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Israel’s left and right ‘stuck in segregationist, racist trap’

For over 20 years, Ori Goldberg has voted for the left-wing Zionist Meretz party in Israeli elections. But during the last elections in September 2019, he decided to permanently switch and voted for the Arab Joint List – for the first time since he turned 18. More: Israel’s Palestinian citizens: We’ll vote because we’re targeted…

Israel’s left and right ‘stuck in segregationist, racist trap’

For over 20 years, Ori Goldberg has voted for the left-wing Zionist Meretz party in Israeli elections.
But during the last elections in September 2019, he decided to permanently switch and voted for the Arab Joint List – for the first time since he turned 18.
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He reasoned there was no reason to remain loyal to Meretz as there was no longer any difference between the left and right in Israeli political discourse.
Both sides are “stuck in the basic, segregationist, racist trap”, Goldberg, a lecturer at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, told Al Jazeera from the Tel Aviv suburb.
“In Jewish parties, for various reasons, I saw that their ideological differences was irrelevant because they’re completely mired in their desire to protect the status quo,” Goldberg said, adding the Joint List is the only party that imagines a future Israel based on “a civilian rather than a militaristic ethic”.
Some Israeli analysts have predicted a record number of Israeli Jews, who traditionally voted for left-wing Zionist Israeli parties such as Labor and Meretz, will switch and select the Joint List on Monday.
According to Israeli polls, the Joint List – the third-largest party in the Knesset – is expected to win 14 seats, one more than it won in last September’s election.
Dahlia Scheindlin, a political analyst who has consulted for the Joint List specifically looking at the Jewish vote, told Al Jazeera there is a rise in intention among Israeli Jews to vote for the Joint List, which could result in a gain of an additional Knesset seat “and possibly more”.
The most common reason for the switch, Scheindlin said, is “they want to make a statement against the widespread sense of racism and nationalism in the right-wing leadership in the last 10 years”, especially after a year of election campaigning that had been about “nationalistic rhetoric”.
Palestinians excluded
Each round of Israeli elections has involved anti-Palestinian racism from candidates vying for right-wing votes.
In September last year, six days before the second round of elections, messages were sent out through an automated popup to anyone accessing the official Facebook page of the current prime minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu, warning against the formation of a “left-wing, secular, weak government that relies on Arabs who want to annihilate us all – women, children and men”.
The message added this was the reason why voters needed to vote for Likud to have “a right-wing policy of a Jewish state, security and a strong Israel”.
The message was referring to a partnership at the time between the Blue and White party led by former Israeli military chief Benny Gantz and the Arab List with the aim of removing Netanyahu.
However, in the upcoming round of elections, Gantz has taken the opposite approach, saying he will build a coalition only with a Jewish majority and not with the Joint List, as many Israeli Jews do not accept any partnership with Palestinian citizens of Israel.
James North, editor of news website Mondoweiss, noted in an article on Thursday “there is so much anti-Arab racism in the country that none of the major Jewish political parties will dare to form even a tacit alliance with the Joint List”.

Banners placed in Jerusalem by Netanyahu’s Likud party show Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party and Ahmed Tibi of the Arab Joint List. It reads: ‘Without Tibi, Gantz has no government’

For Monday’s election, Meretz joined a coalition with Labor and Gesher in order to reach the 3.25 percent vote threshold required to enter the Knesset, but for the first time, there is not a single Palestinian legislator placed high enough on the list to guarantee him or her a seat in the Knesset.
Issawi Fereig, a Palestinian Israeli who was part of the last two Knessets and “fought for Meretz’s survival in the last two elections by campaigning in Palestinian areas” according to North, was moved down to the eleventh spot to make room for Jewish legislators.
The second legislator on its list is Orly Levi Abekasis who originally entered Knesset as a member of the right-wing Yisrael Beitenu.
She had abstained on voting for the controversial “nation-state” law in 2018, which declared Israel “the nation state of the Jewish People,” further marginalising the 1.8 million Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Kahanism, the new normal
On January 28, US President Donald Trump presented his proposed Middle East plan, which, among other things, envisioned Israeli annexation of large swaths of the occupied West Bank.
It also proposed the so-called “Triangle Communities” – comprising 10 Palestinian towns in Israel – to possibly be transferred to a future state of Palestine.
According to Natasha Roth-Rowland, a PhD student in the US researching the far right in Israel, since Kahanism – an extreme ideology calling for a Jewish theocratic state – entered Israeli politics in the 1980s, it had dramatically shifted the country’s political discourse to the far right.
It is based on the teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane who sought Jewish supremacy through the use of violence.
Talk of mass expulsion of Palestinians, annexation, and moves such as the nation-state law, which are ideas based on Kahanism and once completely outside of political discourse, have now been normalised in Israel, according to Roth-Rowland.
According to a study released by Israel’s Pew Research Center in 2016, nearly half of Jewish Israelis wanted to expel Palestinians while 79 percent believed Jews in Israel should get preferential treatment over Palestinians.
Journalist David Sheen, who has researched the Kahane movement, told Al Jazeera that Kahane had “tapped into a latent phenomenon that maybe, up until then, people didn’t speak about openly, they didn’t boast about it”.
“But when Kahane came into the Knesset, he destroyed that taboo. He made it OK to say so,” Sheen said.
“I find it very hard to believe that there is any other Western country that extensively claims to be a democracy that, when asked if the largest minority group should be ethnically cleansed, that half of them would agree to that.
“To me, that’s off the charts. It shows how deeply rooted these ideas are. It’s been this way for decades,” Sheen said.
Building solidarity
The Joint List has launched campaigns in different languages in the ultra-Orthodox, Ethiopian and Russian communities as an attempt to build solidarity with other marginalised Israelis.
In ultra-Orthodox areas, signs in Yiddish were put up reading “Your vote against the enlistment decree”, drawing on the opposition to military service shared among Palestinians and the ultra-Orthodox.
Messages in Hebrew and Amharic reading “Your vote against police brutality” were put up in cities where many Ethiopian Israelis live, referring to the discriminatory treatment by the police that Ethiopian Israelis and Palestinians are regularly subjected to.
Scheindlin said the momentum of many Jews considering voting for the Joint List shows that this is a different kind of Israeli society “that moves away from the path of racist nationalism”.
Meanwhile, Goldberg said he was impressed that Ayman Odeh and Ahmed Tibi, leaders of the Joint List, had made their message inclusive.
“They were much more inviting towards people like me, Israeli Jews, who before then had considered them less easily palatable because they did not represent us. It was easier to join the team because they changed their message … it was about the entire country.”
While it still may be a niche phenomenon, Goldberg said he knows of quite a lot of Israeli Jews from the Zionist Left who will be voting for the Joint List this time.
“As Israel grows more afraid, more xenophobic, more segregationist, I find myself less and less able to identify with the voice of the strong. I find it to some extent offensive as a Jew that the Israeli version of Judaism is all about power,” Goldberg said.
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Explainer

Explainer: Israel’s annexation plan for occupied West Bank |NationalTribune.com

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will begin to annex one third of the already illegally occupied West Bank, including parts of the strategic Jordan Valley, in line with US President Donald Trump’s controversial so-called “Middle East plan”. The plan, announced in January, proposes to establish a demilitarised Palestinian state on a patchwork…

Explainer: Israel’s annexation plan for occupied West Bank |NationalTribune.com

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will begin to annex one third of the already illegally occupied West Bank, including parts of the strategic Jordan Valley, in line with US President Donald Trump’s controversial so-called “Middle East plan”.
The plan, announced in January, proposes to establish a demilitarised Palestinian state on a patchwork of disjointed parts of the Palestinian territories.
This does not include occupied East Jerusalem, which the Palestinian Authority (PA) claims as the capital of a state it seeks.
Trump’s Middle East plan has been largely met with scepticism and was rejected by Palestinian leaders, but Israel has taken it as a show of support for its plans to seize and extend its sovereignty over the occupied land.

What does annexation mean?
Annexation is a term used when a state unilaterally incorporates another territory within its borders.
Annexing the Jordan Valley would mean that Israel would officially consider it part of its state.
“International law is very clear: Annexation and territorial conquest are forbidden by the Charter of the United Nations,” said Michael Lynk, the UN independent expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories.
The West Bank is seen as occupied territory under international law, making all Jewish settlements there – as well as the planned annexation – illegal.

The US has rejected the consensus that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are illegal.
“Decisions about Israelis extending sovereignty to those places are decisions for the Israelis to make,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters last week.
What has the international reaction been?

The United Nations and the European Union say the plans threaten the possibility of reaching a peace agreement in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Arab countries have also warned the planned annexation could affect security in the region.
What are the consequences?
The planned Israeli annexation would deprive Palestinians of key agricultural land and water resources, especially in the Jordan Valley region.
It would also effectively kill the two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that was based on the idea of land for peace.
But many Palestinians would argue that the annexation is merely a formality for what has already been happening on the ground in the occupied West Bank for years.
Increased settlement construction over the past years, along with Jewish-settler-only roads that connect to Israel, have carved the territory up, resulting in non-contiguous Palestinian cities, towns and villages that now exist in cantons.
How has Palestinian leadership reacted?
Mohammad Shtayyeh, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA), called the annexation plans an “existential threat” and said Palestinians will respond with their own measures.
In May 2019, the PA said it will cancel all bilateral agreements with Israel and the US.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki warned any annexation would be a “crime” and lead to immediate and tangible repercussions.
The Gaza-based Hamas government has called for unity among Palestinians and popular acts of resistance against Israeli plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.
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Israel’s court resumes hearing on Netanyahu-Gantz coalition deal

Israel’s Supreme Court has started the second day of a hearing to determine if a coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and main rival Benny Gantz is valid as the former faces corruption charges. On Sunday, the court heard “arguments on the question of bestowing the duty of forming a government on a Knesset…

Israel’s court resumes hearing on Netanyahu-Gantz coalition deal

Israel’s Supreme Court has started the second day of a hearing to determine if a coalition agreement between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and main rival Benny Gantz is valid as the former faces corruption charges.
On Sunday, the court heard “arguments on the question of bestowing the duty of forming a government on a Knesset member against whom an indictment has been filed”, according to Chief Justice Esther Hayut.
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Thousands demonstrate against Israel coalition deal

“[On Monday] there will be a hearing on the second issue, regarding the coalition agreement,” she said, sitting at the head of a panel of 11 judges.
The Supreme Court’s ruling is expected to be announced by Thursday.
A ruling against Netanyahu would likely trigger a snap election, the fourth since April 2019, as the country grapples with the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout.
Last month, after three elections and failure to form a government, Netanyahu and Gantz signed an agreement to form a unity government under which they would take turns leading Israel.
The pact has support from a majority in parliament. However, several groups, including opposition parties and democracy watchdogs, have petitioned Israel’s highest court to nullify the deal and bar Netanyahu from leading the government, citing the criminal proceedings against him.
The agreement sees Netanyahu serving as prime minister for 18 months, with Gantz as his “alternate”, a new title in Israeli governance.
They will swap roles midway through the deal before likely taking voters back to the polls in 36 months.
Israeli law traditionally endows governments with four-year mandates, an issue taken up by the deal’s opponents.

Neither Netanyahu, the right-wing premier in power since 2009, nor former military chief Gantz, was able after a March election to form a viable governing coalition in the deeply divided 120-seat Knesset.
In January, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, was indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing in all three cases against him and says he is a victim of a political witch-hunt.
Netanyahu’s trial is due to start on May 24.
Israeli law says a prime minister under indictment is not obligated to step down until a final conviction.
However, legal some experts say there are precedents suggesting elected officials indicted with charges that carry moral turpitude should resign.
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Israel’s high court hears petitions against new coalition gov’t

Israel’s Supreme Court has begun hearing arguments to determine whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been indicted for corruption, will be allowed to form a new government. The top court will also hear petitions challenging a coalition deal with his rival-turned-partner Benny Gantz, who is currently speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. More: Arab…

Israel’s high court hears petitions against new coalition gov’t

Israel’s Supreme Court has begun hearing arguments to determine whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been indicted for corruption, will be allowed to form a new government.
The top court will also hear petitions challenging a coalition deal with his rival-turned-partner Benny Gantz, who is currently speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.
More:

Arab League slams Israeli plan to annex occupied West Bank

Analysis: Israel set for ‘dangerous, right-wing’ coalition gov’t

Thousands demonstrate against Israel coalition deal

“Today we shall hear arguments on the question of bestowing the duty of forming a government on a Knesset member against whom an indictment has been filed,” Chief Justice Esther Hayut said as she opened proceedings on Sunday.”Tomorrow there will be a hearing on the second issue, regarding the coalition agreement,” she added, sitting at the head of a panel of 11 judges, all wearing face masks in line with coronavirus precautions.
The proceedings on Sunday came after hundreds of Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv the previous day to protest against Netanyahu’s recent coalition deal with Gantz.
A ruling against Netanyahu would likely trigger a snap election, the fourth since April 2019, as Israel grapples with the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic as well as its economic fallout.
Following three inconclusive elections, Netanyahu and Gantz last month signed an agreement to form a unity government under which they would take turns leading Israel.
In power for more than a decade and currently head of a caretaker government, right-wing Netanyahu will serve as prime minister of a new administration for 18 months before handing the reins to centrist Gantz, according to the unity deal.
But several groups, including opposition parties and democracy watchdogs, have petitioned the country’s highest court to nullify the deal and bar Netanyahu from leading the government, citing the criminal proceedings against him.

Responding to the petition, Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said there was no sufficient legal ground to disqualify Netanyahu.
Al Jazeera’s Harry Fawcett, reporting from Jerusalem near an anti-coalition sit-in, said the judges, apart from looking into the eligibility of Netanyahu to form a new government, would also investigate the “legality of the deal”.
This is because both Netanyahu and Gantz have “tried to engineer a deal that somehow safeguards each man’s position”, Fawcett said.
‘Political pressure’
While judges have indicated that there is a “huge amount of political pressure and momentum” for a government to be formed after the three elections, they also seem to be exploring ways to try and limit some of that power, Fawcett said.
Some Israeli analysts have said the court was unlikely to bar Netanyahu from heading a new government.
Netanyahu was indicted in January on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. He denies any wrongdoing in all three cases against him and has said he is a victim of a political witch-hunt.
Netanyahu’s trial is due to start on May 24.
Israeli law says a prime minister under indictment is not obligated to step down until a final conviction.
Netanyahu is suspected of wrongfully accepting $264,000 worth of gifts from businessmen, which prosecutors said included cigars and champagne, and of promoting regulatory favours in alleged bids for improved coverage by a popular news website and Israel’s best-selling newspaper.
If convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison on bribery charges and a maximum three-year term for fraud and breach of trust.
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