The rise of the Israeli far right & the future of Palestine

By Ghassan Khatib | (Ma’an News Agency) –

The victory of Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies last week at the polls amounts to a major defeat of left and center-left parties in Israel and is merely one more indication that Israeli society is continuing a strong trend of radicalization.

Over the last 20 years, with only some fluctuations, each successive Israeli government and parliament has been more radical and more right-wing than the one before it.

The only way to explain this drift in the direction of increasingly rigid and extreme political positions is the absence of accountability. Israelis have been allowed to have their cake and eat it, too. They have been allowed to continue disregarding the expectations of their backers, particularly the US and Europe, and to continue expanding settlements while ignoring their friends’ chiding remarks.


Part of the reason for this is that in the current regional security chaos, Israel is seen as increasingly valuable to Western powers.

Palestinians, meanwhile, have made a mess of their own affairs, allowing an internal political chasm to grow and thus deterring and confusing the nation’s friends in their attempts to offer support.

The lack of pressure on Israel means that Israelis do not have to pay any price for their violations of Palestinian rights. Every sign is that these negative trends will continue — leading all involved away from a rational and principled solution to the Palestinian conflict and into an abyss of force and violence.

It is easy to predict Netanyahu’s way forward in dealing with Israeli-Palestinian relations and the future of the peace process.

His previous governments were systematic in expanding illegal settlements, consolidating the illegal Israeli occupation, blocking peace negotiations — Israel was openly blamed for the failure of the last round of talks lead by US Secretary of State John Kerry — and continuing to undermine the Palestinian Authority and its leadership.

Netanyahu’s ability to continue on this path is wide open. Israel’s successive right-wing governments have created a status quo that is quite comfortable for Israel while being brutal for Palestinians. This status quo was created partially through negotiations and the fact their outcome has been frozen in time, and partially through the use of unilateral force.

Israel gained security and its occupation is less costly than ever. At the same time, Palestinian needs were not met and public frustration has been rising.

The Palestinian leadership last year expressed its inability to live with this status quo by crossing Israeli “red lines” and joining the International Court of Justice, trying to gain back some leverage by inviting outside intervention.

But to punish the Palestinian leadership, some Israeli politicians stated in their election campaigning that the Palestinian Authority could be “downgraded” or done away with all together. This might have been election fever — but it also could have been very serious.

It is quite possible, if Netanyahu and his cohorts are given a free hand for four more years, that this will be enough to close the historic opportunity for a two-state solution. The current moderate Palestinian leadership will be the second casualty of such international negligence.

Indeed, in the aftermath of the Israeli election results, Palestinians find themselves with only one option to slow this process, which is to challenge the Israeli government where it is weakest, namely to fight Israel in international arenas and on the basis of international law.

This could include joining more international agencies, going back to the Security Council, filing war crimes charges against Israel and Israelis, and doing more to encourage friends to adopt boycott, divestment, and sanctions against an unchecked Israel.

It is the Palestinians’ right to pursue all legal and legitimate means of achieving their aspirations and ensuring their own protection.

We must be candid about the future. This approach will not move the parties towards peaceful agreements, but rather will bring about more Israeli recriminations and pressure on Palestinians. Tensions will rise.

The only other countervailing factor is the involvement of the international community.

Unless the US and Europe introduce elements of accountability into their relationships with Israel, the coming four years are likely to be dramatic, and will include the final closing of the chapter started in Oslo over two decades ago.

Ghassan Khatib is Vice President for Development and Communications and a lecturer of Cultural Studies and Contemporary Arab Studies at Birzeit University in Palestine.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect Ma’an News Agency’s editorial policy.

9 Responses

  1. “Palestinians……….have made a mess of their own affairs.”


    The Palestinian Authority (P.A.) has been plagued by a multitude of allegations of corruption since its inception. It is one of the reasons that Hamas has been allowed to flourish as an organization both in the West Bank and Gaza.

    The P.A. has even been compared to the Judenrat organization that was the self-governing body of the Warsaw Ghetto due to its collaboration with the Israeli government. One of the dangers pointed out by the Council on Foreign Relations following the creation of the Oslo Accords was the appearance that the P.A. was economically dependent on Israel in order to operate. This appearance has done much to discredit the P.A. in the eyes of Palestinians – as does the joint security relationship the P.A. has with the Israeli government.

    During the Second Intifada, the Tanzim (Order) private militia of the Fatah Party and the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade – designated by the U.S. State Department as a terror organization – actively engaged in insurrection and suicide bombings against Israeli interests – but that endeared them to radical Palestinians. By Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, however, Fatah militants in Gaza were actually cheering the IDF invasion and fired rockets into Israel as a cease-fire was being declared so that the IDF could come back and continue to decimate and degrade Hamas’ ruling power in Gaza.

    The P.A. must continue to be perceived as an opponent of Israel to gain credibility with its supposed constituents. Steps like applying for membership in the International Criminal Court is a good start.

  2. Sadly, there is no possibility of a Palestinian state.

    The settlers have got their wish of Israel having all the land west of the Jordan River. There is no possibility that any Israeli leader would start a civil war to remove the settlers from the area needed for Palestine.

    But Israelis have painted themselves into a corner with a future that is going to cause them lots of pain.

    Now that Israel has all the land, their next delusion is they can severely oppress the non-Jews and the non-Jews will simply flee the area.

    Of course their delusion glosses over the fact that the non-Jews living west of the Jordan River have no place to flee to. What other place on earth is going to take millions of very poor, angry humans? Certainly not Jordan, Egypt or Saudi Arabia. The Saudis may have a lot of wealth, but they have no desire to share it with Palestinians. The USA is so racist when it comes to Muslims and is so lacking in jobs, it will never take the non-Jews.

    When ever I ask Israelis where the non-Jews are supposed to go, I get blank stares or they say Jordan and when I ask what happens when Jordan refuses to take them I get more blank stares.

    The REALITY is the non-Jews living west of the Jordan river are NOT going anywhere and will not allow themselves to be oppressed forever.

    this means that eventually Israel as a “Jewish” state will cease to exist, being replaced by a secular state with a very large Jewish minority.

      • My desire would be for Israel to undergo social change via economic persuasion and social action., BUT (there is always a but), as a realist, I think the change will be because of violence. Humans just do not give up power willingly, they always fight to the death for it. Jewish people have wanted lots of power for thousands of years and now that they have a little bit, they do not want to give it up. It is that very egotistical delusions of power that drive Bibi to lecture the POTUS and the UN.

        In another article on Dr. Cole’s site he imagines a war in the un-holy land. While I quibble with the details, the broad outlines are probably what will happen.

        It is sad that humans so badly screw up their own lives just for the delusions of power.

        • “……..Israel to undergo social change….”

          Daphni Leef, the leader of the J-14 social reform movement which held a large demonstration in Rabin Square in 2011 was interviewed last fall on why her movement seemed to fizzle from its peak. She relied that the 2012 and 2014 Gaza incursions diverted the attention of Israelis away from internal issues.

          She had earlier stated that the government had ramped up pressure on her by wiretapping her phone and assigning 300 undercover police operatives to infiltrate her movement. As she was considering running for mayor of Tel Aviv, she was arrested and beaten by police during a demonstration, but eventually all criminal charges were dismissed arising out of that arrest.

          Despite this, her two associates in the J-14 leadership, Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli, were elected to the Knesset and retained their seats in the last election.

          It is clear that the Israeli government has attempted to intimidate those who seek peaceful social reforms within Israel.

    • “…..eventually Israel as a “Jewish” state will cease to exist, being replaced by a secular state with a very large Jewish minority.”

      The Likud-led government will do everything to prevent this from occurring by:

      (A) encouraging Jews residing outside Israel to immigrate under the Law of Return;

      (B) continue to oppress Palestinians via such things as home demolitions, police brutality, administrative detention, school closings, and water theft with the hope that they will emigrate to other countries;

      (C) deny West Bank Palestinians citizenship and, hence, voting rights;

      (D) effectively disenfranchise Arab Israelis by providing legal roadblocks in the electoral processes for Arab candidates and political parties in Knesset elections;

      (E) continue to deny Arab Israelis access to social welfare programs in an invidiously discriminatory manner by demanding military service of a family member as a pre-requisite to benefits;

      (F) engage in provocative conduct (e.g. blockades, mass arrests) as a pretext for initiating devastating “search and destroy” military incursions such as Operation Cast Lead, Defensive Edge, etc.

      Right-wing Israelis have gotten away with war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza and the West Bank with impunity since the Six-Day War in 1967 while being secure in their government’s occupation of the West Bank – the mentality of politically conservative Israelis is that the 48 years of illegal occupation has occurred and will continue to occur as long as the majority of Americans tolerate their government’s inaction and indifference toward the human rights of Palestinians.

      • The key problem for Israel is in your last line . . . “will continue to occur as long as the majority of Americans tolerate their government’s inaction and indifference toward the human rights of Palestinians.”

        While it is true that Israel has literally gotten away with mass murder for over 50 years, the global conditions that allowed them to do that, are changing fairly quickly.

        – Power is inevitably shifting away from the USA (the USA could never retain the power it had after WW2 – that is just how the global power shifts constantly).

        – The generation that lived through WW2 and the immediate aftermath is dying off and all their memories are fading into oblivion.

        – The next generations in the USA, Europe, Asia and the ME have vastly different views on Israel – mostly very negative.

        – The entire globe is awash in weapons that are equal to anything Israel will ever have. Israel has lost its military edge (as has the USA, no matter how much we spend on F-35 white elephants).

        So, yes Israelis can do all the things you list, BUT . . . in the long term, it will only cause them to have a more massive and painful failure.

        As I noted above, humans have a terrible habit of fighting the inevitable loss of power, no matter how much damage they do to themselves in the process. Very few humans will accept defeat gracefully. So unfortunately the path to the future will be really ugly and ultimately very painful for Israelis.

  3. “It is quite possible, if Netanyahu and his cohorts are given a free hand for four more years, that this will be enough to close the historic opportunity for a two-state solution.”
    There has been no possiblity for a two-state solution since Netanyahu told his voters two elections ago that he would do everything he could to sabotage the Oslo Accords. The U.S., France and Germany made sure that the Security Council did not recognize Palestine, after Avigdor Lieberman lobbied the Serbs in Banja Luka to keep Bosnia from voting for it. So we should not continue to talk about a two-state solution as if it were a possiblity. That train has left the station.

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