially in light of the existence of official bilateral relations that may allow the possibility of influencing Israel as much as possible? At any case, this new government must realize that it will pay a heavy price for any decision it will take that contradicts the limits of the Arab position.
- In the end, there is an important question: what is the difference between the Netanyahu government and the government of Yair Lapid? In other words, what is the difference between an extremist Israeli government like this one and any other moderate or less extreme government towards the Palestinian issue? Which is the moderate Israeli government that agreed to the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state and took the necessary steps to establish such a state?
- There is no doubt that the answer to this question will reflect the nature of any Israeli government towards the most important Arab issue that has existed for more than half a century without a just solution. The answer will also confirm, beyond any doubt, that all Israeli governments adopt the same strategy towards the Palestinian issue and differ only in tactics. Therefore, what concerns us is how to force Israel to submit and accept the establishment of the Palestinian state. This is the Arab and Palestinian responsibility in the first place.