In spite of his narrow victory in Israel’s parliamentary election, Benjamin Netanyahu can be expected to accelerate the colonisation of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and strive to ensure Israel’s independence from the Western powers that have partially restrained Israel’s drive to ingest these territories and curbed its ability to wage war at will.
Ahead of the campaign Netanyahu decided to make common cause with the largest and most influential hard right faction, Israel Beiteinu, headed by Avigdor Lieberman who was forced to step down as foreign minister because of corruption allegations. The electoral alliance they formed, dubbed Likud-Beiteinu, is likely to remain the core of the new government Netanyahu will establish. But it does not matter if he persuades so-called “centrist” Labour or Likud-offshoot Kadima, to join his coalition, Netanyahu is certain to focus on colony construction.
His coming term in office will be his third. He will be the first Israeli politician to accomplish this feat and Netanyahu is determined to make the most of the opportunity. Israel’s founding father David Ben Gurion did not have three terms.
Netanyahu’s long-term objective has always been asserting Israel’s claim to the whole of Palestine through colonisation. This was the personal goal of his father, a hard line right winger and loyal secretary of Zionist ideologue Vladimir Jabotinsky.
In Netanyahu’s view all of Palestine is part of “Greater Israel” and Palestinians have no right to the land, to be identified as Palestinians, or to self-determination.
Over the next four years, Netanyahu will have the opportunity of becoming the Israeli leader who presides over the realisation of the Zionist dream of an Israel that encompasses all portions of Palestine claimed by the men who founded the Zionist movement in the 1880s.
He has no interest in being the Israeli leader who reaches a deal with the Palestinians by giving into their territorial claims or makes peace the Arabs.
These are facts which stubborn supporters of Israel, including its friends and allies in the US, refuse to acknowledge because it destroys the carefully-cultivated illusion that Israel is a peace loving country beset by inveterate enemies in a dangerous region of the world.
Another prediction: Netanyahu will come under pressure from hardliners in his own Likud and Naftali Bennett, head of the Jewish Home party, established in 2008, to formally annex the West Bank, as Israel has annexed East Jerusalem (1967) and the Syrian Golan (1981).
Netanyahu could resist such a demand because through the colonisation drive launched by the Labour party and continued by Likud, Israel has already, irrevokably, annexed the West Bank and does not need to discus its status with the Palestinians or anyone else.
During his second term in office, Netanyahu has alienated many in the West who have staunchly supported Israel through thick and thin.
So far, governments in the US and Europe have remained loyal but larger numbers of US and European citizens are growing increasingly alienated by Israel’s policies and dismissive attitude toward critics and opponents. Popular pressure on governments to shift their stance could come too late.
It is significant that The International Business Times observed last week ahead of the election that “Israel seems to have few friends left on the world stage...if the leanings of the up-and-coming power players on the Israeli stage are any indication, the country does not appear to be begging to win back those friends.” Precisely.
Israel is not eager to “win back those friends” because such “friends” insist that Israel must behave in a certain way to retain their support. Netanyahu has no intention of doing so now that the Zionist goal of “Greater Israel” is at hand.
The only “friends” he intends to keep close are members of the US Congress and Likud-dominated US Jewish and Christian lobby groups. In his estimate, these are the only “friends” Israel needs. “Friends” in Congress, particularly, members of the House of Representatives, keep money flowing to Israel, ensure that the president does not take action against Israel, and the US military retains its tight ties to Israel’s military and military industries.
The unwavering allegiance of the US House and most members of the Senate mean that Netanyahu can safely ignore the rift between himself and President Barack Obama.
The House has long been, as some US analysts have quipped, “Israeli occupied territory.” There are several reasons for this state of affairs.
All House members stand for election every two years, making them easy prey of lobby groups, notably the pro-Israel lobby which provides funds and publicity and delivers votes to selected representatives. They simply cannot afford to ignore Israel or oppose its policies.
The absence of other friends and allies means that Israel is free to do whatever it wants on the world scene: construct colonies in Palestinian territory, deport Palestinians from East Jerusalem to the West Bank and, even, wage war on Gaza, neighbouring countries and, perhaps, Iran. An Israel free of constraints can be far more destructive and dangerous than an Israel that seeks the good opinion of others and observes limits to its actions and activities.
It is no use pretending that Israel has an honest peace strategy. This was never the case. Peacemaking was a tactic, a manoeuvre enabling Israel to grab Palestinian land. Israel’s “peace” Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin stepped up colonisation as soon as he took office and accelerated the process after he agreed to the Oslo accord in 1993. Israel has always had a clear strategy for obtaining as much of Palestine’s land as possible. The “two-state solution” —which was a strategic illusion - has run its course. Peace with the Arabs has been forgotten. Israel’s real strategy of securing all of Palestine has been exposed. And, as I said earlier, Netanyahu is determined to be the leader who accomplishes this goal and to defend the land it has seized with Israel’s military might, if Netanyahu deems this necessary.
The author, a well-respected observer of Middle East
affairs, has three books on the Arab-Israeli conflict