In December 2022, Benjamin Netanyahu’s strict incoming Israeli government announced that West Bank settlement expansion would be a top priority for future endeavors. Netanyahu, who served 12 years as prime minister, is returning to power after he was removed from office in 2021. This announcement marks what is expected to be the beginning of Israel’s most religious and right-wing government to date. Netanyahu’s plans are expected to potentially put it at odds with large parts of the Israeli public and to irritate Israel’s closest allies. Promising to legalise illegally built outposts and annex the occupied territory as part of its coalition deal with ultranationalist allies, the government’s plans are very likely to escalate tensions with the Palestinians, if not having done so already. The coalition agreements, released a day before the government is to be sworn into office, also included language endorsing discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q.+ people on religious grounds, contentious judicial reforms, as well as generous stipends for ultra-Orthodox men who prefer to study instead of work.
Tomer Naor, Chief Legal Officer of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, claimed that what worried him most “is that these agreements change the democratic structure of what we know of as the state of Israel.” He continued, stating that the guidelines were led by a commitment to “advance and develop settlement in all parts of the land of Israel,” including “Judea and Samaria”, the biblical names for the West Bank.
Re-inforcing discriminatory policies and implementing controversial reforms is not the way forward in Israel. The incoming Israeli regime, rather than moving to de-escalate tension in the region, has chosen to continue to escalate the conflict and expand destruction. If Netanyahu’s government is truly set to implement such over-reaching, right-wing, religious policies in Israel, especially in the West Bank, the potential for peacebuilding efforts will continue to fade from the perspective of practical possibilities. Countries should continue to advocate for peaceful resolutions and refrain from staying neutral or enabling the State of Israel’s damaging endeavors in Palestinian territories.
Most of the international community considers Israel’s West Bank settlements illegal and a major obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. The United States already has warned the incoming government against taking steps that could further undermine hopes for an independent Palestinian state. Moreover, Netanyahu issued a rebuke of his new coalition allies after experiencing extreme backlash. After claiming the incoming government would advance laws allowing discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q.+ people, pledging there would be no harm to their rights by his upcoming government.
With the threat of the Israeli regime further worsening the conflict in the West Bank, Netanyahu’s efforts bode well neither for the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict nor for future peace talks and expansion of diplomatic relations. Nevertheless, with rocky international relationships on the international stage following its actions that have been compared to South African Apartheid, Israel may be pressing down a grueling political path in the coming years.
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