If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exits his post as a result of several scandals and serious corruption charges, then good riddance. The man is responsible for the killing of thousands of Palestinians. Moreover, he composed and led a government coalition of right wing and ultranationalist zealots whose main mission in politics is to further entrench a system of racial discrimination against Israel’s minorities in favour of the Jewish majority. But Netanyahu’s possible departure should not be seen as an end of a grim era and the beginning of a new, hopeful one. His possible successors are equally hawkish and devious, prone to war crimes, and are certainly no friends of equality or coexistence. For them, democracy is a provisional concept that applies to Jews only.
Still, there are those who want us to believe that Netanyahu’s possible departure will negatively impact Israel, but for all the wrong reasons. These people have no regard for Palestinians whatsoever. The likes of Shamuel Rosner writing in the New York Times embodies the inherent issue of moral blindness, attributed to many Zionist intellectuals and others in corporate media.
“If you want to see Israel succeed,” Rosner wrote, “you should pause before getting too excited about this looming departure” of Netanyahu. His reasoning is as pitiful as his argument. “That’s because Mr. Netanyahu has two things that his successor — no matter who that might be — will not have: vast experience and meaningful achievements.”
Expectedly, much hubris follows. For Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, and other minorities including tens of thousands of Black Africans who are being deported en masse, Netanyahu’s ‘achievements’ are deadly, inhumane, undemocratic and violate international law.
That said, we should still dread the future possibilities, as Netanyahu’s two decades of rule have spawned a new right wing creature in Israel and has moved all of the country’s political ideologies further to the right.
Now, a negligible eight per cent of Israeli Jews see themselves as left wing, while a whopping 37 per cent consider themselves right wing. Although 55 per cent see themselves as ‘centre’, the term itself does not represent what political centres traditionally do in other countries. But what does all of this mean for the Palestinian people, for the Israeli Occupation, and for a just solution to the ongoing suffering in Palestine?
The following are seen as possible heirs to Netanyahu’s political throne:
n Naftali Bennett: Minister of Education and leader of Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), Naftali Bennett is a right wing, ultra-nationalist. He is vehemently opposed to any talks with the Palestinians and has long advocated the full annexation of all illegal Jewish colonies in the West Bank.
In an interview with Israel’s Army Radio on March 8, Bennett made it clear that he would run for the post of Prime Minister when Netanyahu “exits the political stage.”
In recent remarks made at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) conference, Bennett, a champion of the settlers’ movement, insisted that neither colony blocs nor large sections of the Occupied West Bank will ever be relinquished.
He was quoted in the Washington Post as saying that any criticism from the West regarding the annexation of occupied land is likely to be fleeting. “After two months [of annexation] it fades away, and 20 years later and 40 years later it’s still ours. Forever.”
Moshe Kahlon: Head of the centrist party, Kulanu (All of Us) and the country’s Finance Minister, Moshe Kahlon, is a vital member of Netanyahu’s right wing-extremist coalition. He was a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and he differs with Netanyahu only on some domestic issues. Although Kahlon advocates the resumption of the so-called peace process, he, like Netanyahu, places the blame mostly on the Palestinian leadership, not on Israeli policies, predicated on the continued expansion of illegal colonies.
If he is to become Prime Minister, he is likely to reproduce Netanyahu’s political strategy — to keep his party as close to the right as possible — and to engender future coalitions with the country’s ultra-nationalists and extremists.
Gideon Sa’ar: Gideon Sa’ar is also an ex-Likud member. Despite his popularity in the party (as shown in the results of the 2008 and 2012 elections), he stepped down from politics in 2015 due to strong disagreements with Netanyahu. He had made it clear that his ultimate “goal is to lead the country in the future”. As he is now back in politics following Netanyahu’s corruption scandals, Sa’ar is articulating his political programs on various media platforms. He dismissed the ‘two-state solution’ as a ‘two-state slogan,’ not because he is a believer in coexistence in one democratic state, but because the status quo suits Israel well.
Delighted by a decision made last December by US President, Donald Trump, to accept Israel’s own definition of Jerusalem as the ‘eternal capital of the Jewish people’, he said, “understanding, as the US President has said lately, that this conflict is not the heart of the regional conflict, is crucial.” “It’s a very, very small and marginal conflict in comparison to the multi-front regional war between Shiites and Sunnis.”
Ayelet Shaked: One of the most outspoken right wing, ultra-nationalists, known for her racially-loaded and often outrageous views, is Ayelet Shaked. She is a very influential member of Bennett’s Jewish Home Party, serving as the Minister of Justice in Netanyahu’s current coalition.
What is most problematic about her views is not simply her lack of interest in a Palestinian state, as she has repeatedly made clear, but rather her views on non-Jewish minorities in the country and on democracy as a whole. “There are places where the character of the State of Israel as a Jewish state must be maintained, and this sometimes comes at the expense of equality,” she said as reported by the Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz. “Israel is a Jewish state. It isn’t a state of all its nations. There is place to maintain a Jewish majority even at the price of violation of rights.”
Avi Gabbay: And, finally, there is Avi Gabbay, who split from the Kulanu Party four years ago to run for, and eventually lead, the Labour Party, the leading ‘left’ party in Israel.
Gabbay’s political views are, in fact, as hawkish as that of Netanyahu and other right wing politicians regarding the Jewish colonies, as he understands that the most powerful political constituency in Israel is now that of the right.
He said in an interview, soon after taking over the Labour, that peace with the Palestinians does not necessarily require dismantling the illegal Jewish colonies. Israeli politics can be complicated, as often displayed in their intricate government coalitions. However, when it comes to Israel’s military Occupation of Palestine, leading Israeli politicians are, more or less, the same.
Regardless of Netanyahu’s political future, Israeli policies towards Palestinians will remain unchanged, leaving Palestinians with the urgent responsibility of developing their own unified political strategy to counter the Israeli Occupation, human rights violations and illegal Jewish colonies.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018).