Israel’s new Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir threatening Palestinians with a gun in the flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem. October 2022. (Photo: Twitter)
The government that Israelis elected on November 2, 2022, is the most right-wing and overtly racist in the country’s 74-year history. The governing coalition ranges from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard right establishment Likud party, to right-wing ultra-orthodox religious parties, to the extreme right fascists of the Jewish Power party. Together, they won a majority of 64 out of 120 seats in the Israeli Knesset (parliament).
All the parties in the government support a continuation of Israel’s discriminatory apartheid rule over indigenous Palestinians inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders and in the Palestinian territories occupied by the Israeli military since 1967 (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza). Some of the parties, including Religious Zionism and Jewish Power, want to formally annex parts or all of the West Bank and expel (or kill) Palestinians who resist. Others, like Likud, want to continue de facto annexing the West Bank through the expansion of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land to avoid the international condemnation formal annexation would cause, as Israel has been doing for decades.
What to expect from the new government
- Intensifying violence against, and repression of, Palestinians inside Israel and the occupied territories, including Gaza, where more than 2 million Palestinians have suffered under a crippling, illegal siege imposed by Israel for more than 15 years. Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, a notorious extremist and provocateur, is in charge of Israel’s police and notoriously violent paramilitary border police in the West Bank, with expanded powers in his newly-created role as minister of national security. Following the election, Ben-Gvir said he wanted to institute a policy authorizing border police and soldiers from Israel’s occupying army to shoot Palestinians who throw stones at them - but not at Jewish settlers who do the same.
- Accelerated expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law and longstanding US policy, putting the final nail in the coffin of the “two-state solution.” During the campaign, Netanyahu and his allies signed a pledge to engage in “massive construction” of settlements if they won. Israel will also likely accelerate the destruction of Palestinian homes built without permission from Israel’s occupying army, which is nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. Under the coalition agreement, the far-right Religious Zionism party will oversee the expansion of settlements and Palestinian construction in the occupied West Bank.
- More Israeli provocations in and around the Noble Sanctuary Mosque complex (known as the Temple Mount to Jews) in occupied East Jerusalem. Messianic Jewish extremists, including members of Religious Zionism and Jewish Power, want to build a Jewish temple in the 1,300-year-old Noble Sanctuary, the third holiest site in Islam, and have been pushing for Jews to be allowed to pray openly there, which is currently illegal under Israeli law. In doing so, they threaten to ignite a major religious conflagration in the region and beyond. Before leaving office in December 2022, Israel’s outgoing minister of public security warned that Ben-Gvir’s provocations in the Noble Sanctuary could spark a third Palestinian uprising against Israel’s more than half-century-old military rule.
- An erosion of the democratic rights and privileges enjoyed by Jewish Israelis (but not by Palestinian and other non-Jewish citizens of Israel, who face widespread systematic discrimination) and increased conservative religious influence over Israel’s government and society, including attacks on the power of the supreme court. As Religious Zionism leader Bezalel Smotrich said following the conclusion of the coalition agreement, he wants to “promote historic reform in the legal system, regulate and develop the settlement enterprise, strengthen Jewish identity in the spirit of Religious Zionism and proudly wave the flag of Zionism.”
Parties in the coalition
Likud (32 Knesset seats). Establishment hard-right party. Has ruled Israel for most of the last quarter century (1996-1999, 2001-2005, 2009-2021, 2022- ). Under Netanyahu, has mainstreamed the most racist and extreme elements in Israeli society. Responsible for the massive colonization of Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Religious Zionism (7 Knesset seats). Overtly racist, homophobic party that wants to impose conservative Jewish religious law in Palestine/Israel and expel indigenous Palestinians. Campaigned as part of a unified extreme right-wing electoral list, engineered by Netanyahu, that included the Jewish Power and Noam parties. Prior to the election, pro-Israel Democrats in Congress warned Netanyahu not to include members of Religious Zionism, Jewish Power, or Noam in government if he formed it because it would make it more difficult to defend Israel against critics.
Jewish Power (6 Knesset seats). Another overtly racist, extreme right party that calls for the expulsion of Palestinians. Made up of followers of the violent, US-born Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane’s Kach party was banned in Israel in the 1980s due to its extreme racism. Kach and other Kahanist groups were labelled terrorist organizations by the US after one of his followers massacred 29 Palestinians in the West Bank in 1994. After the election, one Biden administration official said off the record that the US would likely boycott Jewish Power leader Itamar Ben-Gvir if he was made a cabinet minister.
Noam (1 Knesset seat). Small ultraorthodox religious party known mainly for its virulent homophobia and misogyny. In November 2022, Israeli police opened an investigation into Noam’s spiritual leader after at least eight women accused him of sexual assault.
Shas (11 Knesset seats). Right-wing religious party that represents ultra-Orthodox Jews of Middle Eastern, north African, and Spanish descent. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Shas’ late founder and influential spiritual leader, was a notorious racist and Jewish supremacist who preached that Palestinians and other non-Jews “were born only to serve [Jews]. Without that, they have no place in the world; only to serve the People of Israel.”
United Torah Judaism (7 Knesset seats). Right-wing religious party that represents ultra-Orthodox Jews of European origin.
Key members of the government
Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister, Leader of Likud
- Already Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, having been in office from 1996 to 1999 and 2009 to 2021, returns to power after a year and a half in the opposition.
- Currently on trial facing four charges of corruption. His allies in Jewish Power want to pass a law that would give him immunity from prosecution.
- Has worked relentlessly for three decades to undermine the international community’s efforts to make peace in Palestine/Israel based on the creation of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories (West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza), the so-called “two-state solution.”
- Responsible for the construction of hundreds of thousands of illegal settlement units on occupied Palestinian land and other serious war crimes, including those committed during repeated attacks on occupied and besieged Gaza, including the devastating summer 2014 assault that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, including more than 500 children.
- Through settlement expansion and other measures, sabotaged the Oslo Accords signed in the 1990s between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization and the US-sponsored “peace process.” After his first term as prime minister, was caught on video boasting to a group of settlers: "I de facto put an end to the Oslo Accords.”
- Has played a major role in Israel’s shift to the far right in recent decades. Has repeatedly incited and exploited anti-Palestinian racism and xenophobia and mainstreamed the overtly racist, fascist Jewish Power party and other extremists in Israeli politics.
- See here and here for more on Netanyahu
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Minister of National Security, Leader of Jewish Power
- Notorious extremist, provocateur, and follower of the racist Brooklyn-born Rabbi Meir Kahane, who called for the enslavement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Lives in an illegal settlement built on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.
- Was convicted of supporting a terrorist organization and inciting racism. Has been indicted for incitement more than 50 times. As a lawyer, he represented Jews accused and convicted of violent attacks against Palestinians and left-wing Israelis.
- As minister of national security, will be responsible for overseeing Israel’s police force and paramilitary border police in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, which were previously controlled separately. Has been granted expanded powers in his new role.
- In May 2021, Israel’s police commissioner blamed him for inciting a surge of violence across Palestine/Israel because of his provocative actions in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in occupied East Jerusalem, where Israel and its settlers are trying to take over the homes of Palestinians.
- Wants to establish a “migration ministry” to expel indigenous Palestinian citizens of Israel he deems “disloyal.” After the 2022 election, released a statement declaring: “it’s time to show [Palestinians] who is the master of the house here.”
- Wants to impose Jewish Israeli sovereignty over the Noble Sanctuary Mosque complex (known to Jews as the Temple Mount) in occupied East Jerusalem and makes frequent provocative visits to the highly sensitive site. In August 2022, he visited the Noble Sanctuary and declared: “I am here, we are the owners, Israel is the owner of the Temple Mount.”
- See here for more on Ben-Gvir
Bezalel Smotrich, Minister of Finance, Leader of Religious Zionism
- Notorious racist, self-declared “proud homophobe,” and extreme right-wing ideologue. Will be finance minister for the first two years of the government and then interior minister and either education or transportation minister for two years.
- Says he wants Palestine/Israel to be ruled “as it was governed in the days of King David and King Solomon – by Torah law.”
- Wants to annex the occupied West Bank and expel Palestinians who don’t accept permanent subjugation under Israel’s apartheid rule. Lives in a West Bank settlement in a house built in violation of Israeli law as well as international law.
- Co-founded and was director of a right-wing NGO that works to prevent Palestinians from building homes in Palestine/Israel, targeting ones that are “illegal” under racist Israeli laws. Under the terms of the coalition agreement, he will be responsible for overseeing Palestinian construction in the occupied West Bank, which is already severely limited by Israel.
- After the 2022 election, said that human rights organizations pose an existential “threat” to Israel and should be treated as such by the new government, including "seizing their funds" and using legal and military measures to suppress them.
- Supports a shoot to kill policy for Palestinians, including children, who throw stones at their Israeli occupiers.
- In 2021, said that Palestinian citizens of Israel only remained inside the state’s borders after its establishment in 1948 because Israel’s first prime minister didn’t “finish the job” of expelling them, stating: "You're only here by mistake, because [David] Ben-Gurion didn't finish the job, didn't throw you out in '48.”
- Was imprisoned for three weeks in 2005 by Israel’s internal secret police, who suspected he was conspiring with four others to prevent Israel’s withdrawal of settlers from Gaza by blowing up cars using gasoline to block major roadways.
- See here for more on Smotrich
Avi Moaz, Deputy minister & head of the “national Jewish identity” department in the Prime Minister’s Office, Leader of Noam
- Head of the ultraorthodox, virulently anti-LGBTQ, misogynist Noam party. After the 2022 election, said he wanted to cancel Jerusalem’s gay pride parade, which he called “a promiscuous abomination.”
- The newly established agency he will lead is responsible for “national Jewish identity.” It will have a budget of around $30 million (USD) and control over the content taught at Israeli schools outside of the regular curriculum, including oversight of some 8,000 education programs in thousands of schools.
Aryeh Deri, Minister of the Interior, Leader of Shas
- Pled guilty to charges of tax evasion in December 2022 as part of a plea deal allowing him to enter government after the November election. Previously spent nearly two years in prison after being convicted of accepting bribes when he was interior minister.
- Will be interior minister and health minister for the first two years of the coalition government, followed by two years as finance minister. Will also be deputy prime minister under Netanyahu for the government’s full term.
Orit Strock, Minister of National Missions, Member of Religious Zionism
- Longtime prominent far-right settler activist who lives in one of the most extreme and violent settlements in the occupied territories, in the middle of the Palestinian city of Hebron in the West Bank.
- As head of the newly-established national missions ministry, will be in charge of a government division that settles right-wing Jews in Palestinian and mixed neighborhoods in Israel in order to push Palestinians out and “Judaize” the areas.
- Active in the messianic Temple Mount movement, which is working to build a Jewish temple in the flashpoint Noble Sanctuary Mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem.
- Son was convicted and sentenced to a year and a half year in prison by an Israeli court for kidnapping and assaulting a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, who was severely beaten and left unconscious, naked, and tied up in an empty field. Claimed her son was unfairly targeted because she is “loyal to Israel and working for its benefit.”