Netanyahu has left but his anti-Palestinian policy remains

The Israeli parliament on Sunday approved the formation of a new government, ending 12 years of rule by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving premier.

Netanyahu has served a record-breaking five terms, first from 1996 to 1999, then continuously from 2009 to 2021. A flimsy eight-party coalition, ranging from the extreme right-wing Jewish nationalists to the far left, Meretz and Labour with an Arab Islamist party in the middle, has been stitched together to lead Israel for the next four years.

The new coalition government has a razor-thin majority of one seat.

Under the coalition agreement, right-wing nationalist Naftali, who heads the Yamina party, will hold the office of the prime minister until September 2023, when he will hand over to Yair Lapid, leader of Yesh Atid, for a further two years.

Netanyahu who fought hard to remain in office called the new government a “dangerous coalition of fraud and surrender,” in reference to the inclusion of Meretz, an Israeli party critical of the occupation, and Raam Arab party in the coalition. He promised to “overthrow [the new government] very quickly”.

Deterrent to the establishment of a Palestinian state

The coalition members share very little in common expect their unity in their opposition to Netanyahu, whose long period in office has been marked by allegations of corruption, rise of the Israeli right, unprecedented social division in Israel and most importantly the virtual death of the peace process and an escalation in Jewish colony activities in the occupied territories, which Netanyahu intended as a deterrent to the establishment of an independent, viable and geographically connected Palestinian state.

The latter will certainly be the major part of Netanyahu’s legacy as he fades in political oblivion as expected. In all his years in power, he sabotaged almost every move to revive the long-dormant peace process.

He worked on the principle that the Arab-Israeli conflict should not be solved as per the international resolution or even as per the recommendation of Israel’s closet ally, the United States, but instead be ‘managed’.

His guiding principle has been that Israel can forever live with an occupied, oppressed Palestine as long as there is no real pressure on the Israeli government and people to engage in peace.

Former US president Donald Trump supported that vision. However, the new administration seems to think differently. President Joe Biden is not as fond of Netanyahu as his predecessor was.

However, Netanyahu may have left the seat of power in Israeli but his policy in opposing the peace process will remain alive. The new government is expected to resist any pressure from the US to engage in political talks with the Palestinian Authority.

The new Prime Minister, Bennett, is also opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state and in favour of the annexation of the occupied West Bank.

Therefore, it unlikely that there will be any real move on the political track. Similarly, the new government is not expected to offer serious solution to the social and economic problems.

Still, the coalition has achieved something many has failed to do in more than a decade - ousting Netanyahu.

Not a bad start.

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