Palestinian forces urged to unite against Netanyahu regime

Palestinian forces urged to unite against Netanyahu regime
Israeli security forces take position as Palestinians wave national flags during a protest east of Nablus against the establishment of Israeli outposts, on December 2, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 December 2022

Palestinian forces urged to unite against Netanyahu regime

Palestinian forces urged to unite against Netanyahu regime
  • Concern grows over ability of govt of President Mahmoud Abbas, 87, to face growing threats

RAMALLAH: A senior Palestinian political leader has called for a united struggle against the incoming government in Israel, labelling it racist and extremist, and warning that its declared goal is to “deepen and consolidate an apartheid regime.”

Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative Movement, urged all Palestinian forces to join together in an immediate bid to boycott and isolate the new Israeli leadership.

His comments came after Israel’s hawkish veteran Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, returning for a sixth term 18 months after having been ousted from power.

The Israeli parliament voted to approve his government and elected former minister Amir Ohana as the Knesset’s speaker.

Barghouti pointed to Netanyahu’s earlier statements that all the land of Palestine belongs to the Jews only and that the right to self-determination is reserved for them.

The new government will deepen and consolidate the apartheid regime against Palestinians living in Israel and the occupied territories by insisting on implementing the law of the Jewish state, he said.

Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are growing increasingly fearful over policies that the Israeli leadership may adopt in the coming weeks.

Annexing lands in the West Bank, changing the status quo at Al-Aqsa Mosque, and weakening the Palestinian Authority through military or financial measures are areas of particular concern.

While the PA is preparing to deal with the changing political landscape, many Palestinians fear its tactics and methods will fail to thwart the Netanyahu’s government.

Concerns are growing that the Fatah movement, the largest Palestinian party, is preoccupied with internal disputes over who will succeed 87-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas.

At the same time, the PA has no ability to pressure Israel other than by threatening to end security coordination.

Israel no longer takes the Palestinian president’s threats seriously, some say.

On Dec. 27, Abbas announced that he will lead a national committee including Palestinian diplomatic and legal experts in an international campaign against the new Israeli government.

Shawan Jabarin, director of Al-Haq Foundation for Human Rights, told Arab News that the Israeli leadership’s “extremist religious and ideological dimension” is likely to transform the conflict with Palestinians from a political dispute into a bloody religious rivalry.

“This is a very dangerous transformation,” he said.

However, Jabarin believes that Palestinians now have an opportunity to “expose the true face of the Israeli occupation to the world and embarrass Israel.”

He said that the composition of the Israeli leadership “will constitute an embarrassment to both the EU and the US, as it will harm them to take practical steps against the policy and approach of this government.”

A Hamas source in Gaza, who declined to be named, told Arab News that the movement considers all Israeli governments harmful. But the new government is worse than its predecessors.

The existence of such a government would justify military action by Hamas against Israel, which would be popularly accepted and understood by regional countries, the source said.

Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza, said that Palestinians have an understandable fear of the Netanyahu government annexing the West Bank and confiscating the lands of Palestinian citizens in Israel.

He voiced fears that the government will try to perpetuate the separation of the West Bank from the Gaza Strip.

“I do not think Israel will succeed in separating Gaza from the escalation in Al-Aqsa Mosque and the West Bank,” Abu Saada told Arab News.

Speaking after he was sworn in as Israel’s leader, Netanyahu presented the primary lines of the government’s policy and said: “The new government is starting today amid the 75th year of Israel’s independence.  

“In the next four years, we will work so that Israel will be a world power in the centennial year of our independence.  To do this, we must perform three major tasks. The first is to thwart Iran’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.”

He added: “The second task is to develop the country’s infrastructure, including developing a bullet train. The third task is to continue to expand the circle of peace with Arab countries to end the Israeli-Arab conflict.”

Outgoing prime minister Yair Lapid left the Knesset without shaking hands with Netanyahu, who updated the profile on his official Twitter account to “prime minister.”

In a signed letter to Netanyahu, more than 100 retired Israeli ambassadors and foreign ministry officials voiced concerns about the incoming government.

The former diplomats, including former ambassadors to France, India and Turkiye, expressed “profound concern at the serious damage to Israel’s foreign relations, its international standing and its core interests abroad emanating from the policy of the incoming government.”

The letter also pointed to “statements made by potential senior office-holders in the government and the Knesset,” reports of policy changes in the West Bank, and “some possible extreme and discriminatory laws” as points of concern.

Netanyahu returns as prime minister with the support of several far-right figures once consigned to the fringes of Israeli politics.

Itamar Ben Gvir, once convicted of incitement to racism and terrorism, will take on a newly expanded role as national security minister, overseeing police operations in Israel, as well as some police activity in the occupied West Bank.

Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionism party, has been named minister of finance and also given the power to appoint the head of an Israeli military unit that handles border crossings and permits for Palestinians.

During his campaign, Smotrich proposed drastic legal reforms that were seen by many critics as an attempt to undermine judicial independence.

“The recent developments will likely bring about strongly negative international reaction, serious harm to Israel’s strategic relations first and foremost with the US, (and) possible damage to the Abraham Accords,” the former diplomats added in their letter.