Opinion |

Would Israel's Far-right Bezalel Smotrich Be a Better Option Than the Current Government?

1.7450479
Zehava Galon
Far-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset, Jerusalem, on October 25, 2021
Far-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset, Jerusalem, on October 25, 2021Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
1.7450479
Zehava Galon

It was hard to miss Gideon Levy’s tone of schadenfreude (pleasure derived by someone from another person's misfortune), in an article in which he attacked the Israeli government following the surprising announcement of the coalition whip's resignation last week.

I, too, have frequently criticized this government, but I’m in favor of it – and unlike Levy, I’m trying to think ahead.

First, I differ with his claim: Even if former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is still the most popular political figure in Israel, it’s impossible to say that “justice requires his return.”

Levy tends to forget that most Israelis are not interested in having Netanyahu as prime minister – they have proved that in the past in four election campaigns. We also have to recall that even now, despite the large Netanyahu bloc, he still doesn’t have a coalition. Most Israelis still don’t want him. Unfortunately for him, our memory is not that short.

And seriously, Gideon – do you think that it would be better for us if Netanyahu returns, in revenge mode, to the prime minister’s seat? In your opinion, Would it be good for the Palestinians, if the defense minister were to be far-right lawmaker Bezalel Smotrich? True, settler violence against the Palestinians in the territories has not ended, but do we want the hilltop militias to become an official force?

Do you want another far-right lawmaker, Itamar Ben Gvir, to become interior minister? How would that help the Palestinian who have Israeli citizenship? Or the most persecuted population of all, refugees and asylum seekers? Does such a scenario sound like a fantasy to you? Do you think there’s anything that Netanyahu won’t do in order to return and maintain his grip on power ? Do you believe that he wouldn’t dare to stick a finger in the eye of the Democratic administration in the United States?

Of course, it does not mean that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's conduct has been flawless. On the contrary, he has not created a clean slate at the Knesset and has not succeeded in controlling its members. And now, due to the pressure of those who have yet to resign from it – in particular, MK Nir Orbach, who demanded more "right-wing steps" – Bennett, according to commentators, is weighing his options, one of which is to demand left-wing factions to agree to the building of new settlements and the legitimization of illegal outposts. Orbach does not call them by that name, of course; he uses the Yesha Council’s Orwellian name: “the young settlements.”

The left-wing parties already knew what a complicated government they were joining, and they even agreed to swallow many bitter pills, the first one being the nation-state law, saying the law which further consolidates Israel's Jewish character, does not contravene the state's democratic character.

But now Bennett is asking them to swallow not just one more, but a whole container of bitter pills and this has to stop. We have to recall that this government is based on a status quo agreement: Just as left-wing parties are expected to avoid official contacts with Palestinians officials, Bennett cannot go through with the legitimization of the illegal outposts, even if Orbach’s synagogue' members are putting pressure on him.

Incidentally, last week journalist Barak Ravid revealed that the White House has requested from the government to resume the talks with the Palestinian Authority. If Bennett can say no to U.S. President Joe Biden, then he should be able to say no to Orbach too.

An apocalypse is not a plan of action. “To hell with everything” is an understandable feeling, but it is extremely destructive when given free rein. When we give up on our ability to change things, we are helping those who are destroying our world. This government is far – very far – from perfect, but it’s the government we have, and the one with which we have to work. We cannot lose hope now – we don’t have the luxury to do so.

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