Israel’s New Far-Right Government

On the November 1st, the Israeli people went to the polls to elect a new Knesset, where it became apparent that with 90.7% of votes counted, Benjamin Netanyahu’s bloc would be set to win 65 out of 120 seats (in the end, they ended up winning 64 out of the 120). With the assistance of the far-right Religious Zionist Party, Netanyahu is projected to be the new Prime Minister of Israel. With the support from parties such as Religious Zionist, Shas, and United Torah, Netanyahu’s new government will turn the Knesset into Israel’s most right-wing and religious in history.

Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich have become key players in far-right politics in Israel. The Washington Post quotes Bezalel Smotrich, a self-described “proud homophobe who has announced plans to hobble Israel’s justice system.” Similarly, Itamar Ben Gvir advocated for “expelling ‘disloyal’ citizens of Israel, both Jewish and Arab.” In addition to these two individuals’ hateful rhetoric regarding Palestine, Ben-Gvir has encouraged the police officers to fire upon Palestinians. Whereas Axios reported Bezalel Smotrich to say, “he wants to be defense minister,” a role that oversees the government’s policy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, alongside approving settlement buildings. If Smotrich is given the position, his racist remarks concerning Arab-Jewish segregation will undoubtedly harm the Palestinian community in Gaza and the West Bank.

In the previous week, the United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan hinted that the U.S. might not be willing to work with Ben-Gvir and other right-wing extremists inside the Israeli government. Primarily, the concern lies with Ben-Gvir and his political party, due to their rhetoric and position concerning Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Arab minorities in Israel. However, Axios reported that State Department spokesperson Ned Price stated in a daily briefing on Wednesday, “the relationship between Israel and the U.S. is strong because it is based on shared interests and values.”

It is alarming that the Israeli government has taken a turn to the far right, but it is important to note that the electorate made the decision. Nevertheless, that does not erase the harm that Netanyahu and the Knesset will cause to the Palestinian people in the occupied territories and the Arabs in Israel. In addition, it is vital to note that there cannot be a shared interest and values between the United States and the Israeli government while the far right is in control. Therefore, to alleviate the potential harm that the far-right Israeli government can cause, it is imperative that the United States, in public and private dialogues, ensure that Israel’s far-right elements are not put in a position of power concerning the West Bank, Gaza, or Arabs in Israel. Furthermore, the international community must speak out against far-right elements in this new government to show that the global community is watching and will not allow the expansion of settlements nor harm to continue against the Palestinians.

Since the Israeli populace has decided on a Knesset that is the most right-wing and religious in Israeli history, it is vital to remember that Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich—with their hateful rhetoric towards Palestinians and Arabs—will play pivotal roles in deciding who will be in the new government. In addition, the United States has found itself hinting that they are possibly unwilling to work with Ben-Gvir and other right-wing extremists in government. Therefore, the United States, regional actors in the Middle East, and the international community must actively keep the Palestinian and Arab populace safe under this newfound government.