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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

What real change in Israel?

by our Middle East Affairs correspondent

ISRAELI PREMIER Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu faces an uncertain future this week as his political rivals put aside their differences to form a grand coalition to bring him down. For the last two years the head of the reactionary Likud bloc has clung on to power, battling through four inconclusive general elections to stave off possible jail time on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust.

Netanyahu likes to pose as a great leader who can impose Israel’s will over the entire Middle East and deal with the Americans on equal terms. But crawling to Donald Trump won him no friends amongst the Democrats now at the helm in Washington. Biden’s team owe Bibi nothing. They don’t need him, and they know they can easily find plenty more willing tools to replace him amongst the Israeli establishment.

Netanyahu’s efforts to form a new coalition after Israel’s inconclusive general election in March have failed. Although he says that only a Likud-led coalition can stave off “a dangerous left-wing government” comprised of his rivals in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, he’s been making frantic last-minute bids to buy some of them off with offers of seats in a new Netanyahu Cabinet.

luck run out

But ‘King’ Bibi’s luck appears finally to have run out. All the people he’s tricked and doubled-crossed in the Israeli parliament during his 12 years in office have combined to form a broad front that includes rabid Zionist extremists, self-proclaimed ‘centrists’ and the two social-democratic blocs in the Knesset.

Netanyahu clearly believed that the war with Hamas in Gaza would boost his standing in the Knesset and amongst the Israeli public. In fact, it did neither. The seemingly endless waves of Palestinian resistance rockets that paralysed southern Israel and the mob violence that swept through the ‘mixed’ Israeli-Arab towns in northern Israel shattered beliefs in Israeli invincibility. When Netanyahu was finally forced to agree a truce, he was blamed by some for provoking the crisis in the first place and by others for accepting a humiliating cease-fire with the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood that runs the Gaza Strip.

The proposed “Change Bloc” coalition is headed by Yair Lapid, of the centrist Yesh Atid (There is a Future), and Naftali Bennett, the leader of the far-right Yamina (Rightwards) movement. They’ve got the backing of other Zionist factions that have fallen out with Likud as well as General Benny Gantz’s Blue & Whites (the colours of the Israeli flag), Labour and the left-social democratic Meretz party.

tacit support

But they will also need the votes of the four MPs of the conservative Islamist United Arab List and the tacit support of the communist-led Joint List, which has six members in the current Israeli parliament. Joint List leaders say they would favour a coalition headed by Lapid but not one led by Bennett.

No government put together by Lapid and Bennett is likely to challenge the status quo at home or abroad. Most of the Change Bloc support the existing ‘neo-liberal’ economy and the continuing oppression of the Palestinian Arabs. Or as Mossi Raz, a Meretz MP, told Israel public radio: “A change government will do a lot of good things. I’m not sure a peace agreement will be one of them.”

It’s difficult to see what possible “change” can come from this unholy alliance that is united in only one thing – the desire to kick Netanyahu out and put him behind bars. Perhaps that’s the “good thing” Raz was talking about…