Far-right government would be a gift to Israel boycott movement

Opinion: Bezalel Smotrich's demand to control settlement policies poses risk to two-state solution; center-left must understand the dangers, overlook Netanyahu corruption charges, and join unity coalition

Ben-Dror Yemini|
Quietly, and with little public debate, the emerging coalition government has already began working to authorize illegal West Bank outposts established over the past two decades. Each one of them will now likely have a local council, a head rabbi and new infrastructure - all to fulfill the vision of the Land of Israel.
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  • Public discourse is preoccupied with important matters such as revamping Israel's legal system through so-called Override Law, and paving the way for twice-convicted Shas leader Aryeh Deri to hold a senior ministerial post by introducing questionable legislation.
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    סמוטריץ בפגישתו עם נתניהו
    סמוטריץ בפגישתו עם נתניהו
    Bezalel Smotrich during coalition talks with Benjamin Netanyahu
    But, off all matters that are now being debated, the most important one – which may lead to the end of the Zionist dream – is being overlooked.
    This was not the case in previous governments, even those led by Benjamin Netanyahu in tandem with right-wing parties. Netanyahu back then knew that to authorize illegal outposts is to shoot himself in the foot.
    He is not a supporter of a Palestinian state, despite previous public claims, but the incoming prime minister has always feared a one-state solution, understanding full-well how bad that would be for Israel.
    Netanyahu knows it would be a violation of commitments made in 2003, to remove all illegal outposts. He also knows that the only thing worse than a Palestinian state, is a one-state option.
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    איתר בן גביר
    איתר בן גביר
    Itamar Ben-Gvir during meet-up with settlers in West Bank
    (Photo: Yariv Katz)
    I can already hear the outrage, claiming the voters have spoken and the pending decision is the will of the people. After all, the right-wing and religious bloc was given a clear majority in the last elections.
    But, most of those voters did not support the policies promoted by Religious Zionists party leader Bezalel Smotrich. The majority backed Netanyahu, the same prime minister who avoided annexing parts of the West Bank, opted instead to sign peace deals with Arab Gulf nations, and was a instrumental in the articulation of a peace plan put together by former U.S. President Donald Trump, which included the establishment of a Palestinian state.
    He was also the same prime minister who demolished illegal structures in the former West Bank settlement of Homesh.
    Now, Smotrich is eyeing the defense portfolio. He will not decide, for instance, if and when strikes will be carried out in Syria. That would be the military's call and would be approved by him and the prime minister. But, he will have dramatic control over the West Bank and the settlements. He will be de-facto the ruler, and his policies will be the law.
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    מפגינים וכוחות הביטחון בצומת קדומים
    מפגינים וכוחות הביטחון בצומת קדומים
    Settlers protest lack of security in West Bank
    (Photo: Yariv Katz)
    He will legalize outposts, re-establish Homesh, which was vacated in the 2005 withdrawal, build a new settlement on the disputed land of Eviatar and remove the Palestinians from the village Khan al-Ahmar.
    Some voters may have spoken in support of such policies, and they are allowed to opt for national suicide. But, the claim that this was the will of the majority - is misleading and wrong.
    According to the latest whispers from coalition negotiations, Smotrich may have conceded to abandon his hopes for the Defense Ministry, and is willing to take on the role of finance minister instead. But, only under the condition that decisions regarding West Bank settlements remain in his hands, including the legalization of outposts. He will also be responsible for financing them.
    Despite the right-wing claims, the outgoing government was not ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood due to being backed by Ra'am and its leader Mansour Abbas, but the new government will be run by extremist settlers who will lead us to the edge of the abyss and we will surely fall.
    In the long-run, settlement policies are the most important for Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state. They must not be imposed by an extremist party, even if elected democratically. Such policies must be decided with a broad base of support and after extensive public discourse - but those do not appear to be on the cards.
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    ההפגנה בבלפור
    ההפגנה בבלפור
    Protesters call for ouster of then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over corruption charges
    (Photo: Haim Golditch)
    The "anyone but Netanyahu" campaign by the center-left has blinded those in support of the Jewish and democratic state. They neglected to highlight the risks of an extreme right-wing and religious leadership, and concentrated only on the criminal charges faced by Netanyahu in court. The loss of a Jewish majority poses an existential threat and that was not made clear enough.
    Now, only Benjamin Netanyahu can stand up to the demands made by Smotrich. He must convince center-left parties to overlook his indictments and form a unity government. He can prevent the settlement expansion as he had done during his past terms as prime minister, and do much more.
    Will he have the will to prevent a disaster? Time will tell.





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