Netanyahu and the Fate of the Powerless

By Hana El Hilaly

On Thursday 29th of December Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as Prime Minister of Israel, backed with what is possibly the most-far right Knesset in Israeli history. In comparison to the 24th Knesset, which was the “most diverse” it has ever been, with 36 women and featured a small Arab Islamist party for the first time, this was particularly shocking. In light of the increased conflict in the West Bank, there are many concerns about the fate of Arab-Israelis, occupied Palestinians and other minority groups in Israel at the hands of the 25th Knesset. This fear has stemmed from recent comments made by the Prime Minister and coalition partners, claiming to increase aggressive action against Palestinians to ensure the protection of Israelis. This is not a new or nuanced reaction from these leaders, but instead follows a trend by the far-right and some religious parties, which has led to even the President appealing to safeguard the rights of minorities within Israel.  

While Israel follows a mature parliamentary system, there are significant disparities between Israel’s Jewish and Non-Jewish sectors. Although most of the Israeli population is Jewish, according to the Times of Israel 2021 Report, 21% is Arab, making them a significant minority. However, they were only part of the Knesset once and have had little to no representation when passing legislation, leading to privileges being granted to the Jewish Majority Population (DDTR). This, coupled with the harsh comments and arguments made by the Likud party, and Netanyahu in particular, is why many Palestinians and Arab Israelis fear the consequences of this government.  

Netanyahu has long been active in Israeli politics and has voiced his opinions on the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict”. Formerly serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and fighting in the 1973 October war, and then going on to become the youngest Prime Minister in Israeli history, Netanyahu has a very personal attachment to the conflict. Indeed, this attachment may explain his harsh tactics. In the past, his opinions on the issue could be seen explicitly in his criticism of the 1993 Oslo Accords. An agreement signed by Prime Minister Rabin of Israel and the head of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation), the Oslo Accords were the start of a ‘peace process’ between the two sides. One that highlighted the right of self-determination for stinian people. Other than claiming that the process was “deeply flawed”, Netanyahu has also consistently opposed the creation of a Palestinian state, pushing for settlements in occupied territories of Palestine.  

Israeli Settlements in the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and Gaza (UN-identified illegally occupied territories of Palestine) have been in effect since the 20th century, with currently over 600,000 illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza and multiple illicit outposts in the territory. This has resulted in over 2.5 million Palestinians having had their movements severely restricted by the Israeli military. This is a method used by Israel to remain in control of the Palestinian land under the facade that they are protecting the Israeli people. At the end of 2022, Netanyahu had claimed to “advance and develop a settlement in all parts of the land of Israel – in the Galilee, Negev, Golan Heights, and Judea and Samaria”. Indeed, this can be seen as an explicit announcement that he is planning to continue this unlawful movement of Israeli people into Palestinian areas. Not only this, but the use biblical names for these towns rather than their Arabic or Palestinian names displays a lack of respect for the Palestinian land and people.  

Netanyahu’s statements here, although not uncommon, further show his stance on the Palestinian cause and people. Today, with him as head of government and the lack of representation for these people in that government, the fate of the Arab and Palestinian minorities within Israel is looking very uncertain.   

Image source: The Palestinian People / UNCTAD 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own, and may not reflect the opinions of The St Andrews Economist.

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