Commentary. Messianic nationalism, now without disguise or restraint, is taking over key positions of power.

To avoid prison, Netanyahu will deepen state racism in the ‘only democracy’

Bibi Netanyahu is once again heading the Israeli government. What are his plans? How will he try to get into the history books? It’s not good news for those who are convinced that this is the “only democracy” in the Middle East, for those who believe that the problem lies with the Palestinians, Islam, Arab terrorism: the Great Bibi’s project is simply to avoid being sent to prison in his troublesome corruption cases, still before the courts. And this project is now tied to the nationalist dream – which means annexing the territories occupied in 1967, without national or political rights for the Palestinian inhabitants.

Bibi’s personal project has resulted in a corrupt government dominated by the messianic racism of the Israeli ultra-right. The problem is not only the forces that make up the government; one must understand that some of its aims, on the personal and legal level, are basically aimed at intensifying the oppression of millions of Palestinians, expropriating them of land and property, and trying to drive out of this country all those Palestinians or asylum seekers or “illegal immigrants” who threaten the project of a “pure” society.

A number of ministries are being divided up to be assigned to the seat-hungry coalition members. But some of these changes have dramatic significance.

The new Minister of Police will no longer be the Minister of Internal Security like in the past, but the Minister of National Security. Therefore, he will be assigned command of the regiments of the already controversial border police, which are stationed in the occupied territories. And the new minister will be the already infamous Ben Gvir. When he was eighteen years old, he was captured on camera pointing to the license plate of Premier Yitzhak Rabin’s car and threatening: “Just as we got to his car, we can get to him.” Rabin was assassinated shortly after the ultra-right riots protesting against the Oslo Accords.

Then Ben Gvir grew up and graduated from law school. He liked to have his picture taken in his living room under a huge portrait of his hero Baruch Goldstein, the patriotic doctor of the Israeli ultra-right who in 1994 killed 29 Palestinians in Hebron’s Abraham Mosque. He removed the painting only a few years ago, realizing it might hurt him in his electoral race.

Recently, Ben Gvir had warm words for his spiritual teacher, Meir Kahane, who in the 1980s had laid the foundations of a racist party advocating measures very similar to the Nazi Nuremberg Laws.

Similarly, the “regime” in the territories is also changing. The Minister of Finance, Bezael Smotrich, will also become Minister of Defense and will be in charge of the so-called “civil administration,” hitherto under the authority of the army and a general. This administration rules over the territories and is able to confiscate land and build new Israeli settlements. Its bureaucratic measures always apply only to the Palestinian inhabitants of the region that is “temporarily” (according to the official Israeli version) under Israeli rule, “until an agreement is reached.” The sidelining of the army will allow the messianic right to accelerate the process of annexation of the Occupied Territories and find more funds for colonization and stronger legal grounds for the expulsion of “potentially terrorist” inhabitants.

In the last few days, Prime Minister Netanyahu has tried to downplay interpretations of the possible effects of a new law proposed by the party of Smotrich and his cronies, which says that one could, for “religious reasons,” go as far as to refuse their services to those who violate their principles, e.g., a doctor might refuse to treat a homosexual, or an enemy, or a heretic, or a follower of another religious belief.

Of course, in Israel we are very liberal, which is why someone openly gay was elected Speaker of Parliament and our new premier has already said that he will not allow any discrimination based on sexual identity. But the fury of the reactions has made us forget that Palestinians, Muslims and Christians also fall within the scope of the bill. The Orthodox Judaism newspaper Yatd published a violent editorial against what it called a racism that contradicts the very foundations of Judaism. This bill by the far right is not unlike the laws implemented in Germany during the decades of Nazism.

Messianic nationalism, now without disguise or restraint, is taking over key positions of power. We were all busy with the war in Ukraine and forgot the violent reality of the Occupied Territories. After all, the “moderate” government that preceded the current one unleashed a violent crackdown that has led to the deaths of more than a hundred Palestinians in the past year; the violence of the occupation may soon have another law at its disposal that would shield soldiers from legal responsibility for their actions.

Viktor Orban, the Poles, the Swedish right-wing extremists and the Italian fascist elite will likely welcome Israel’s new government, which will find allies among them, while admittedly very problematic ones.

In a difficult international context – in which the United States and a few European countries are fearing that an already severely compromised peace process will become outright impossible – the work of a government that will try to destroy the institutional foundations of the current judicial system is now beginning. Already in the coming days, the Israeli Supreme Court will have to decide on several issues that will be central to a possible government crisis.

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