Israel held five parliamentary elections during the last three years, with no stable governmental coalition. In the latest elections on November 1, 2022, however, the right-wing bloc (the national camp) led by Benjamin Netanyahu won a clear majority of 64 seats in the parliament. His coalition is composed of the ultra-Orthodox religious parties Shas, United Torah Judaism (Agudat Yisrael and Degel HaTorah factions), and the extreme nationalist Religious Zionist party led by Bezalel Smotrich, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, the founder of the Otzma Yehudit party that is heir to the ideology of the racist Rabbi Meir Kahana, whose Kach party was banned in 1994 for terrorism and racism. This coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu is the most right-wing government in Israel’s history.
Though the United States and other countries expressed their concern and fears about a further deterioration in the situation because of the participation of ultra-nationalist figures in the new government who may get control of the Finance Ministry, the Defense Ministry, and/or the Public Security Ministry, the past decade proved that the EU and the U.S. have no problem maintaining relations with an extreme right-wing Israeli Government.
The new right-wing government in Israel will further expand the existing settlements, convert the outposts to permanent settlements, overlook efforts to create new outposts, ignore settler violence against Palestinian civilians, and grab more private Palestinian property. Such acts will likely lead to an outbreak of violent attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and escalated fierce reactions by Israel.
A verbal commitment to support the two-state solution and the denunciation of unilateral acts, meaning settlement activities, is not enough to maintain the viability of that solution. Equating Israel’s unilateral activities in the occupied territories with the Palestinian activities to seek their rights through international institutions is neither fair nor helpful to maintain hope among the Palestinians that this occupation will come to an end. The international community that committed itself to the peace process ought to take full responsibility and fulfill its role as an effective mediator and not as a passive facilitator. It should have the courage to criticize and condemn the oppressive measures and settlements activities of the Israeli occupation as well as any violence against civilians whoever they are. Durable peace, stability, and human security can only be achieved by ending the Israeli occupation and enabling the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination and to live in peace, dignity, and equality with their neighbors in good relations, cooperation, and harmony.
Despite the gloomy atmosphere that pervades the Israeli and Palestinian societies, we tried in this issue of the PIJ to provide innovative ideas and propose activities about how to make a positive change despite the depressing recent political developments on both sides. Some of the ideas may look unrealistic but, then again, we must continue to seek new creative, effective, and applicable formulas for progress toward a resolution of the conflict based on positive values and mutual interests.
Therefore, the question “What Do We Do Now?” which is the focus of this issue is a forward-looking question and not one born in despair.