MADAR 2017 Strategic Report The 2016 Israeli Scene

The New Right in Israel Tightens its Grip on Israel’s Present and Future

  • Editor: Honida Ghanem
  • Preparation: Atef Abu Saif, Antoine Shalhat, Muhannad Mustafa, Asi Atrash, Nabil Saleh, Hemet Zoabi
  • Number of Pages: 266
  • ISBN: 978-9950-00-018-6
  • Date of update: Thursday, 30 March 2017
  • Price: $0.00

The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR) presents the MADAR Strategic Report 2017  Israeli Scene 2016 to political decision- and public opinion-makers.
The MADAR Strategic Report 2017 monitors and analyses key events and developments on the Israeli scene throughout 2016. The report seeks to explore future developments and course of events over the upcoming period, particularly from the perspective of influence on the question of Palestine and its respective dynamics.


The Report investigates the Israeli scene in seven significant areas: Israeli-Palestinian relations; internal Israeli politics; foreign relations; security-military issues; economy; social affairs; and Palestinians of Israel. An Executive Summary provides an overview of major strategic changes, which have impacted Israel and its internal and regional standing. It is hoped that the report sheds light on the Israeli scene, including relevant key influential factors.


A group of specialist researchers and observers of Israeli affairs have participated in compiling and editing the MADAR Strategic Report 2017. Given that the Report coincides with the first centenary of the Balfour Declaration, 70th anniversary of the Partition Plan for Palestine and 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, MADAR has deemed it fit to include an extensive historiographical and analytical introduction, which traces the constant and the variable within the Zionist Project at a first stage, and across Israel at a later stage. The changes Israel has seen over the past few years are linked to an intersection between the constituent statements of Zionist idea vis-à-vis the social, political and historical changes and their respective impact on the direction of Israel.


In this context, the rise of the New Right and domination of the Israeli scene and its future-oriented actions is part and parcel of these changes. As delineated in previous MADAR reports, the New Right rise significantly reflects the socio-historical transformations which Israel has seen. Israel has gradually turned into a more religious and more conservative society. The Mizrahi Jews have joined the elites, which had been purely Ashkenazi. Following the 1967 occupation, settlers have gained more power on the political map. Israel has also marked a continuing demise of traditional constituent Zionist elites, which were once led

by the Mapai party. These used to rule over Israel until the “revisionist” right wing rose to power in 1977. As explained below, in light of escalating and religionising the settlement enterprise, the rise of the right wing ushered a decline of the revisionist right wing in its Jabotinskyian sense, which is seen in Israel as a representative of the “rational right wing”. Comprising descendants of the founders of the revisionist right wing, the so-called lords of the Likud party include Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Reuven Rivlin. {ref} Shulhut, Antoine, “The Israeli New Right: Return to the Facts”. In The Israeli Scene, 2 February 2016, The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR): https://goo.gl/yZIu4Y (in Arabic) (Last accessed, 2 March 2017). {/ref} In contrast to the fall of this right wing, Israel has witnessed a continuing rise of the “New Right”, which consists of ultra-orthodox Haredi parties, national religious parties, settlers, hardliner Knesset members of the Likud party, extremist national groups affiliated with the Yisrael Beiteinu [Israel is Our Home] party, and movements like Im Tirtzu [If You Want], among others. {ref} Shulhut, Antoine, op. cit. {/ref}


A close examination of the rising tides of “New Right” shows its incessant pursuit to dominate the elites, state institutions and course of the state. In the meantime, the New Right emphasises the Jewishness of the state vis-à-vis “democratic values”.


With its anti-Palestinian, and more broadly anti-Muslim, ideology and its lauding of the national identity of the Jewish state and power policies, the New Right intersects with the similar racist, anti-Muslim and anti-alien ideology of the new American right wing (which some call the alt-right) {ref} Christopher Caldwell,”What the Alt-Right Really Means”. 2 December 2016. The New York Times:https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/02/opinion/sunday/what-the-alt-right-really-means.html?_r=2 (Last accessed, 13 March 2017). {/ref}, which helped Trump come to power. The Israeli New Right is also characterised by glorifying power and by moving away from diplomacy and courtesy. It also identifies with the far-right movements across Europe, where Islamophobia has replaced traditional Semitism.


The temporal overlap between the New Right in Israel and the far-right wing in Europe impacts Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians and the prospects of ending the occupation. It allows room for Israel to circumvent any attempts or pressure to end the occupation. It furnishes an opportunity for a political manoeuvre and for imposing facts on the ground, making the establishment of a viable Palestinian state an impossible task. As indicated by the chapter on

“Foreign Relations” of this report, the Israeli government exploits bloody conflicts across the Arab world, civil war in Syria and Iraq and rise of radical movements which employ religion in their ideologies to promote its evasion from putting an end to the occupation. By these, Israel claims that the conflict with the Palestinians is a cultural and civic confrontation between two civilised and uncivilised worlds. As he stated on many occasions, Netanyahu has alleged that the question of Palestine is nothing but a pretext used to confront Israel. This is why Israel hastened to accuse the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) of operations carried out by the Palestinians in 2016. For example, Israel accused Ya’qoub Abu al-Qi’an of affiliating with ISIS only minutes after the Israeli Police had killed him. Along this vein, Israel, Europe and America are united in one trench against a single terrorist force. Today, Israel and the New Right led by Netanyahu share common visions with Trump and the new right-right movement in America. However, it is this intersection which consolidates the image of Israel as a racist occupying state, which stands in the same spot and side by side with the new racist and fascist right wing. This haunts Israel, which views seclusion and boycott as a risk of delegitimisation. Israel looks at fighting isolation and exclusion as an essential component of its perspective of national security. Led by Netanyahu, the New Right’s rule is reflected in three primary components, which Netanyahu seeks to steer in line with Israel’s political concepts:


1. Position towards the occupation/settlement enterprise: 2016 marked relentless attempts to bolster the status of settlers and settlements within the official consensus. These attempts were not confined to conventional tools, which used to be dominated by the state and state institutions. Under various pretexts, Israel has continued to confiscate and seize Palestinian land. Thanks to the Law on Legalising Settlements, Palestinian land grabbed by Israeli individuals can now be retroactively whitewashed. This means that the state shares “tools of violence” and sovereignty together with settlers. Israel has turned into a tool to whitewash settler violation of its own laws. This is a proof of the power settlers enjoy in setting the direction of the state. International rejection and reactions to enacting the Israeli Law on Legalising Settlements was one reason the USA refrained from using the veto against the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334. However, Trump’s victory has alleviated international pressure on Israel. Even before he own the election, Trump attempted to disrupt Resolution 2334 and urged Egypt to withdraw the draft resolution. The Israeli right wing also exploited Trump’s rise to power to demand that Netanyahu completely abandon the two-state solution, which he had admitted in what has come to be known as the Bar Ilan Speech. Israel’s right wing also call on Netanyahu to annex Area C. Nonetheless, Netanyahu has declined to do so. His statements indicate that he seeks to manage the occupation file in full coordination with the Trump Administration. To avoid any potential crisis, Netanyahu would not take any surprising steps, but would toss the ball into the Palestinian court.


2. Relationship with the Palestinians of Israel: In 2016, the Netanyahu government continued to deal with the Palestinians of Israel as if they were a source of security or demographic danger. This attitude was reflected in the ongoing ban of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, incitement against Arab Knesset members, extension of laws targeting the Palestinians of Israel (e.g. the law on family reunion), and enactment of racist laws. In addition, 2016 marked extensive home demolitions, particularly in the Naqab (Negev) area. The attempts made to demolish the Umm al-Hiran village are part and parcel of Israel’s policy of Judaising the Naqab (Negev). Israel intends to construct the planned, purely Jewish village of Hiran on the ruins of Umm al-Hiran.


3. Structure of the state and inclination to a more Jewish and a less democratic Israel: Israel defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state. Preserving a balance between the democratic and Jewish components is one goal which Israel claims it seeks to maintain. As explained below, the continuing rise of the New Right has facilitated a populist culture, which aims to consolidate the Jewish national structure of the state and attempts to control the elites. The latter have shifted from secular, labour Ashkenazi elites to settler, religious right wing Mizrahi ones, which currently dominate the Zionist Project and try to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians by annexing Area C, deciding the future of the Golan Heights, and maintain the political status quo of the Palestinian Authority as if it were the final solution.


The following sections provide a detailed review of the constant and variable factors within the Zionist Project. In addition to tracking primary structures and constituent statements, an attempt is made to investigate transformations that affected Israel since the Balfour Declaration up to the fourth Netanyahu government.

Israel between the Colony and the State

The Constant and the Variable 100 Years of the Balfour Declaration, 70 Years of Partition and 50 Years of Occupation
This year marks three occasions linked to the Zionist project at a first stage, and to Israel at a later stage. Each occasion has turned history of the region upside down and reshaped the local and regional scene. The profound consequences of these events have extended to impact the international system as a whole. The region has continued to witness ongoing repercussions and interactions of these events. With an oscillating echo from one year to another, these occasions mark the completion of another decade of anniversaries. These are (1) the first centenary of the Balfour Declaration, (2) the 70th anniversary of the Partition Plan for Palestine, and (3) the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These paradigmatic historical milestones reflect, to a great extent, the structural and strategic overlap as well as deep-rooted interconnectedness between the local, the regional and the international in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The Land, Immigration and Jewish Sovereignty
The Balfour Declaration (a promise from those who do not own to those who do not deserve) was the first international document, which enshrined a “Jewish right” to a “national homeland” on the land of Palestine. This promise was later embraced and upheld at the San Remo Conference of 1922. Accordingly, Palestine was destined to be part of the British Mandate, which was later approved by the League of Nations in 1922. The Balfour Declaration provided a “legal” cover to materialise the Zionist Project on the land of Palestine. The Zionist Project has relied on three central, irreducible and irreplaceable foundations on the path to achieving sovereign Jewish statehood:


1. Jewish immigration to Palestine (population);
2. Facilitating control over land (territory); and
3. Establishing Jewish institutions (Yishuv) that would provide the hub of the upcoming Jewish sovereign state (sovereignty).
Together, these three components provided the essential pillars for realising the Zionist Project on the land of Palestine. Immigration provided the ground for creating a new demographic reality. Land gave the space needed to found the Jewish colony. Private Jewish institutions paved the way to creating the structure of the prospective state. In addition to political and ideological agencies (education, theatre and journalism), state institutions included the apparatus of violence, including the military establishment and intelligence community. These structures were later utilised to expel Palestinians from their own country and furnish an opportunity to create a new demographic, sovereign status, based on a decisive sovereign and Jewish majority. From its onset, this has been the constant norm of the Zionist Project.


The Balfour Declaration laid down the first international foundation for establishing a Jewish national entity in Palestine and provided an international cover for the colonisation of Palestine. By contrast, the Partition Plan for Palestine gave an international cover to convert the Zionist colony into a national, political entity of a clearly demarcated Jewish state in Palestine. This state was created over 45 percent of the territory, where Arabs comprised more than two thirds of the population. Enforcement of the Partition Plan soon culminated in the Nakba [catastrophe] of the Palestinian people. Over 90 percent of the Palestinian population were displaced from the territory, on which the Jewish state had been established. Contrary to the Partition Plan itself, the Jewish state stretched over 78 percent of the land of Palestine. Then, expulsion and displacement of Palestinians were not just a transient event in the transition from the colony to the “state”.{ref} See Azoulay, Ariella (2009). “Constituent violence 1947–1950: A visual genealogy of a regime and the transformation of the catastrophe into ‘a catastrophe from their point of view’, Resling (in Hebrew), 1-14. {/ref} On one end, the Jewish Yishuv institutions were part and parcel of the “constituent violence”{ref} Benjamin, Walter (1986). Reflections: Essays, aphorisms, autobiographical writings. Tran. Edmund Jepchott, New York: Schocken Books. 277-300. {/ref} which preceded realisation of the Jewish state with a sovereign Jewish majority. On the other, the regime of governance and laws, which were enacted following the declaration of independence provided the tools needed to maintain the structure of the sovereign Jewish state that was established in 1948. In particular, these tools included the Law of “Return”, prevention of the return of Palestinian refugees and placing Palestinians of the 1948 territory under military rule.


Twenty years after the Partition Plan, the Palestinian Nakba and establishment of the “Jewish state”, the 1967 war with the neighbouring countries proved that Israel had become a pivotal power in the region. Paradoxically, the 1967 war contributed to a gradual transformation of Israel from the “colony” to the “occupying state”. On the other hand, the 1967 war consolidated the Arab and Islamic dimension of the conflict. Following the Naksa [Arab defeat in the 1967 war], the conflict has gradually shifted from the question of liberating Palestine and restoring Palestinian rights to the demand that Israel withdraw from the Palestinian and Arab territories occupied in 1967  a process which would end with the establishment of the independent Palestinian state on the 1967 border. By contrast, the occupation turned into a main factor that reshaped the Israeli political map. It has had a structural impact on the domestic identity of the Israeli society. The occupation has strengthened the messianic, biblical dimension of the conflict. In this context, it is worth noting that the springboard for religionising the conflict is substantially linked to Zionism, which generally employed the religious heritage to advocate for a Jewish right to Palestine. In particular, since early 1950s, David Ben-Gurion played a pivotal role in transforming the biblical heritage into an ingredient part of the Jewish identity of the state. Also known as the “civil religion” of the state, this transformation integrates religion and religious rituals and feasts into the secular, national identity of the political regime. Along this vein, reference is made to the statement David Ben-Gurion made in the aftermath of occupying large swathes of the Sinai Peninsula: “The Third Kingdom of Israel has risen today.”{ref} By the end of the 1956 Tripartite Aggression and occupation of the Sinai Peninsula, Ben-Gurion stated: “We will be able once again to sing the psalms. You have marked a successful completion of a military operation that is the greatest and most proud in the history of our people. It is one of the most amazing operations in the history of peoples. Once again, we can sing the song of Moses and the people of Ancient Israel: ‘The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them’.” Eilat will be restored once again; the main Hebrew port in the south. So will Yotvat (also called Tiran) return to be an integral part of the Third Kingdom of Israel. See Shaham, David (1991). Israel: 40 Years. Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 138 (in Hebrew). {/ref} Ben-Gurion considered that Sinai was part of the ancient Kingdom of Israel. This has constituted the pre-made secular formula of the messianic discourse of Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel), which the right wing settler camp embraced in the aftermath of the Naksa. {ref} Ohana, David (2009). “Secular Messianism as a political theology: The case of David Ben-Gurion”. In Schmidt, Christoph. God will not stand still: Jewish modernity and political theology. Jerusalem: The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute and Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 204-225. {/ref}


In 1967, Israel occupied a territory that was three times its area. Then, Israel launched a strategic settlement enterprise to redraw the geo-demographic map. Settlement activity was not only restricted to the Palestinian territory, but was also extended to settlement construction in the Sinai Peninsula. Based on the Camp David Agreement, Israel dismantled settlements in Sinai after it had already ensured that Egypt’s would keep apart from the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israel also started settlement construction in the Golan Heights as a prelude to annexation to Israel proper. Settlement activity was promoted by enacting the Golan Law of 1981, according to which the Israeli law and jurisdiction has been enforced to the Golan Heights. Earlier, Israel had already annexed East Jerusalem to the municipal borders of the Jerusalem Municipality.{ref} Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel, The Knesset: {/ref} In 1980, Israel passed the Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel.{ref} In June 1967, after the war has ended, Israel annexed East Jerusalem, which under the Jordanian Rule comprised 6,000 dunums as well as 70,000 dunums of land in the surrounding areas, including almost 29 villages. This area was annexed to the Jerusalem Municipality borders and placed under Israel’s government and jurisdiction. According to the 1952 Law on the Entry of Aliens, Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem were given the status of permanent residents. For more information, see Ghanim, Honaida, “Transformation of Jerusalem into Urshalim: On the Policies of Erasure, Replacement and Resistance”, Siyasat, 33, 30-44. {/ref} The annexation of Jerusalem further strengthened the Islamic dimension of the conflict in view of the holy status of the city. Meantime, Israeli maintained a military administration of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, the motive that guided the relationship with the occupied territory after 1967 has been the same driving force of the Zionist Project since its onset: the construction of sovereign Jewish colonies on the land. This time, however, colonies were an extension of the state, rather than a component that pre-existed statehood. This ensured a transformation in Israeli social and political structures. The right wing, messianic and settler vanguard replaced the secular, labour and Ashkenazi vanguard. Hoisting the banner of the Yishuv enterprise, the Ashkenazi vanguard led the state in its first and second decades. At the time, the demographic context in the occupied territory was similar to the demographic reality during the Yishuv era, namely the existence of an overwhelming Palestinian majority in the occupied space. Consequently, the state was forced to devise tools of outstanding administrative control, which would assimilate the idea of the settlement. At the same time, however, this idea would not transform Israel into a bi-national state. Bear in mind that a Jewish majority is an established Zionist prerequisite to realise the Jewish national project.

The Occupied Population in the Non-occupied Territory!
Israel’s relationship with the Palestinian territory has crystallised and taken shape on complex legal, political and civil levels. Principally, the Israeli relationship relied on practical and legal discrimination between the land and the population. Israel considered that the land was not occupied, rather it was “disputed”. It viewed Palestinians as an occupied population, the majority of whom were given the status of subjects. The population of Jerusalem and Golan Heights were given a status that was intermediate between subjects and citizens; namely permanent residents.


Discrimination was justified by the colonial principles of the Zionist Project, in which control over land was the constant element. The population was seen as a problem that should be dealt with. {ref} See Wolfe, Patrick (2006). “Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native”, Journal of Genocide Research, 8(4), 387–409 {/ref}


The Israeli legal claim relied on the premise that the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which were occupied, were not as such. Even though it controlled this territory by war,{ref} On the legal interpretation of the status of the occupied territory, see Decision 393/82 of the High Court of Justice, in which Justice Aharon Barack used the term “תפיסה לוחמתית” (Belligerent Occupation). {/ref} Israel posited that it seized the West Bank and Gaza Strip from a sovereign regime that was originally illegitimate. For example, the Jordanian sovereignty over the West Bank and East Jerusalem was illegal. Israel indicated that annexing this territory to Jordan was only recognised by two states, namely Pakistan and Britain. Based on this claim and to avoid the problem arising from the applicability of international conventions, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention, to the occupied territory, Israel invented a new concept to deal with the occupied territory: “Administrative application” of international conventions and treaties. This means that international conventions concerning the occupied territory are applicable, but the territory is not recognised as occupied! Although Israel’s legal interpretation is significant, the distinction between the territory and population and the statement that the Palestinian territory is not occupied are associated with ideological references and governed by a partisan perspective, which is linked more to the concept of national security. This issue reflects paradigmatic shifts and ideological transformations effected by the occupation on the internal scene.

Ideological Transformations
1. The Likud party: In its position of rejecting the fact that the Palestinian territory was occupied, the liberal right wing, which is perceived as associated to the Likud party in particular,{ref} Goodman, Micah (2017). The 1967 trap: The ideas behind the split that is tearing Israel apart. Or Yehuda: Kinneret Zmora-Bitan Dvir, 17-20. {/ref} relied on “international legitimacy”, rather than on the religious heritage adopted by the national, right wing and settler movement. From the classic Likud perspective, this position was informed by the Balfour Declaration and later by the San Remo Resolution which gave the Mandate for Palestine to the British Government. The Mandate for Palestine also included clear clauses, providing for creating the conditions for establishing a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The Mandate did not mention the rights of the Palestinian people. These were the international underpinnings of the Israeli liberal right wing.{ref} Defenders of this right wing view include Professor Talia Einhorn, who bases her position on the San Remo Conference of 1920. The Conference resolved that Palestine would be under the British Mandate. According to the Preamble of the Mandate for Palestine document, the Mandate is based on the international recognition of the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine. Article 2 of the Mandate provides that “[t]he Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions and will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home.” However, the Mandate turned a blind eye on any Palestinian rights. For more information, see The Ariel Research Centre (undated). “Israel and International Law”. NEWS!: http://www.news1.co.il/Archive/003-D-2708-00.html (Last accessed, 2 March 2017). {/ref} However, this revisionist approach has altered in favour of the messianic religious position in view of the changing elites of the liberal right wing, or so-called lord of the Likud, and rise of the New Right.


2. Religious Zionism: As many researchers indicate, the religious Zionist movement has not always been a right wing movement. Zionism transformed into that movement in contrast to the shift of the Likud elites from the liberal right wing to the New Right as a direct consequence of the 1967 war.{ref} Goodman, Micah, op. cit. 32 and 67. {/ref} Victory in this war was perceived as a divine miracle, which brought the Jews back to the Biblical Land. It transformed Rabbi Cook, the spiritual father of the right wing settler movement, to the central track in religious Zionism. On the eve of the occupation, religious Zionism was a marginal movement of the national right wing. Religious Zionism is different from the central movement of the National Religious Party (Mafdal), which was led by Yosef Burg.


3. Mapai (Labour) party: The Labour party derived its position towards the Palestinian territory from strategic-security and demographic considerations. These considerations were reflected in the Allon Plan, which proposed the areas to be annexed and those to be withdrawn from in a future agreement. The Labour party, under the reign of which occupation took place, did not hoist the banner of peace with the Palestinians nor did it take them into account. On the contrary, the Labour party rejected the Palestinian existence and maintained this approach until the Camp David Agreement was concluded. Then, the party showed a gradual transformation, which culminated in the Oslo Agreement. Accordingly, Israel withdrew from densely populated areas of the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority was established. In the domestic Israeli discourse, the Labour party became to be described as a “left-wing” party to some extent.


Overtime, particularly with the outbreak of the first Intifada in 1987, which also marks the 30th anniversary this year, Palestinians emerged as a security issue. The debate over the future of the occupied territory and respective Israeli policies transformed into an essential product of the heated internal Israeli political conflict. It also turned into an influential factor in Israel’s foreign relations and international status. This debate reached a climax with the conclusion of the Oslo Accords. The Oslo process resulted in sharp political schisms, which led to the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and to a steady, progressive rise of the New Right. The New Right has been in power over the ensuing period, with the exception of only two and a half year in which the Ehud Barak was prime minister. The Barak government was concluded with a fatal bullet to the political process. It led to the outburst of statements, including Barak’s own claim that Israel had no Palestinian partner in the peace process. Then, the right wing has come to and remained in power. Ever since, the Israeli political scene has been shared by the New Right led by Netanyahu, an official, revisionist right wing represented by Ariel Sharon, who had established the Kadima party, and Ehud Barack. Since 2009, the Israeli government has settled with the New Right of Netanyahu, who is now prime minister of his fourth government. {ref} On the composition of various Israeli governments since 1948, see “Governments of Israel”, The Knesset: https://www.knesset.gov.il/govt/eng/GovtByMinistry_eng.asp (Last accessed, 11 March 2017). {/ref}


The right wing political scene, which currently dominates state institutions, is immersed in a messianic, biblical discourse, which is not only embraced by religious movements such as HaBayit HaYehudi (The Jewish Home) party. This discourse is also adopted by the Likud, Kulanu (All of Us), and to some extent by Yesh Atid (There is a Future) and Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home). The latter take on a secularised political, religious theology, which was effectively developed by Ben-Gurion. Politically, these parties share the belief that the territory of the West Bank and East Jerusalem are essentially part of Eretz Yisrael and the historical national home. Any waiver of parts of this land is an “exorbitant price” for peace, which Netanyahu, Lapid and Lieberman claim that they want, but is categorically rejected by Naftali Bennett, the representative of the national settler right wing movement.


Internally, the right wing have disagreed about the price Israel might, or might not, pay to achieve peace. Still, the current Netanyahu government  a religious, setter right wing government  enjoys much room for manoeuvre to expand and consolidate settlement activity. Thanks to a Palestinian Authority that manages affairs of the Palestinian population, the Netanyahu government relies on a prevalent distinction between the land and the population. The Israeli government employs this status quo to exploit and dispose of Palestinian natural resources, as it is the case in Dead Sea, Jordan Valley and East Jerusalem. {ref} Al-Haq (2012). Pillage of the Dead Sea: Israel’s unlawful exploitation of natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, Ramallah: AL-Haq. {/ref}


The position towards the land (rather than the population) has turned into the an assembly line of the political partisan arc. On the extreme left of this arc lie movements or parties, such as Meretz, which opposes the occupation and considers that the land controlled by Israel after 1967 is occupied territory, not disputed land. On the right side of the arc lies the Labour party, which saw successive compositions and changing positions towards the settlement enterprise. The Labour party expresses its willingness to reach a political solution based on the two-state solution, but stipulates that settlement blocs be maintained and rejects the right of return. It is worth noting that the settlement enterprise was initiated under the Labour party-led government, which established the settlement geography in line with security-colonial considerations. These were grounded in the Yigal Allon Plan, which was presented in summer 1967 to the Levy Eshkol government. Although it was not officially adopted, the Allon Plan has been the reference point of settlement schemes. According to this Plan, settlements have been constructed into blocs along the Green Line and in the Jordan Valley and Gosh Etzion. On the right side of the Labour party, the Yesh Atid (There is a Future) party claims that it consents to the two-state solution, but refuses to withdraw from Jerusalem, strikes a sympathetic chord with settlers and adopts right wing positions on many issues. Belief in the “Greater Land of Israel” has been part and parcel of the Likud party’s doctrine and ideology. Since Menachem Begin was sworn into office in 1977, the settlement enterprise has seen a quantum leap in terms of its giant span and distribution across the occupied Palestinian territory. Settlement activity is designed to obstruct any solution that builds on a withdrawal from this territory in the future. In this context, it should be noted that the Likud party under Begin took over settlement activity as essentially a national-nationalistic project. This was contrary to the Allon Plan, which saw the settlement enterprise as a settler-security project.


Israel used its distinction between the land and the population to construct hundreds of thousands of settler housing units, change facts on the ground and pre-empt a favourable resolution of the conflict. To do so, since it occupied the Palestinian territory, Israel has transferred hundreds of thousands of its Jewish civilian population to the occupied territory. Through measured economic, social and security policies, Israel has turned settlements into attractive places of residence and spaces of welfare, creating a tempting place for the Jews to move to. Since the right wing movement came to power in 2003, investment in the settlement enterprise has expedited.{ref} For more information, see Shihadeh, Imtanes and Husam Jiryes (2016). The Welfare State of Settlers: The Political Economy of Settlements. The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR): https://goo.gl/dcSh2G (in Arabic) (Last accessed, 8 March 2017). {/ref} In this context, Israeli studies show that Israel’s Budget of 2017-18 entailed a clear discrimination in favour of West Bank settlers, who will receive grants and tax subsidies that are 24 percent higher than those given to the population in Israel proper. Data indicate that the Jewish settler’s share of the new general budget is roughly five times larger than the Israeli citizens in any community inside Israel. {ref} See Salameh, Saleem. Israel’s new budget: Share of settlers in the West Bank is five times larger than that of the citizen inside the ‘Green Line’: Special Reports Series, 26 December 2016. The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR): https://goo.gl/Nmtofy (in Arabic) (Last accessed, 9 March 2017). {/ref}


With its retaking of the reins of power, particularly after Netanyahu’s second government was sown into office, the right wing movement has worked unrelentingly towards integrating and positioning settlement activity in the heart of Zionist consensus. Now, Israeli politicians view settlement blocs as facts on the grounds when they talk about any prospective peace. Settlement activity has turned into a pillar of Israel’s politics. To this avail, Edmund Levy’s Report provided an international legal basis, considering that settlement activity is in consistence with International Law.{ref} For more information, see The Levy Report. Prime Minister’s Office website:http://www.pmo.gov.il/Documents/doch090712.pdf (in Hebrew) (Last accessed, 5 March 2017). {/ref} Although it has not been officially adopted, many believe that Netanyahu is implicitly implementing the Levy Report recommendation to avoid international hassle. {ref} See, for example, Amos, Hofi (2017). “Step by step: This is how the government implements the Levy Report.” Makor Rishon: http://www.makorrishon.co.il/?p=3648. (in Hebrew) (Last accessed, 8 March 2017). {/ref}


In spite of Israel’s prevalent settlement policies, the international community and organisations have refused and deemed illegal these measures. In this vein, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 reiterated this position, reflecting the international community’s vision of the occupied territory as territory of the prospective Palestinian state. This territory will be part of the resolution of the question of Palestine, whose tragedies have built on since the Balfour Declaration.


One hundred years after the Balfour Declaration, seventy years after the Partition Plan for Palestine and fifty years after Israel’s occupation of the 1967 territory, one can determine that the constant principle was, and still is, the “realisation of the Jewish national state by means of immigration, control over land, institutional regimes and state laws that align with this vision.” This is the constant pillar of the Zionist Project, which was fulfilled by the Balfour Declaration. It was then adopted by the San Remo Committee, which gave the Mandate for Palestine to the British Government. Although it frequently changed its positions for a variety of reasons, the Mandate for Palestine was the first prerequisite which allowed room for launching the Zionist colonisation, building intrusive colonial institutions and creating infrastructure networks with a view to constituting a state in the making. It is in this context that Resolution 181 rendered legitimate the proclamation of this state after it had already been built on the ground. The Zionist movement directed all its practices and structures towards achieving this goal. It can be argued that Zionism made true its significant goal of establishing a Jewish state with a vulnerable Palestinian minority between 1948 and 1967. During this time span, Israel was created as a national, secular, socialist and labour Jewish state with semi-official borders. Although they comprised the armistice line, these borders have remained confined to religious Messianism, which Zionism integrated into the identity of the national state and turned into a “civil religion”.{ref} On the meaning of civil religion in the Israeli context, see Kimmerling, Baruch (1996). “Religion, Nationalism and Democracy in Israel,” Zmanim, 50–51, 113-6. {/ref} However, what seemed to be a complete project was open once again to all probabilities with the 1967 occupation. This reproduced a dual demographic reality and opened up the relationship with the (secularised) biblical heritage, which Zionism used as a tool to justify its choice of the land of Palestine. Hence, biblical heritage turned into the semblance of a ghost that haunted and sought to dominate Zionism and to integrate its national dimension to serve its messianic project. The new land, which had already been occupied, was part of the national biblical imagining of the followers of Rabbi Cook, who started to dominate religious Zionism. Accordingly, the West Bank is deemed to be Judea and Samaria, which is located in the heart of the imagined biblical-historical Eretz Yisrael. The ancient Kingdoms of Judea and Israel were established in this area. Hence, from the a biblical perspective, Judea and Samaria are more important than the coastal cities. This intertwined background has given rise to a set of issues, which reflect the variable in the Israeli scene today. These may reshape the Zionist Project as a messianic-nationalistic Jewish project.

The Variable in the Current Israeli Scene
The nationalistic-colonial factor, i.e. establishment of the Jewish national home by means of colonial tools, comprises the constant in the Israeli scene. By contrast, several variable and undetermined factors bear an impact on the political processes and practices and their direction.{ref} [Endnote missing in the original Arabic text.] {/ref} These include problems associated with the state borders, boundaries of citizenship and nexus between Judaism and democracy. The debate over these issues has been significantly influenced by historical changes (1967 occupation), social changes (demographic transformations) and ideological changes (rise of the right wing and settler right wing movement).


1. Geographical borders of the state: Israel’s borders continue to be unclear and unknown. Borders are the source of a political-ideological dispute at one time and a source of security dispute at another. Within this framework, it is still unclear whether the whole of Historic Palestine (Eretz Yisrael) will be annexed, or whether Israel will annex those areas that fall within the Green Line only. Will settlements be annexed? Or is it only settlement blocs will be? What about the Golan Heights? Are they part of Israel? More importantly, will the Al-Muthallath (Triangle) area remain within Israel’s borders in the future?


2. Boundaries of citizenship and dealing with the non-Jews: How should the concept of citizenship be dealt with in the state, which considers itself as one of the Jews throughout the world, rather than one of its own citizens? What is the space of citizenship given to Palestinians in this state? What is the status of Palestinians in the state: are they equal at least theoretically, enemies or adversaries? What are the conditions for the equality? Will they be granted full citizenship within the democratic Jewish state, just as Meretz calls for? Will they seen as a demographic danger that should be eliminated in future agreements, just as Lieberman contends? Can Palestinians in Israel enjoy full equality with the Jews in the state? What about holders of blue (Israeli-issued) ID cards in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights? Will their political status continue to be specified on grounds of residence?


3. Defining a value-based vision of the democratic Jewish state: How can Israel be a democratic and a Jewish state? What is the best proportionality between universal values (which fall under the values of democracy) and local Jewish values? Can democracy and Jewishness be reconciled? How?


The disputes over the variable (state borders, citizenship and national vision) are the hub of Israeli debates. Given that they are unsettled and going on, these variables give rise to a complex geo-strategic reality, which is rife with contradictions that may also sow the seeds needed for changing the constant itself.


1. Unclear and undetermined official geographical borders following the 1967 occupation: Although the Green Line demarcates the boundaries of a prospective political solution, the settlement enterprise has created a new, intertwined geo-demographic reality. Israel’s Jewish citizens live beyond the Green Line  in the areas identified by the International Law as occupied territory. At the same time, these settlers are subject to the state law which is applicable inside the Green Line. On the other hand, the Palestinian population who live in the same territory are subject to a different legal system, which combines the Palestinian civil law and Israeli military orders. The occupation is eventually the highest sovereign authority in the territory. This situation can potentially reverse the demographic reality, effectively producing a state of apartheid that we are witnessing today. It can also reverse the political situation back to the pre-Nakba era. In other words, the political scene will be open to all options: a dual state, one state and apartheid.


2. Indefinite boundaries of citizenship and legal status of the Palestinians in Israel, Area C or East Jerusalem: These stand in stark contrast with the solid Israeli Jewish citizenship. Within this framework, the debate continues to address population exchange as suggested by the Avigdor Lieberman. Proposals are also deliberated to the effect that blue ID cards are issued to the Palestinian inhabitants of Area C. Such propositions are made by the Jewish Home party, President Reuven Rivlin,{ref} Alpher, Rogel. “The solution according to Rivlin: One confederation for two peoples”. Haaretz, 13 April: http://www.haaretz.co.il/gallery/television/tv-review/.premium-1.2913632 (Last accessed, 2 March 2017). {/ref} , and even by some symbols of the left wing, such as Gideon Levy {ref} Levy, Gideon. “Mr. President”. Haaretz, 16 February 2017:http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/world/america/.premium-1.3918277 (Last accessed, 1 March 2017). {/ref} and A. B. Yehoshua.{ref} See Yerushalmi, Shalom, “A. B. Yehoshua: My faith in the two-state solution has dwindled.” nrg, 10 December 2016: http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/851/083.html (Last accessed, 3 March 2017). {/ref} This case is an outcome of the ongoing conflict on the one hand, and the rising power of the right wing movement, which would promote a populist approach towards the Palestinians, on the other. In particular, escalation is fuelled by an atmosphere of fascism, which legitimates the targeting and persecution of Palestinian citizens and deliberately encroaches on Palestinian rights. Nowadays, one can infer the escalation of incitement against Palestinians and the Palestinian leadership. Several examples have recurred, particularly over the past year. For instance, an incitement campaign targeted Palestinians for the wave of fires that erupted between 22 and 27 November 2016, charging Palestinians with “arson terrorism”. In the context of incitement that followed the Umm al-Hiran case, Gilead Ardan, Minister of Internal Security, and Roni Alsheich, Chief of Police, rushed in a matter of minutes to accuse Abu al-Qi’an, a Palestinian citizen killed by the Israeli Police personnel, of affiliating with ISIS. Both Ardan and Alsheich did not launch any investigation whatsoever to substantiate their allegation, which later appeared to be utterly false. The fact that it is easier to target the Palestinians of Israel is an outcome of the differential, ethnic structure of citizenship. It is also a result of the colonial history of the state, which effectively legitimated the demolition of the Umm al-Hiran village for construction of a Jewish town on its ruins. Meantime, residents of the Umm al-Hiran village were displaced and prevented from staying even in a marginal neighbourhood of the planned Jewish town.


3. The state of the conflict and failure to resolve the issues mentioned above have contributed to escalating internal polarisation and entrenching social schisms over the culture, values and political future of the state. It can be noticed that this polarisation is scaling up with the rising power of the New Right and settler right wing movement. In this context, one can monitor the right wing movement’s incessant attempt to reshape cultural, political and judicial elites. This pursuit is spelled out in the chapter on the “Internal Political Scene” of this report. By contrast, democratic values are being eroded and concerns about the future of state institutions, including the High Court of Justice, are heightening, as is made clear in the chapter on the “Social Scene” of this Report.


Needless to say, the failure to settle the geographic borders of the state, continued settlement activity under the ongoing occupation, undetermined boundaries of citizenship and unsettled structure of the state (i.e. democratic or Jewish) result in a complex system of government, which combines tools of settler colonialism, belligerent occupation and apartheid. Historically, the state has been constituted by means of the tools of settler colonialism. The entity of the state has been built on the ruins of the Palestinian people. Fifty years after the occupation and 100 years after the Balfour Declaration, the current context can no longer be analysed as a traditional, temporary case of belligerent occupation. Israel has employed the claim that the occupation was temporary in order to change the demographic reality on the ground. Israel has transferred hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens to the territory it occupies. Then, Israel has become to demand that this irreversible reality be recognised. In other words, Israel has used the claim of “temporariness” to create and produce its settlement reality as if it were a constant fact. Later, Israel has sought to vest this settlement enterprise with a legal, legitimate status. The last to be achieved within this chain of action was the Law on Legalising Settlements, which practically legitimates individual control over Palestinian private properties. Earlier, the Levy Report claimed that settlement activity did not contravene International Law because the West Bank was not occupied; rather, it was “disputed land”. Furthermore, expansion of the settlement enterprise has continued unabated. The West Bank land is dealt with on the basis of the colonial concept of “frontiers” (Kimmerling). Accordingly, the West Bank and its inhabitants continue to be subjected to military rule and military institutions. Palestinian movement is restricted in line with principles of feasibility, which are essentially dictated by the security of settlers. Although the Palestinian Authority is in place, Israel is tightening its grip over Area C, which comprises almost 60 percent of the West Bank area. Area C has been transformed into a primary space for settlement expansion, resulting in a duplicate reality where Palestinians are subject to Israeli military rule and Palestinian civil law. By contrast, settlers are subject to the Israeli legal system solely. Additionally, the 1967 territory is divided into H1, H2, A, B and C areas. Palestinian communities are severed and fragmented by the Separation Wall. Population groups are also being created, including citizens of the Palestinian Authority (green ID cards), permanent residents of Jerusalem (blue ID cards) and citizens of the Gaza Strip. Combined, these conditions have produced a complicated governance system, which outweighs the racial segregation and hegemony which characterised the apartheid system and is further embedded within a military regime and a settler, colonial and substitutive project.


Conflicts over the larger unsettled issues underpin internal political conflicts. However, these (i.e. the conflicts over the larger unsettled issues) are substantially affected by the dialectical relationship between the social and demographic composition of the Israeli society on one end, and structure of the Israeli political regime, which is based on proportional representation on the other. In this context, below is a presentation of some significant transformations which the State of Israel has witnessed. These will have far reaching impact on the question of Palestine and the future of Palestinians in their own country.

1. Dominating the elites
As indicated in the previous MADAR Strategic Reports,{ref} See in particular Ghanim, Honaida, “Executive Summary: The rise of the Third Israel.” MADAR Strategic Report 2015: The Israeli Scene 2014. The Report states: “The “Third Israel” is characterised by an accelerated transformation of the Israeli society towards the right wing. The right wing discourse is shifting from a liberal social one to a neoliberal settler one that is replete with religious vocabulary.” {/ref} Israel has seen profound social changes, which have transformed it regularly, incessantly and incrementally from an Ashkenazi, secular, socialist and labour-based society to one that inclines to be more religious, conservative and right wing. This was designated as the “Rise of the Third Israel” in the MADAR Strategic Report 2015. This transformation has been significantly reflected in a gradual displacement of the traditional elites and control of religious, settler and right wing forces over power structures in Israel. A brief review of the ruling elites shows that religious, settler and right wing forces have been in command of the Legislative Authority (Knesset) since 2003. Nowadays, the Knesset harbours a religious, settler and right wing majority, represented by 67 members affiliating with religious and right wing movements. Another 11 members affiliate with the centre-right (represented by Yesh Atid). On the other hand, the centre-left has been reduced to 34 seats (namely Meretz and the Zionist Camp) as well as to 13 seats of the Joint List. Accordingly, the right wing is also in control of the Executive Authority (Office of the Prime Minister and line ministries). In addition to decision making processes, the right wing dominates the course of the society, the state and state institutions. It imposes facts on the ground in order to settle controversial issues over the state borders, citizenship and Jewish status of the state. To do so, the right wing expands and consolidates settlement activity, passes racist laws and determines citizenship of Palestinians of Israel. The right wing also seeks to introduce the political culture as a right wing culture by defaming, de-legitimating and accusing anti-occupation human rights organisations of functioning in favour of the “enemies.{ref} For more information, see Antoine Shulhut’s chapter on “The Political Scene” of this report. Also see Ghanim, Honaida, “Executive Summary.” MADAR Strategic Report 2016: The Israeli Scene 2015. The summary provides a detailed account of using law to control anti-occupation organisations, particularly Breaking the Silence. It should be noted that 2016 marked an incessant attempt to target these organisations. In this context, the majority of right wing and centre politicians attacked Hagai Elad, Head of B'Tselem  The Israeli Information Centre for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, following his address to the United Nations Security Council on 16 October 2016 (See Elad’s address on http://www.btselem.org/settlements/20161014_security_council_address, Last accessed 8 March 2017). David Bitan, Likud member and head of coalition, demanded that the Israeli nationality be withdrawn from Elad. After this turned out to be impossible, Bitan took the initiative and proposed the Hagai Elad Law, according to which Israelis are prohibited from calling for the boycott of Israel at international forums. See Leal, Daphne. “Bitan takes the initiative: Hagai Elad Law”, 22 October 2016, mako: http://www.mako.co.il/news-military/politics-q4_2016/Article-e9d8910f45de751004.htm (in Hebrew) (Last accessed, 8 March 2017). Breaking the Silence is an organisation of Israeli soldiers who served in the occupied Palestinian territory and decided to talk about brutal persecution and occupation. The organisation and its activists were prosecuted and libelled by both the media and leading politicians. On 8 January 2017, the Legislation Committee of the Knesset approved the “Breaking the Silence Law”, which prohibits activists who “undermine values of the army” (in particular reference to Breaking the Silence activists) from giving lectures at schools. The law was initiated by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. For more information, see Adamker, Yaki, “A tour to dismantle democracy”, 8 January 2017, walla: http://news.walla.co.il/item/3029757 (in Hebrew) (Last accessed,8 March 2017). For further details on Breaking the Silence, see http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/ (Last accessed, 8 March 2017). {/ref} Although its rise dates back to the electoral “coup d’état” of 1977, the right wing has effectively tightened the grip over the Executive Authority since 2003. By now, night wing governments have successively been in control the Executive Authority for more than 14 years. It is worth noting that Benjamin Netanyahu has been in power since 2009 in a row (though in a variety of coalitions, all of which are typically right wing). In addition, the settler right wing movement, led by Ayelet Shaked, seeks to control the Judicial Authority by manipulating the Committee for the Appointing of Judges, first and foremost at the High Court of Justice. These attempts have provoked sharp tensions between Miriam Naor, President of the High Court, and Shaked herself. It is also important to note that Shaked, the Minister of Justice, was incapable of changing the structure of the Committee for the Appointing of Judges so as to change the panel of the High Court. However, in a meeting held by the Committee in mid February 2017, Shaked actually succeeded in introducing new figures with right wing inclinations into the High Court panel in place of resigning judges.{ref} For more information, see Siegel, Amit, “A victory for Shaked”, 22 February 2017, mako: http://www.mako.co.il/news-law/legal-q1_2017/Article-9ab899f0f276a51004.htm (in Hebrew) (Last accessed, 4 March 2017). {/ref} In other words, the right wing movement, supported by Shaked, has managed to gain access to the last stronghold of the classic Ashkenazi Zionist elite. Bearing in mind the changes across the military elites and ongoing religionisation of the army,{ref} For more information on the religionisation of the army and the relationship between religionisation and social transformations in Israel, see Levy, Yagil, The Commander-in-chief: Theocratisation of the Israeli army. Tel Aviv: Am Oved (in Hebrew). {/ref} it can be argued that the right wing has succeeded to a great extent in tightening its grip over central components of the state.

2. Mizrahinising the right wing
Over the past year, an intersection of political and partisan change with the ethnic structure of the state has been particularly marked. The ethnic structure is essentially divided between the Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews. In this context, of a particular note was the intersection between ethnic affiliation and patterns of voting as well as a gradual rise of a new phenomenon, that can be designated as the “Mizrahinisation of the right wing”. In other words, within the framework of the right wing policies, a Mizrahi ethnic character is given to the right wing, first and foremost the Likud, with a view to polarising the Mizrahi Jews and further alienating them from the Labour party and left wing Zionist parties. Part of this effort is made by bringing to mind the unjust policies led by the Mapai party in the first decades of the state. Due to their bitter historical experience with the discriminatory and racist policies of the Mapai party, the Mizrahi Jews clearly incline to vote for the Likud. After it has risen, the Mizrahi Jews also turned to vote for the Shas party as well. According to statistical data, in 1992, 68 percent of those who voted for the Likud party were Mizrahim, 21 percent were Ashkenazim and 11 percent were individuals born in Israel. By contrast, in 1999, when Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu ran for the position of prime minister, 62 percent of the Mizrahi Jews voted for Netanyahu. By contrast, 38 percent of the Mizrahim elected Barak. The same voting trends also resurfaced in the last elections of 2015. These were clearly evident in economically and socially marginalised towns with Mizrahi majorities (e.g. Sderot 42.8 percent, Ashkelon 39.8 percent, Or Yehuda 42.8 percent, and Ramla 39.8 percent).{ref} For more information, see Kashti, Or, “Voting Analysis: An overwhelming majority for Netanyahu in the margins and middle class”, 19 March 2015, Haaretz: http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/elections/.premium-1.2594125 (in Hebrew) (Last accessed, 6 March 2017). {/ref} Given the weight of the Mizrahi Jewish voters, the Likud party is making incessant attempts to polarise and increase support to the Mizrahi Jews. In May 2016, Netanyahu stated that he was of Sephardic descent, making an implicit reference to these attempts.{ref} Eichner, Itamar, “Netanyahu: I am of Sephardic descent”, 25 May 2016, ynet: http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4807623,00.html (in Hebrew) (Last accessed, 2 March 2017). {/ref} Also, the Mizrahi Miri Regev was appointed as Minister of Culture. Regev has sought to change and replace the Ashkenazi elites with right wing ones. She has incessantly targeted and criticised Israeli intellectuals as if they were representing an arrogant Ashkenazi left wing. Regev prides herself that she is not ashamed of being unfamiliar with the Western culture and that she has never read Chekhov.{ref} Linsky, Naima, “You will not dictate what I say to me”. 11 September 2015, Interview, Yisrael Hayom: http://www.israelhayom.co.il/article/313067 (in Hebrew) (Last accessed, 9 March 2017). {/ref} Regev has also sought to control and link the Ministry of Culture’s support to avoiding “crossing the red lines”. This was evident in Regev’s threat to suspend support to the Al-Midan Theatre, which performed The Parallel Time, a play written by Walid Daqqah, a prisoner. Regev also protested against a poem of Mahmoud Darwish, which was presented by the Palestinian DAM Band in an award ceremony of the Israeli cinema on 23 September 2016.{ref} Haaretz, 23 September 2016, Haaretz: http://www.haaretz.co.il/gallery/cinema/1.3076805 (in Hebrew) (Last accessed, 2 March 2017). {/ref} In parallel to Regev’s pursuit, there appears to be a trend towards reproducing an alternative “Zionist national Mizrahi” narrative, which emphasises the leading role of the Mizrahi Jews in the course of establishing Israel. This trend also focuses on the Mizrahi Jews’ suffering and the anti-Semitic attitude they were subjected to in Arab and Islamic milieus. This is an attempt to create a Zionist Mizrahi narrative, which does not only resemble but also rivals that the Ashkenazim of the European pioneers of Zionism and their suffering from anti-Semitism. In this context, the Ministry of Education, headed by Naftali Bennett, established the Biton Committee {ref} Named after Erez Biton, a poet of Algerian descent. {/ref} in February 2016 to give an appropriate space for the Mizrahi Jewish narrative in the state. Among its goals, the Biton Committee works towards “strengthening Mizrahi Judaism and Oriental Judaism in the educational apparatus.” In addition, the Biton Committee is part of Israel’s New Right pursuit to substitute the traditional, labour Ashkenazi elite.{ref} For more information on the Biton Committee report, recommendations and role, see Mustafa, Muhannad (2016) “The Biton Committee”, Israeli Issues 64, Ramallah: The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR), 9 January 2017. {/ref} This issue is addressed in further detail in the chapter on “The Israeli Political Scene” of this report. In this context, it should be noted that in contrast with the pursuit of “Mizrahinising the right wing” and “right winging of the Mizrahi Jews”  so to speak, radical elites have emerged among the Mizrahi Jews. These have worked towards deconstructing the Zionist narrative on the Mizrahi Jews and sought to rewrite the history of Mizrahi Jews as victims of Zionism.{ref} Mizrahi associations include the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow  New Discourse, which calls for a fair redistribution of the public wealth. See the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow website http://www.ha-keshet.org.il/ (Last accessed, 2 March 2017). Achoti (Sister) for Women in Israel is another association of the Mizrahi Jews. Key figures of the Mizrahi elites include Yehuda Shenhav, author of The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity, as well as Ella Shohat, Yossi Yonah, Smadar Lavie, Henriette Dahan Kalev and Sami Shalom Chetrit. {/ref}

3. Rising political populism
The social and political transformations which have affected Israel did not only change the traditional, labour Ashkenazi elites, but also extended to the traditional right wing elites themselves. Changes have surpassed the traditional “revisionist right wing”, which attempted to embrace a rational, liberal intellect (mainly represented by Dan Meridor, Benyamin Benny Begin and now President of the State Reuven Rivlin). These have transformed into what has come to be termed the “New Right”. The New Right comprises all ultra-orthodox Haredi parties, national religious parties, settlers, hardliner Knesset members of the Likud party, extremist national groups affiliated with the Yisrael Beiteinu [Israel is Our Home] party, and semi-fascist movements, such as Im Tirtzu [If You Want], etc. {ref} For more information, see Shulhut, Antoine, “The Israeli New Right”. In The Israeli Scene, 2 February 2016. {/ref} This transformation is structurally linked to the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. On the one hand, the occupation has transformed into part of the Israeli society structure, economics of political conduct and partisan calculations of loss and profit. On the other hand, the occupation is a constituent element of the electoral system which is built on the principle of proportional representation. The ideological-theological conflict over the nature of Israel’s borders incorporates from within a conflict between the religious and the secular, between the right and the left, and between democracy and Judaism. It transforms into a raging conflict over votes to secure the election threshold, which comprises 4 percent of the popular votes, but also allows small parties to have a foot in the door to the Knesset. This threshold sometimes turns into a decisive factor, however. A small party can bring down a whole government in view of partisan or communal interests. This case is promoted with the continued retraction of the largest two parties (Likud and Labour), which shift to centre parties. Meantime, parties of the centre have recurrently emerged and disappeared. For example, led by Tomi Lapid, the Shinui party won 15 seats in the Knesset in 2003, but later disappeared from the partisan scene. After he broke off from the Likud party in 2005, Ariel Sharon established the Kadima party, which won 29 seats in the 2006 elections. The party ultimately demised in 2015. With his Yesh Atid party, Yair Lapid emerged and won 19 seats in the 2013 elections. In contrast with the expansion of centre and emergence of small parties on Israel’s political scene, the relative shrinking of large parties has created a reality, allowing any small party to be in command of government decisions. In the case of a right wing government composed of settler and religious parties, this means that the government will be more right wing and more extremist in order to satisfy its constituent parties, no matter how small they are. Within this framework, Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home) won six seats in the last elections, and has recently taken the Ministry of Security.

***
International and Regional Dimension
Apart from influential internal dynamics, the trends of the Israeli scene are also significantly impacted by the international and regional dimension. In 2006, a set of variables would allow room for the Israeli right wing government to implement its policies, resolve unsettled issues in line with its respective political platform and furnish new opportunities to promote the status of Israel on the international stage. Key factors include:


 Election of Donald Trump as President of the USA and increasing power of the right wing movements across Europe: Trump is generally believed to be a supportive ally of Israel. The Israeli right wing also views Trump as an ally who backs right wing policies. As delineated in the chapter on “External Relations” of this report, it is expected that Trump’s election furnish an unprecedented historical chance to liquidate the two-state solution, annex the West Bank to sovereign Israel or at least expand the settlement enterprise. In addition, from the perspective of the right wing, it is anticipated that the rise of Trump will secure an unrestricted support to Israel in international forums and punish those institutions which are critical of Israel. Trump’s victory has opened broad horizons to the Israeli right wing and settler right wing movement. Nevertheless, Israel’s identification with Trump, whose blunt racist positions also give rise to a broad international opposition, may by itself increase the polarisation against Israel as a duplicate and ally of racism and supremacy. One needs to take into account the positions of Trumps and his assistants which are almost identical to those of Netanyahu as well as the extensive polarisation around Trump across the United State. A significant number of Trump’s supporters are affiliates with the white, racist right wing, which is hostile to immigrants and Muslims.


 The rise of right wing forces in Europe and other countries: The election of Trump, who displays racist, pro-Israel positions, is paralleled with the rise of right and far-right parties across Europe. A key manifestation of this trend is the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) and rise of populist political movements in synchronous electoral campaigns across Europe. On the surface, this current has been led by figures who echo Trump in his racist, anti-immigrant and anti-minority discourse. These include Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, and Geert Wilders, leader the Netherland’s Party for Freedom. In a world that has been more inclined to the right wing particularly by virtue of repercussions of the Middle East crisis, Netanyahu tries to link Israel to the Western world, introducing Israel as the spearhead in the face of “radical Islam”. Along this vein, Israel has attributed Palestinian attacks against Israelis to ISIS. These included the allegations against Ya’qoub Abu al-Qi’an, who was killed by the Israeli Police in the Umm al-Hiran village. Charges against Abu al-Qi’an were fabricated in just a matter of minutes after he had been killed. Israel seeks to position itself within the Western world, who is confronting what Netanyahu termed as the Islamic “dark forces”. In this context, a special mention should be made of the opportunities the rise of the right wing furnishes to Israel. Indeed, the Indian position saw a change with the ascension of President Narendra Modi’s far-right party to power. Ever since, the alliance between India and Israel has bolstered on the ground that both countries face the danger of “radical Islam”.

On the regional level
Ongoing chaos across the Arab world is a source of entrenching Israel’s national security
The events that have befallen the Arab world since the 2003 war on Iraq, including the Arab Spring which has culminated in bloody conflicts, have produced several consequences linked to the Israeli national security. Most notably,

1. The traditional danger posed by Arab regular armies has dismantled. The Egyptian and Jordanian armies have been neutralised through peace treaties. The armies of Iraq and Syria have been also been neutralised as both are engaged in internal bloody confrontations.

2. Confusion caused to conventional alliances: Conflicts across the region have given rise to a Sunni-Shiite sectarian conflict, which has confused and redesigned alliances in line with private interests, of which the question of Palestine is no longer the core. Animosity to Iran is one issue used by Israel to highlight common interests with the Arabian Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia. Israeli sources have continued to leak information on security cooperation and coordination between Israel and Gulf states in the face of the common Iranian enemy. In addition, the Egyptian and Israeli armies have cooperated against the radical organisations of Al-Qaeda and ISIS in Sinai, not to mention the confrontation with Hamas in Gaza and the flooding of tunnels in the Rafah area.

Chaos as a source of risks
By contrast, this state of disintegration and chaos also poses risks of an unclear future and inability to predict future transformations. Furthermore, two new phenomena have surfaced, threatening Israel’s security:

1. Demise of the era of decisive wars: It is no longer possible for Israel to confront and defeat an army and achieve victory. The state of chaos also means a distribution of centres that carry arms and a lack of a specific address that can be targeted with a view to either achieving deterrence or bringing closure in the battle against Israel’s enemies.

2. Shift from the confrontation of armies to the confrontation of armed organisations. As mentioned in previous MADAR reports, this means that deterrence  in its conventional sense, which targets armies and official institutions to deter a state  shifts in the case of confronting armed groups to targeting civilian infrastructure and civilians, who effectively constitute the incubators of these groups (whether willingly or not).
Israeli has seen a stable economic situation, solid market and considerable spending on various vital sectors. In particular, according to the Knesset reports, Israel’s 2016 budget totalled ILS 347.7 billion. Unemployment dropped to about 4.8 percent. As detailed in the chapter on “Economy” of this report, in November 2016, the arithmetic mean of the minimum wage of workers registered ILS 9,415 a month. Additionally, Israel is one of the most important countries in the high-tech industry, ranking fourth in this area. Over the past years, Israel has attracted the investments of mega high-tech companies, including Amazon, Google and IBM. In light of the significant development Israel has scored in sciences, 12 Israelis have been awarded the Nobel prize since Israel was established. Apart from a few cases, public security has been maintained as explicated in the chapter on “The Scene of Palestinian-Israeli Relations” of this report. Also, with the rise of Trump, Israeli right wing’s ally, the unstable Arab milieu and disintegration of central states, such as Syria, Libya and Iraq, it may well be argued that Israel  in the first centenary of the Balfour Declaration and 50th anniversary of the occupation  will not rush to conclude peace deals that do not ensure and fulfil its security, strategic and ideological conditions. Israel would not give land if it does not achieve anything in return.

This situation is not contradictory to the potential change in the political scene, which looms on the horizon. Netanyahu is now prosecuted in corruption cases. A charging instrument may be filed against Netanyahu, resulting in the fall of his government. Efforts continue to be made to establish new rival parties. Recently, Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon announced his intention to run for the position of prime minister. Right wing hegemony over the political scene does not harbinger intentions of a real change unless this such a change is imposed on Israeli by the international community, whose outlook remains sombre as well.

Endnotes

More in this category: MADAR Strategic Report 2018 »
Saturday, September 25, 2021

MADAR CENTER

The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR) is an independent research centre specialising in Israeli affairs, based in Ramallah, Palestine. MADAR was established in 2000 by a group of Palestinian intellectuals and academics, including the late poet Mahmoud Darwish, Dr. Lily Feidy, Dr. Ali Jarbawi, Dr. Ahmad Harb, Mr. Walid Al-Ahmad and Mr. Akram Haniyyeh. The centre was registered as a not-for-profit organisation with the Palestinian Ministry of Interior, and obtained a research centre’s operational licensing from the Palestinian Ministry of Information.

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