Palestinians watch on as far-right Israeli gov’t comes into power

While some Palestinians see the new government as no different from previous ones, others are worried.

Palestinian flag
Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation since 1967 [File: Mussa Qawasma/Reuters]

The Israeli parliament has sworn in Benjamin Netanyahu as the new prime minister, inaugurating the country’s most far-right, religiously conservative government in history, leaving Palestinians worried about what comes next.

The year 2022 was already the deadliest for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank since 2006, as Israel conducted near-daily military raids, and the Gaza Strip faced three days of Israeli bombardment in August.

Those actions were undertaken by a “centrist” Israeli government – leading many Palestinians to question whether there has been any real difference between the different governments’ policies towards them in the past few years.

Yet, the inclusion of far-right figures in government who were previously considered too extreme even for Israeli politics has raised fears among some, and the expectation that a new round of violence lies ahead.

And the new government’s top priority – an expansion of settlements in the West Bank – and a pronouncement that “the Jewish people have an exclusive right on all the land” between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea have served only to amplify that.

Al Jazeera spoke to Palestinians in the West Bank and the blockaded Gaza Strip to get their views.

Reham Odeh, political analyst, Gaza

“If we look at the government’s members, we see extremists and settlers among them who constantly call for the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque, including Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister, and therefore there is more of an expectation of a return to scenes of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” said Odeh.

The political analyst believes that will particularly be the case if the Netanyahu government moves forward with its plans to expand settlements and potentially annex Palestinian land.

“[That] will stop any chance of a future solution, or Palestinian endeavours to achieve the dream of a Palestinian state, including the two-state solution.”

On Gaza, and despite what Odeh calls Netanyahu’s “bloody policy” towards the territory in the past, the political analyst does not expect a new war in the short term, with the new prime minister instead focusing on the policies he has already emphasised, namely the expansion of settlements, strengthening normalisation ties with Arab countries and managing the Iran file.

Hazem Qassem, Hamas spokesman, Gaza

“Netanyahu’s declared policy means that we will face great tensions, and this opens up the possibility of [another] confrontation for us,” Qassem told Al Jazeera. “There is a tendency towards escalating violence against Palestinian prisoners and adding more restrictions to their living conditions, and there is a tendency towards enacting restrictive policies in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Mosque [in occupied East Jerusalem], in addition to expanding settlements.”

Qassem warned that this would lead to a potential “explosion” in the region.

He said Palestinian armed groups would “not stand idly in light of any expansion of aggressive policies towards the Palestinian people and transgressions when it comes to red lines such as Jerusalem and Palestinian prisoners”, adding that Hamas was “ready to defend” the Palestinian people.

“We need to adopt a unified Palestinian policy to defend the rights of the Palestinian people, and to advance the Palestinian reconciliation file,” Qassem said, emphasising the importance of unity between Palestinian factions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Azzam Abu al-Adass, political analyst, Nablus

For Abu al-Adass, the Netanyahu government not only poses a threat to Palestinians but also to left-wing and secular Israelis.

“The current government believes its achievements will be at the expense of Palestinian blood and the killing of Palestinians,” Abu al-Adass said, before referring to Ben-Gvir’s attempts to relax open-fire rules for Israeli security forces, and to revoke the nationality of Palestinians living in Israel and East Jerusalem.

With regards to Gaza, Abu al-Adass believes a new attack is unlikely as it would be “exhausting” for the Netanyahu government.

“Netanyahu will focus his government’s escalatory efforts on the West Bank, especially with the emergence of new popular resistance groups, which recently strengthened their presence in the West Bank, especially Jenin and Nablus,” he said.

“The Israeli media constantly talks about the development of resistance groups in the West Bank, and this may make it the closest target of the current government led by Netanyahu.”

Ahmed Abu Artema, activist, Gaza

“Our main problem is with the Zionist project itself, which is based on displacing our people, occupying their lands, committing massacres, and practising racial discrimination, regardless of who leads it,” said Abu Artema.

The activist said the most dangerous element of the new government was the “unprecedentedly sharp tone of hostility” from its members, including Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister and man who will oversee the administration of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

“All these indications make us expect that there will be more targeting of Palestinians and the theft of more Palestinian lands,” Abu Artema said.

“The only hope is to continue the Palestinian struggle for freedom and liberation from the Israeli occupation,” he added.

Source: Al Jazeera