"There is no disputing that Binyamin Netanyahu's sixth government, which is in the process of formation, will be the worst in Israel's history," contends Palestinian commentator Hani al-Masri on the independent Palestinian news-portal www.masarat.ps.
It will be a government that seeks to ramp up all forms of aggression against the Palestinians, as well as in the region. It will also pursue annexation, Judaization and displacement, as well as the expansion of settler colonialism, and encroachment on al-Aqsa Mosque's status, while targeting Palestinians wherever they exist. The debate among pundits and experts is not over this assessment, but rather how extremist that government will be. Will the Palestinians, the Arabs, and the world, especially the U.S., allow it to implement its program? Not out of any great love for the Palestinians, but for fear of the repercussions of this extremism on regional and global security, stability and peace. For fascist Israeli extremism will require a Palestinian, Arab and international response.
The good news is that the Republicans, especially Donald Trump's supporters, did not manage to achieve their goal of creating a 'red wave' and winning the majority in the House and Senate. The Democratic Party has retained the Senate majority, while the Republicans are so far leading the House by 8 seats. This will afford a certain freedom of maneuver to Biden, who will tie the hands of the Kahanist Israeli government, which should have been given free rein had the Republican Party prevailed. The extent of the Netanyahu government's extremist practices will be impacted by the extent of the U.S. administration's amenability or objection.
The question here is this: How much free rein will Netanyahu give his foolish fascist ministers? Or will he keep them on a tight rein by stripping basic powers from the ministries granted to them? And will Bezalel Smotrich become defense minister and Itamar Ben-Gvir become public security minister? If so, the government will adopt exceptionally extremist policies and implement as many procedures as possible reflecting them. Either way, many hardline figures will be members of the security cabinet, since political and religious extremism is not exclusive to Religious Zionism, but extends to most members and ministers of the incoming ruling coalition.
These fascist policies and measures will be pursued not only against West Bank and the Gaza Strip, or against 'terrorist' Palestinian resistance fighters, but will extend to all Palestinians, including those with Israeli citizenship. There is a scheme to drive many of them, along with the rest of their brethren, into voluntary exile, before forcibly displacing them when the suitable opportunity arises. Those who remain will be forced to be loyal servants to the Jewish state. This includes the PA, which the incoming government will have no interest in supporting and sustaining to the same degree as the outgoing one (which has nevertheless weakened it while proclaiming to support it), but will rather continue to undermine it. Some of the incoming ministers will call to dissolve the Civil Administration, a department of the Ministry of Defense [that coordinates with the PA and manages civil bureaucracy in the 1967 occupied territories], so as to facilitate the West Bank's annexation to Israel. Hence, they prefer for the PA to collapse and for the occupation state to mandate its own representative offices to represent the separate local authorities of Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, and so on. This is because the existence of a single governing body that embodies a united national identity keeps the idea of establishing a Palestinian state alive in the public's consciousness, which makes its resurrection a possibility, when they seek to bury it once and for all.
Based on the foregoing, the scenario of chaos and the PA's collapse has become more likely now that fascists are becoming ministers. This does not guarantee an opportunity for the rise of widescale resistance against the occupation. Rather, whether this dangerous challenge becomes an opportunity will depend first on the Palestinians stepping up to meet the requirements of steadfastness and resistance, sustaining and strengthening the Palestinian people's presence on Palestinian soil, and desisting from defeatism, surrender, extremism, and risk-taking. This will not succeed unless a recognition is reached of the reality of Israel's premeditated schemes, which are marked by the accelerating pursuit of the liquidation of the Palestinian cause in its various dimensions. These schemes cannot be defeated if the Palestinian status quo remains unchanged, but they can be achieved if there is the awareness, the planning, and the will to do so.
It is no exaggeration to say that the key causes of the growing power of the political and religious far-right in Israel include the following:
First: The Palestinian condition is plagued by weakness, division, and disarray. As a result, the Palestinian cause and how to address it is no longer a main point on the Israeli agenda. Rather, its significance has dwindled, and it is now approached on security and economic terms at best. This has emboldened hardliners to continue to engage in extremism and has afforded credibility to their approach, which is based on force and imposing facts on the ground and reject reaching a settlement with the Palestinians. Even if this used to be a unanimous Israeli red line in the past, it has been replaced by a new consensus that none but non-influential groups and figures in Israel's centrist movement deviate from.
Second: The wave of official Arab normalization with Israel, to the point of allying with it, has effectively realized Netanyahu's proclamation about the precedence of achieving peace with the Arabs without first resolving the Palestinian issue or even meeting the provision of the Arab Peace Initiative proposing full withdrawal in exchange for full normalization. He used normalization as a pressure card against the Palestinians to compel them to accept Israel's brand of 'peace', which is being implemented without negotiations, via the ongoing and intensified creation of racist, colonialist conditions that render the Israeli solution the only possible and feasible one.
It is not possible to fight these existential threats and foil the scheme to annex Palestine and put paid to the cause by maintaining the same policies followed before this Israeli government's formation. What worked before will not work after, although the official Palestinian policies that were pursued could not even maintain the appalling status quo, or prevent continuous deterioration, or thwart the progress of the Israeli scheme to establish Greater Israel.
It is not a suitable alternative to Palestinian action to demand that Palestine be granted full member state status in the UN, or to pursue political and legal measures against Israel with UN agencies and institutions, including the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
For all the importance of such tools, they are only branches and accessories of the required strategy. Not only are they not implementable and cannot circumvent the U.S. veto thwarting international recognition of the Palestinian state, they are also not and should not be the basis of the Palestinian strategy. Instead, it must be built on the premise that fascist Israeli extremism creates an opportunity to revamp the inclusive Palestinian national project that unites the land, the cause, and the nation on the basis of the historical narrative, and that accounts for the circumstances and characteristics that distinguish the different Palestinian communities.
The national project has been lost in the fog of illusions that a settlement can be reached by negotiating, making concessions, and demonstrating worthiness, as well as the strategy of unilateral military resistance without a tangible program and the false impression that the Palestinian political system can effectively provide security, peace and stability in the area and will be rewarded with a state for its efforts. Indeed, this strategy has not only failed to reach an agreement that includes the realization of independence and a sovereign state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or even parts of them, but it has also been unable to sustain the frankly appalling status quo and prevent it from continuously deteriorating and worsening. After putting paid to the 'two-state solution', now Israel is making progress down the path to deny any institution for the Palestinian identity, even in the form of an autonomous administration fully subject to Israeli sovereignty. The latter was the program adopted by the so-called Israeli 'center' and 'left-wing', which have largely collapsed, and even a part of the secular right. For its part, the victorious religious and nationalist far-right, which only promises to gain influence, does not want any expression of Palestinian identity. Rather, it seeks broader realization of the main motto of the Zionist movement, to establish Greater Israel, or 'a land without a people for a people without a land', as well as the slogan of 'the largest area of land with the smallest population.'
The international strategy adopted by the official leadership as a tactic to push for a return to negotiations to achieve the 'two-state solution' will not result in achieving Palestinian goals, including the end of the occupation and the realization of the state. The evidence is that, as the Palestinian president has said on several occasions, the over 900 UN General Assembly, Security Council, and Human Rights Council resolutions have not been implemented, including the International Court of Justice's advisory opinion on the apartheid wall. Not a single one, unfortunately, despite the fact that they represent significant political, legal, and moral achievements, including the key decision taken recently to issue a new advisory opinion regarding the occupation.
In other words, the international strategy is not the basis of the Palestinian strategy, but rather a sub-section of it that may serve it. At core, the goal is to mobilize the people under a unified representative national framework and to utilize all forms of resistance and struggle to change the facts on the ground. This will lead to changing the balance of power in a manner that permits the achievement of Palestinian rights, through the formula of securing as many of them as possible at each phase, on the path to achieving all the objectives. The way to achieve this is by relying first on the Palestinians, second on the Arabs, and third on the free peoples of the world, and taking advantage of the fact that the changes that Israel is moving towards are concerning and frightening to major groups worldwide, including significant Jewish circles in Israel and abroad. The fascists seek to topple even Jewish democracy, secularism, and liberalism, and in their place install a religious state that takes halakha as its authority, in precisely the same way that ISIS does sharia, or worse. Therefore, the new Israeli government's objectives include subverting the Israeli Supreme Court by restricting it and binding it to legislature passed by the right-wing and hardline majority Knesset.
In order to thwart the new government's schemes and change the balance of power, it is necessary to end the split and restore unity by enforcing and developing the Algiers initiative and fixing its flaws. It must then be paired with the Egyptian initiative, with Arab cover, so as to reach a sustainable solution based on the model of a comprehensive package, the elements of which are implemented in synchronicity and succession. The first step is to reach an agreement on a political program and form a national unity government that makes arrangements to hold presidential and legislative elections, while upholding Palestinian national rights and arming itself with international laws and UN resolutions that promote Palestinian rights. Meanwhile, a transitional leadership body shall be formed to lead the PLO for a maximum period of one year, with the main mission of forming a new Palestinian National Council (PNC) in accordance with PLO statutes, via elections wherever possible, and by consensus on appointments according to objective, national standards wherever holding elections is impossible.
From the outset, we must bear in mind that the fascist government will not allow free and fair Palestinian elections whose results are respected and that strengthen and unify the Palestinians – unless it finds itself compelled to. In that case, holding elections would become a tool of struggle against the occupation, and not the fruits of an agreement with the occupation as in the past. The function of the first elections of 1996 was to grant popular legitimacy to the Oslo Accords and the PA, while the purpose of the 2005 and 2006 elections was to integrate the factions opposed to Oslo and resistance against the occupation and to renew the legitimacy of the post-Arafat PA.
At the time, the calculations missed the mark, as the Hamas-majority Change and Reform bloc prevailed. Israel will not allow a repeat scenario unless the Palestinians accept the crumbs offered to them or a new Palestinian condition arises that is capable of dictating elections. This requires a fight that builds on the lessons of past battles and leads to a massive Palestinian popular revival. This will not happen with the click of a button or overnight, but rather requires a comprehensive vision, new strategies, a united leadership and a willingness to fight and pay the price.
The formation of a fascist government in Israel poses an imminent existential threat that must neither be exaggerated nor downplayed. However, it can be turned into an opportunity if the Palestinians call to shun and boycott the new government, strive to include the Religious Zionism bloc on the terrorist blacklist, and stop complying with the obligations stipulated by the Oslo Accords and its diktats for what they must do. This is achievable, and would create an opportunity for the official leadership, and in particular President Mahmoud 'Abbas, that may be, or likely will be, the last of its kind. The time he has left on this earth will not allow new opportunities to arise for him to end his life with a great national achievement under his belt. That achievement could be restoring unity by devoting every effort and paying the price to end the split, as he said in his speech at an event commemorating Yasser Arafat's assassination, and in speaking about new steps following a meeting between [Fatah official] 'Azzam Al-Ahmad and [Hamas figure] Musa Abu Marzouk in Beirut on Monday. So will he follow through? Will this attempt to end the split be a serious one, unlike its predecessors?
Achieving reconciliation will require cooperation from Hamas based on a willingness to cede its unilateral control of the Gaza Strip, in exchange for full partnership in the PA, which must undergo change to meet Palestinian needs, as well as in the PLO, which must restructure its institutions to include all shades of the political and social spectrum.
The answer is No, he will not, considering his political track record to date. The president and the beneficiaries of the split on both sides have become captive to the situation he and they have wrought. But who knows, he might. Either way, political and popular pressure is required to achieve unity, before it is too late.
"But God knows best," concludes Masri.