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New Gov Would Undermine Israel

By TTN

TTN colleagues are anguished over Netanyahu’s proposed new governing coalition, as are many stalwart supporters of Israel.  One striking example is Abe Foxman, the retired head of the Anti-Defamation League, featured in a recent Jerusalem Post news article (and in a JTA article), declaring that he will not support a “non-democratic Israel”:

“If they change the Law of Return and Israel’s world-class judiciary system, all these things will impact [the relationship with American Jews] dramatically,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “If Israel becomes a fundamentalist religious state, a theocratic nationalism state, it will cut Israel off from 70% of world Jewry, who won’t qualify into their definition of ‘who is a Jew.’ According to [Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel] Smotrich and [Noam chairman Avi] Maoz, I won’t qualify as being a Jew.”

“I never thought that I would reach that point where I would say that my support of Israel is conditional. I’ve always said that [my support of Israel] is unconditional, but it’s conditional. I don’t think that it’s a horrific condition to say: ‘I love Israel and I want to love Israel as a Jewish and democratic state that respects pluralism.’” He concluded this point, saying that “I want Israel to be Jewish, absolutely. But I want it to be a democracy.”

One might borrow a term invented by Hillary Clinton in connection with US politics, that Netanyahu has assembled a veritable “basket of deplorables” to form his new government.  For example, this is some of what Itamar Ben-Gvir is famous for:

In 1995, he threatened the then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin—who was assassinated two weeks later—saying “we got to his car, and we’ll get to him too,” after having stolen a car ornament from his Cadillac.   

In October 13, 2022, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Ben-Gvir took part in the clashes between Israeli Jewish settlers and the local Palestinian residents, brandishing a gun, telling the police to shoot at Palestinians throwing stones at the scene, and yelling at them that “We’re the landlords here, remember that, I am your landlord.” 

This detailed piece by Yossi Alpher, an Israeli security analyst who was a high ranking intelligence officer in the IDF and Mossad, and now writes regularly for Americans for Peace Now, lays out both the dangers in Netanyahu’s pending coalition and the possible ways it might work out in a less extreme way — but he doesn’t put a lot of faith in the latter:

Netanyahu has been reassuring the world media (e.g., National Public Radio in the United States) that he will be in full control of the most right-wing ministers in his government and will prevent extreme measures like cutting electricity production on the sabbath and extreme actions on the Temple Mount that could ignite a war. But he has not been reassuring the Israeli media, perhaps because he knows that in Israel few people believe him . . .  .

“There will be no halachic state,” Netanyahu told the Knesset last week with reference to the Jewish law demands of his incoming ultra-Orthodox partners. “We’ll follow the path of the liberal right”. How to explain Fascist-Kahanists like Itamar Ben Gvir in key ministries like ‘national security’? Ben Gvir has “modified a lot of his views” since being convicted as a follower of racist Meir Kahane in 2007,” Netanyahu told NPR. “With power comes responsibility.”

As for the destructive effect on Israel-Arab and Israeli-Palestinian relations caused by awarding Ben Gvir and Smotrich control over major areas of governance in the West Bank, Netanyahu told the Saudi Al Arabiya that the peace with Saudi Arabia that is now on his agenda “will change our region in ways that are unimaginable. And I think it will facilitate, ultimately, a Palestinian-Israeli peace.” . . .

  Yet, as reported in that JTA article by Ron Kampeas, also reporting on Foxman’s concerns:

Netanyahu has struck a deal with Ben-Gvir to give him authority over the country’s police and has made Maoz, the leader of the homophobic party Noam, a new role overseeing “National-Jewish identity,” while he is reportedly nearing an agreement to make Smotrich finance minister. The men have said they want to expel disloyal Arabs from Israel, ban LGBTQ pride parades and roll back rights for non-Orthodox Jews.

Already, Netanyahu has reportedly agreed to back legislation that would stop recognizing non-Orthodox conversions. The men also agree on a vision to limit the power of Israel’s judiciary.

What Foxman and more liberal pro-Zionist observers and activists may well conclude is that Israel’s incoming government seems bent on undermining efforts to defend Zionism in the United States. In some ways, the incoming government may even be characterized as anti-Zionist, in that it undermines Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry.

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