Israel: New Government, Same Apartheid!
The ‘coalition of change’ is really just a ‘continuity coalition’ for the same old anti-Palestinian oppression, occupation, racism and war crimes.
Much international fawning and fanfare has greeted the news that after 12 years in power in the Apartheid State of Israel, war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party has been ousted and replaced by a shaky coalition deemed the ‘government of change’, whose members range from liberal Zionists to far-right extremists.
The Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign sees nothing to celebrate in the changing of the guard in the nuclear-armed Apartheid state that continues to destroy the lives and livelihoods of the Palestinian people.
This coalition has ousted Netanyahu not on any principled basis, but because they have grown tired of Netanyahu’s seemingly perpetual helmsmanship and now want a turn for themselves. Indeed most of those in the coalition share the same ultra-racist pro-Apartheid outlooks and policies that we have seen under Netanyahu; and some of them, such as Avigdor Lieberman, Ayelet Shaked, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett have been part of previous Netanyahu administrations. Even the supposedly ‘left’ Labor Party has previously been in a coalition government with Netanyahu.
While it is understandable that after more than a decade of Netanyahu, people will hope that this new government will represent a new departure, we do not believe than any such optimism is merited. This is just another in the unbroken chain of racist, colonial, anti-Palestinian governments that has ruled the Apartheid State of Israel since the Nakba of 1948.
The only thing this ‘government of change’ will actually change will be who presides over the continued killings, bombings, evictions and mass incarceration of Palestinians, and the theft and colonisation of yet more of their lands.
We cannot allow the formation of this government to be a ‘reset button’ for how the world views Apartheid Israel.
We reiterate our demands on the Irish government to enact the Occupied Territories Bill, end the bilateral arms trade and any military-security cooperation with Israel, expel the Israeli Ambassador, and impose lawful and targeted sanctions against individuals and entities found to be responsible for the commission of apartheid and persecution.
Further, we call for the government to undertake an ‘Apartheid Audit’ of the Irish state, which would, in the words of Human Rights Watch, subject “bilateral agreements, cooperation schemes, and all forms of trade and dealing with Israel to enhanced due diligence to screen for those directly contributing to the commission of crimes of apartheid and persecution of Palestinians [and] end the activities and funding found to directly contribute to facilitating these serious crimes.”
Now is the time to escalate the global, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement because it is actions, not words, which will help the Palestinian people achieve their freedom, justice and equality and return!
Naftali Bennet – The New Prime Minister
It is worth, briefly, focusing on a couple of the key figures in this new government. First, new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is a far-right extremist from the Yamina party and will sit as Prime Minister for the first two years of the coalition – if, indeed, the coalition even lasts that long.
While it is true that Bennett sometimes opposed Netanyahu’s policies towards Palestinians, he did so from the extreme right.
Bennett is an outspoken proponent of building yet more illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine:
“The most important thing in the Land of Israel is to build, build, build [illegal settlements on Palestinian land]. It’s important that there will be an Israeli presence everywhere. Our principal problem is still Israel’s leaders’ unwillingness to say in a simple manner that the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.”
Bennett is a supporter of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank:
“I don’t accept it’s illegal under international law, but I agree the world would not recognise [Israeli annexation of Area C – 60% of the West Bank’s land]. The world hasn’t recognised Jerusalem as our capital, or the Western Wall as part of Israel, so this would just be another area that the world doesn’t recognise.”
Bennett opposes ending Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem:
“We will never agree to give up Jerusalem, a united city under Israeli sovereignty, and only Israeli. We will not accept a terrorist Palestinian state, we will not accept an agreement based on the  lines.”
Bennett has said that Palestinians accused of acts of political violence should be summarily executed:
“If you catch terrorists, you have to simply kill them … I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life – and there’s no problem with that.”
Bennett has denied that Israel is engaged in a belligerent occupation, and opposes the formation of any Palestinian state:
“There is not going to be a Palestinian state … It’s just not going to happen. A Palestinian state would be a disaster for the next 200 years.”
“My positions are very clear: I never hide the fact that I categorically oppose a Palestinian state.”
“There are certain things that most of us understand will never happen: ‘The Sopranos’ are not coming back for another season … and there will never be a peace plan with the Palestinians … I will do everything in my power to make sure they never get a state.”
Finally, Bennett has stated that Palestinians should never be allowed their UN-mandated Right of Return:
“Descendants of the [Palestinian] refugees should be absorbed into the countries where they currently reside and will not be allowed to move west of the Jordan River.”
Yair Lapid – The Prime Minister in Waiting
Yair Lapid, scheduled to take over the Premiership in two years, is head of the Yesh Atid party and has been widely called a ‘centrist’ and a ‘dove’ in international media. While in the Israeli political landscape this may be a somewhat accurate descriptor, in any liberal democratic society Lapid would be placed firmly on the right.
Lapid is overtly racist towards both Palestinians and African asylum seekers, and is worried about inter-marriage between Jews and non-Jews:
“I think the Palestinians are not to be trusted.”
“I do not think that the Arabs want peace.”
“I support the arrest and deportation of infiltrators [asylum seekers], the completion of the fence and preventing their entry into Israel, and I think that human rights organizations should think about the rights of the neighborhood residents first, because charity begins at home.”
“If tomorrow my son came to me and said, ‘Dad, I want you to meet Rona, not Rina, and she’s Russian Orthodox or Catholic and we’re getting married and the kids won’t be Jewish’ — would that bother me? It would bother me greatly.”
Lapid has stated that Jewish citizens of Israel should extra-judicially execute anyone they suspect of being involved in an attack:
“Don’t hesitate, even when an incident just starts, shooting to kill is the right thing to do. The directives should specify shooting to kill when anyone pulls out a knife or screwdriver or whatever.”
Lapid doesn’t believe that Arabs and Jews should have equal rights in the areas under Israel’s control, and worries about too many Palestinian children being born:
“My father didn’t come here in order to live in a country that is half Arab, half Jewish. He came here to live in a Jewish state. And we have 3.3 million Palestinians now between the sea and the eastern border of Israel. If we don’t do something about it, [the next] generation is going to spend [its] time with six or seven or eight million Palestinians.”
Lapid opposes ending Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian East Jerusalem:
“The Palestinians must be brought to an understanding that Jerusalem will always remain under Israeli sovereignty and that there is no point for them in opening negotiations about Jerusalem.”
Lapid opposes the Palestinian Right of Return to their homeland:
“There is no such thing as the right of return.”
Lapid not only opposes the non-violent Palestinian-led global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, but has labelled it ‘antisemitic’ and celebrated legal and political attacks on it.
“The decision by the Bundestag to label the BDS movement antisemitic and call on the German government to oppose all forms of BDS is an important and just step. BDS is the modern manifestation of an ancient hatred. Now is the time for the rest of Europe to follow Germany’s lead.”
“BDS leaders are out and out antisemites. … BDS supporters in the West are bleeding heart, so-called intellectuals who have no idea who they really serve.”
While professing to believe in a two-state solution, Lapid’s vision is really no different from the ‘state-minus’ formulation of Netanyahu, with Israel retaining control of large blocs of illegal settlements and the Jordan Valley, retaining Israeli military control of ostensibly sovereign Palestinian areas, and with Palestinians walled off from the rest of historic Palestine.
“What I want is not a new Middle East, but to be rid of them [Palestinians] and put a tall fence between us and them. The important thing is to maintain a Jewish majority in the Land of Israel.”
In 2019, when asked what the differences between his outlook and Likud are, Lapid was candid:
“There is a complete consensus on the fight against boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. There is a complete consensus on the [refusal to end the illegal annexation of the] Golan Heights. So there are many similarities between us and Likud on the issues of national security, the fight against global terror led by Iran. The differences would be more on domestic issues – the fight against corruption, how we prioritize the budget, the fight against religious coercion in Israel.”
Lapid’s ‘centrist’ political project – the same old anti-Palestinian racism and pro-Apartheid polices dressed up in the trappings of liberalism – is perhaps best illustrated by a quote he gave to Time magazine back in 2013, when he said that “we’re trying is to re-create an Israeli dialogue, which … will make us more sympathetic [in the eyes of the] world.”
Benny Gantz – The War Criminal General
Benny Gantz, of the Blue and White party, propped up the previous Netanyahu administration on the promise that he would become Prime Minister after two years, but the government collapsed before he got his chance. Gantz will stay on in his previous position as Minister for Defense, and gain the post of Deputy Prime Minister.
Gantz has a long record of presiding over the massacre of Palestinians; he was Chief of General Staff of Israel’s occupation forces during both the 2012 ‘Pillar of Cloud’ and 2014 ‘Protective Edge’ assaults on the people of Gaza, which jointly killed over 2,350 Palestinians, including 560 children; in May 2021, as Minister of Defence, he oversaw the ‘Guardian of the Walls’ attack on Gaza which left 256 Palestinians dead, a quarter of them children.
All of these assaults involved the commission of horrendous war crimes, and Gantz himself has noted that he could be indicted by the International Criminal Court, although he has of course said he will refuse to cooperate, and will protect any Israeli summoned to appear before the Court. Indeed, instead of showing shame or remorse, in a 2019 election broadcast Gantz boasted that under his command, he had “sent [Gaza] back to the Stone Age”.
During his stint in the previous Netanyahu government, Gantz gave permits for yet more illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and is supporter of de jure annexation of Area C, and has advised settler leaders that “if you’re given something, take it. Fight for the rest later,” referring to partial annexation in advance of a full annexation of the West Bank.
Isaac Herzog – The ‘Liberal Racist’ President
In Israel the office of the Presidency, appointed by the parliament, is largely a ceremonial one devoid of real power, yet it still serves an important propaganda role internationally. Israel’s new President, Isaac Herzog, has been hailed as a new face of Israeli liberalism. Yet a quick glance at his career reveals that Herzog is, in fact, just another anti-Palestinian racist.
Herzog believes that intermarriage between Jews and non-Jews constitutes a “plague”.
Herzog attacked Netanyahu from the right for not hitting Gaza hard enough during the 2014 attack that killed over 2,500 Palestinians.
Following a failed term in opposition as leader of the Israeli Labor Party, and prior to his ascendancy to the Presidency, Herzog was head of the Jewish Agency, a parastatal organisation formally linked to and often acting on behalf of the Israeli state, which is complicit in the structural discrimination experienced by Palestinians.
During his time there Herzog became a prolific writer of outraged letters to anyone he deemed to be acting against the interests of the Apartheid state. For example, in 2019 he wrote to the Irish government making the outrageous claim that passing the Occupied Territories Bill would lead to violence against Jewish people, and proposed that the government should “join efforts” with the Jewish Agency to block the bill’s passage.
Somewhat comically, in 2020, Herzog hit the headlines when, in an official capacity, he wrote to Seth Rogan’s mother to demand an apology from the actor and filmmaker. Rogan’s heinous offence was making a joke that ciriticised Israel on a comedian Marc Maron’s podcast. As one headline from the Israeli Haaretz newspaper put it, “Seth Rogen Is Funny, but Isaac Herzog Is Ridiculous”
Herzog’s track record speaks for itself, and far from being some champion of equality and peace, he merely wishes to present to the world a ‘liberal’ face on Israel’s oppressive system of apartheid, racism and colonialism.