No Change in Jerusalem or Gaza

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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The Flag March in Jerusalem, Tuesday.
The Flag March in Jerusalem, Tuesday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Not 100 days of grace, not even 100 hours of grace, did our change government give us. Perhaps it’s not fair to judge it on its first hours of existence, but they may signal what is coming next. One hundred minutes was enough to realize that on the most important issues of all, there are no disagreements in the new government, nor is it any different than the previous government. What was will be.

Its first hours, which could have heralded a change, heralded the exact opposite. The ministers could have barred the Flag March and told Israelis, Palestinians and the world that there’s a new team in town, a team that takes into consideration the sensitivities of another people. Instead, the minister for public security, Omer Bar-Lev, a representative of the left in the new government, tweeted that “Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital,” adapting with unbelievable ease the nationalist jargon of Benjamin Netanyahu or Bezalel Smotrich by way of Itamar Ben-Gvir.

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Is Berlin the eternal capital of Germany? Ancient Athens that of Greece? For what is all this national pomp? Maybe one day Israelis will decide it would be better to move the capital to Afula or Dimona? Maybe to Tel Aviv? What is eternal about where government offices are located? Perhaps it could be the eternal capital of two nations? After all, that’s what Bar-Lev’s party claims to support.

Behind these grandiloquent words was a green light for the Flag March to proceed, even though only a few weeks earlier Bar-Lev had opposed it. What you see from there, you don’t see from here, and thus the Flag March set out on another wild, dangerous, violent campaign of provocation in the name of freedom of assembly. However, in order to brutally empty entire neighborhoods of their Palestinian residents, to hold a vile war march, to allow racist chants of “death to the Arabs” in the name of maintaining sovereignty, to let a mob of settler thugs and their supporters spit on Palestinians, and to preserve the innocent belief that there is a left wing in this government, there was no need for Bar-Lev. Amir Ohana would have done better.

Yair Lapid lauded Bar-Lev, as did the prime minister wholeheartedly – the brotherhood of old army boys, a government of unity. Instead of a change government bringing change and a unity government with a faint glow from the left, it is already tacking to the right.

But the Flag March alone didn’t end its first 100 hours of grace. In response to it, the Palestinians in Gaza launched incendiary balloons into Israel – a provocation far more justified than the Flag March – and again Israel proved that perhaps there’s been a change in government, but there has been no change in mentality. The air force bombed Khan Yunis. Glory to the Israel Defense Forces.

As of now, the incident has ended peacefully, but the road to escalation could have been short. You don’t need a long memory: It’s what happened about a month ago. Israel insists on never learning anything and never forgetting anything: The march will proceed, the Palestinians will protest, the jets will bomb. Hamas won’t be allowed to dictate anything to us. How pathetic it all is.

Two days after another flag march – the party celebrating an exodus from slavery to freedom in Rabin Square, with pink flags taking the place of the black flags of Balfour – it already seems that the joy was premature and excessive. Perhaps there was no cause for joy at all. It is easy to understand those who had built up Benjamin Netanyahu into the devil incarnate now rejoicing in his downfall – a comfort for their souls, their life’s dream realized. But now it’s time to understand who has replaced him and not to simply enter another ridiculous war about when the Netanyahu family will leave Balfour, yesterday or tomorrow.

The new government may herald changes, even if they are modest. Most of its ministers are superior to their predecessors in terms of their standing, integrity and commitment to their tasks. The new government may even undertake some critical reforms and clean out some stables. But a government that allowed the Flag March to happen and the air force to bomb Gaza is no government of real change.

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