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New Faces, Same Agenda: Incoming Israeli government will intensify push to colonize the West Bank

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Benjamin Netanyahu has finally put the finishing touches on the new Israeli government as President Obama prepares to visit to Israel/Palestine next week. Although there are some new faces and parties in the ruling bloc, the situation on the ground will look like more of the same for Palestinians. The government will reportedly be made up four parties: Tzipi Livni’s Hatnuah, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Naftali Bennett’s Bayit HaYehudi and the combined Likud/Yisrael Beiteinu party, with both Lapid and Bennett winning major concessions from a weakened Netanyahu.

Based on the joint demands of Lapid and Bennett, the government is expected to force military conscription on ultra-Orthodox Jews, who are not represented in the government, and cut subsidies to poor Israelis. Some think the internal contractions between the Lapid/Bennett agenda and Netanyahu’s own base within the Likud party means this government will either be deadlocked or soon fall apart. Jodi Rudoren summarizes this point in the Times with a quote from Ben Gurion University professor Guy Ben-Porat: “It’s a government that, to a large extent, will depend on its ability to avoid decisions on core issues.”

However, there is at least one issue everyone agrees on. There is a solid consensus within the governing coalition behind the ongoing colonization of the West Bank. The Housing and Construction portfolio, which oversees settlement construction, will go to Habayit Hayehudi’s Uri Ariel, who Haaretz named the #1 pro-settlement Knesset member in a 2011 poll. In fact, Ariel is part of the growing Knesset faction calling on Israel to annex the West Bank and is an open supporter of Greater Israel. Haaretz’s Barak Ravid says the settler movement is the overwhelming winner in the new government:

The government has not yet been finally constituted, but it seems that most of the key positions will be filled by settlers and their supporters. We may assume that as housing minister, Uri Ariel will devote a good deal of his time to expanding the settlements in the West Bank and advancing tenders and building in the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. He will certainly say that construction in the settlements will contribute to supply and to lower housing prices.

The probable new defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon, is considered among the settlers’ favorite figures in Likud. The defense minister is key to construction in the settlements, opening and closing the faucet as he pleases. Ya’alon, who attacked his predecessor Ehud Barak for dragging his feet in approving construction in the settlements, and for thwarting the legalizing of illegal outposts, intends to change the policy.

As opposed to the last four years, settler leaders will have an open door to the defense minister’s office. They will find one of their own in the next office, too, that of the deputy defense minister. MK Ze’ev Elkin, a settler himself, is slated for that job, and will be in charge of the whole matter of settlements.

The list goes on – as industry, trade and labor minister, Naftali Bennett can redraw the map of national priorities and give government benefits to more settlements. Wearing the hat of public diplomacy minister, Bennett will try to persuade the world that there is no Palestinian people and the settlements are actually legal.

His party colleagues Nissan Slomiansky and Ayelet Shaked on the Knesset Finance Committee will see to the cash-flow; Uzi Landau in the tourism minister will open bed-and-breakfasts in Yitzhar and will launch an international campaign to bring evangelical tourists to Tapuah and Bat-Ayin. The Jerusalem affairs minister, Uri Orbach, will get an empty portfolio, but he will certainly think of a way to help the Elad association.

There are practically no checks and balances on the other side.

The Institute for Middle East Understanding sent out the following reactions from notable Palestinian commentators —

Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee:

“This government does not bode well for the chances of peace. It continues to be a right-wing hardline government, including Naftali Bennett, advancing a policy of settlement expansion. Its strategies deal with social issues rather than developing a workable strategy for peace. Unfortunately, once again the Palestinians do not have a peace partner in Israel. Once again, there is a government that will continue the previous policies of destroying the two-state solution and the chances of peace.”

Diana Buttu, Ramallah-based analyst and Policy Advisor to Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network:

“This new Israeli Cabinet, despite the presence of ‘centrists’ will undertake two main programs:  increased illegal settlement construction and denial of full equality to Palestinian citizens of Israel. With President Obama soon to meet this new cabinet, the real question is whether he will continue to support these policies, or, for the first time, stand up to Israel.”

Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund and the Palestine Center in Washington, DC:

“The newly announced Israeli government is an indicator of where Israel is today and what its stance toward the Palestinians is. The self-proclaimed most pro-settlement prime minister in Israel’s history remains in charge while bringing even further right-wing religious nationalists on board. The Ministry of Housing and Construction, which is responsible for advancing settlement plans in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is now to be run by a religious nationalist, Uri Ariel, who backs the annexation of 100% of the occupied West Bank to Israel. The so-called secular centrists, who support keeping major settlements that make a Palestinian state impossible, have taken on social welfare ministries and will provide little opposition to the policies of colonization. In sum, this new Israeli government will continue to gobble up Palestinian land while pretending to seek peace.”

Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Executive Editor of

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18 Responses

  1. seafoid on March 14, 2013, 4:26 pm

    I hope they intensify the push to Defcon 75 and put everything they have into destroying the Palestinian nation forever. Burn all the bridges to the past and just go for it.

    Because history is a real bitch when the wind changes.

    And there won’t be anyone there for them when it counts.

  2. pabelmont on March 14, 2013, 4:51 pm

    The new gov sounds ideal. Since there has been no chance of a peace treaty acceptable to Palestinians for many, many years now, a push for anything more extreme (which the new gov promises) simply gives a shove to USA and EU and anyone else who might get angry enough to get off their fat tuckases and act — act, say, to enforce international law by pressuring Israel (by good and sufficient pressure, emphasis on “sufficient”) to remove all settlers and dismantle wall and all settlement buildings (including, he said with glee, that gorgious university campus, Ariel is it?).

    Now, the nations may not act. Of course, if they will not act to stop global warming which threatens the end of civilization and maybe of life itself, who would expect them to act on this stupid, piddly I/P problem?

    I don’t. But it would be nice from a moral perspective if — just as the world finally recognizes that it is going down in the flames of climate change — it would quickly and decisively take action to end Israel’s abominable behavior.

    Maybe Obama, upon arrival in Israel next week, could cancel his trip, jump back on the plane, and say at the airplane door — by way of explanation — that he must now return to Washington DC to spend full time on climate change and has no longer time, energy, or inclination to save Israel from the push-back it has so richly earned from its ill-treatment of Palestinians.

  3. zenreaper on March 14, 2013, 4:57 pm

    In 1990, Iraq invaded and annexed Kuwait. 7 months later the US liberated Kuwait. I have to wonder, if Israel annexes the West Bank, will the US liberate that as well?

    • john h on March 15, 2013, 4:02 am

      I don’t wonder. The US won’t act. I’m with pabelmont.

    • Taxi on March 16, 2013, 2:42 am

      No. The USA will not be liberating the West Bank.

      But Iran and her proxies will highly likely give it a shot – the ‘right’ conditions permitting. Or created. And they will probably have the support of most of the region, if not the world.

      And if they succeed, this will mean the end of israel and the end of America as mideast cop and criminal. Tangible end of American superpowerdom.

      Not to mention the end of the remaining oppressors of the mideast: the Arab shiekhdoms.

      The vacuum will be filled by mainly Indian and Chinese interests. Technological advancement (India) and mass-volume organized industries (China) are influences that the majority of Arab youth living in the Arab world are in desperate need of. Probably the top two ‘essentials’ necessary to get the Arab world out of the sinking sh*thole it’s in (while the world moves forward, the Arab world moves backwards – the gap is shocking and sickening – seen it for myself travelling the Mideast for the past 18 months). Arab youth are born into a world of war and religion and high unemployment – war and religion that suck up most of the oxygen in their air. They become preoccupied by war and religion, for lack of alternatives, when their focus and their society’s resources should be on education and youth training. Today’s Arab street, the Arab masses, call it what you want, well they’re a people who’ve witnessed their parents work hard and patiently and get so little out of their societies, out of their political systems. They’ve also witnessed how the American influence has destroyed many of their societies – supporting dictators and aggressive regimes in the region. On the other hand, fresh-faced India and China have peaceful and historic trade relationships with the Arab world so perhaps the Arab world being under their umbrella during it’s transition and recovery from American hegemony might not be a bad thing for the region. And by the time things sour up between all the parties playing the new Mideast game, as these situations usually tend to, the Arab oil woulda dried up and every one can go back home and leave the mideast alone to persevere and prosper accordingly and according to it’s own accord.

      Right now, unfortunately, the mideast is powder keg with so many dangling fuses – all it takes is just one to get lit – at which point any scenario is plausible – including my two cents above.

  4. ritzl on March 14, 2013, 5:15 pm

    Is this the moment that proverbial two-state solution is finally declared dead? Can we please just do that?

    Or are libzios, with J Street as their flag, going to continue to sing a baseless and disembodied, yet somehow deeply affecting inside the Beltway, chorus of “if onlys” with Michael Oren as the choirmaster (cantor?).

    Actually, it may not be only the libzios. It may be a majority of sincere/credible Jewish (and Palestinian) activists. There seems to be a general reluctance to move past the two-state solution as an option.

    What’s the sign? Who’s finger is on the button?

    • Reds on March 15, 2013, 9:32 am

      Didn’t see?

      Oren was on NPR this morning claiming(others may call it lying) that Israel wants a two-state and it’s in fact the Palestinian who don’t. Spewing all the Hasbara crap to a host with no intention of calling him on it.

      • ToivoS on March 15, 2013, 6:34 pm

        This one-state, two-state debate is being expertly played by Israel.

        I feel strongly that we, meaning Western progressives that support justice for the Palestinian people, should only have one demand and that is justice for the Palestinian people. How that looks with respect to national borders is not our problem.

        It is true that Israel has created enough facts on the ground by now that it looks like a two state solution is impossible. Maybe, maybe not. Many liberal Zionists over the last 4 decades have believed if Israel annexes the WB that it will be impossible to maintain a Jewish Democratic State. Everyone more or less agrees on that point. But this is how Oren and the right-wing Zionists are playing this fact: If one supports the one state solution then by definition one opposes Israel’s right to exist. This is a distortion and only a partial truth. The truth is that Israel can continue to exist as a Jewish state, but not a democratic one, it will have to resort to the Apartheid solution. The big distortion is that it is the Israelis that are forcing the one state solution. But the rightwing Zionists can ignore that in their propaganda campaigns in the US. I noticed that Yonah Feldman was whining that all of you one-state supporters were in effect opposed to Israel’s right to exist. I think fundamentally, this is what got poor Norm Finkelstein all bent out of shape with many of the Palestinian activists. They are, of course, correct that a Jewsih democratic state is not possible under those circumstances.

        In any case, to argue publicly for the one-state solution is equivalent to arguing for the complete right of return. The state of Israel, as we know it, cannot survive either of those changes. Therefore, to publicly make that argument means that you will be accused of denying Israel the right to exist. Fine if you want to engage in that argument. Somehow, it is much simpler to argue for justice for the Palestinian people.

      • ritzl on March 16, 2013, 10:27 pm

        @ToivoS I guess the only reason I make comments like that is not out of what Palestinians should do, but more out of a sense of what they have been (or are being, in deference to your comment) precluded from doing.

  5. yourstruly on March 14, 2013, 5:38 pm

    the zionist entity israel

    in acting out its conceptualizing fantasy

    that there exists a land without a people for a people without a land

    will it exit the same way the third reich did?

    here one day, gone the next

    • john h on March 15, 2013, 4:04 am

      Probably/hopefully, but when, and what would bring that about?

  6. Cliff on March 14, 2013, 6:03 pm

    Short term future will be more of the same.

    Jewish colonialism.

    Worthless diversions here in the US on anti-Semitism.

    More Palestinian children murdered.

    More dispossession.

  7. bilal a on March 14, 2013, 6:16 pm

    The coalition needs the Haredim in the Army because it is the last remnant of religious Judaism exempt from Zionist crimes. For the full transformation of Judaism from a religion to an ethno nationalist ideology, no segment can be left under the tent.

    For the final solution of the Palistinean problem, note that this coalition could not have appeared without a consensus of the behind the scenes money people who fund both Netanyahu and Obama, and this funding pool is transnational involving multinational corporate interests -industry in the EU as well.

    The only thing missing is a major terrorist attack threatening the lives of Israelis and Jews outside Israel, preferably a civilian risk such as bioterrorism, which would have most of the world enthusiastically supporting a final expulsion of the West bank pouplation to Syria and Jordan. It needs to be bigger than some stray from rockets from israelis inside Gaza. “There is no peace partner.”

    Watch the Jordanian response as Jordan-Syria becomes the new Palistinian State territorial solution, with Israel as both democratic and a crusader state unsinkable carrier for the EU-North American trade union.

    • Citizen on March 14, 2013, 10:49 pm

      Yes, bilal a, it “takes a village” such as the big, wide one you outline in profile. One day, far away, the peasants everywhere will suddenly arise, and grow like a prairie fire much quicker, wider than the Arab Spring.

  8. palijustice on March 15, 2013, 9:26 am

    Israel can do whatever it wants to the Palestinians and knows it. Even though Obama will be going there next week, it appears that he will be silent abut the settlements and all of the other crimes of the Apartheid State. If the Palsetinians had a Lobby similar to the power of AIPAC in our Congress, to give big money to candidates to fund their elections, things might be different. But there is none, and without it, it’s hard to see US policy changing. In the meantime, the world can only watch as Israel becomes evermore racist and expands its heinous apartheid system and persecution of Palestinians.

  9. ramzijaber on March 15, 2013, 12:30 pm

    More details on the cabinet,,7340,L-4356913,00.html

    Clearly, this is a settler cabinet. No 2SS peace on the horizon. The march towards 1SS, through the path of apartheid, is accelerating.

  10. Pat Tibbs on March 15, 2013, 2:48 pm

    It appears that the new government is openly discarding two states. If this coalition survives Palestine will disappear. It is time for a major boycott of Israel’s policies: divest in investments that benefit Israel.

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