Voices: We should all be worried about Israel’s new government

Voices: We should all be worried about Israel’s new government

Benjamin Netanyahu, once again, is Israel’s prime minister, and the Israeli government sworn in at the start of this year is perhaps the most extreme one ever.

Netanyahu’s far-right policies are very familiar to Palestinians, but his coalition partners and ministers have also got to where they are today thanks to their anti-Palestinian rhetoric and policy proposals, as well as their promise to the Israeli electorate that there will be no political agreement with the Palestinians that respects our rights.

Here in Jenin, last year was difficult enough even under the previous Israeli government. The occupation’s violence in Jenin camp is so extensive, and the living conditions so abnormal, that a child cannot imagine a future for themselves – only death at the hands of the army.

After the 2002 invasion, feelings of national dignity and fierceness rocketed in Jenin camp, its residents always in a position of confrontation with the occupation. This spirit, and the Israeli crackdown on it, grew tenfold after the 2021 Gilboa Prison escape.

I live in an area on the outskirts of Jenin, and I always have to check if there are soldiers outside, if it is safe for my kids to go to school, and even if it is calm enough to move around inside my house. My father was shot by an Israeli soldier while standing in his kitchen during the Second Intifada.

The lack of hope and future horizon for youth here, coupled with unemployment and the impact of repeated killings and raids, has created an accumulating anger expressed through resistance.

Now, we Palestinians are having to deal with the appointment of controversial ministers such as Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, and others.

However, while Ben-Gvir and the like represent the strength of far-right religious nationalism, in respect of Israel’s foreign relations and “PR” the establishment of such a government amounts to a crisis, directly contradicting the image of “democracy” it has been projecting for almost 75 years.

This has the potential to undermine the new government, and make it more vulnerable to accountability via international legal mechanisms. A more “strategic” or politically savvy so-called centrist government is harder to hold to account, because the same occupation practices are carried out more covertly and with a pretence of caring about democracy and human rights.

Thus, while past Israeli governments succeeded in receiving US military aid and European support, and even securing normalisation deals with Arab countries – even while perpetuating occupation and apartheid – this new government may face obstacles. Provocations in Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, for example, are amplified around the world, since the mosque is not only of religious significance but is also a historic symbol for many Arabs.

This comes with ongoing arrests, settlement expansion, and threats to the Palestinian identity, putting Jerusalemites on the front line with this government.

The same applies to any place where settlers are trying to seize more land with official sponsorship, like the Hebron or Nablus regions, for example. Any such area is typically subject to collective punishments, killings, raids, and repression.

Despite the extremism of this new Israeli government, unfortunately I don’t expect anything from the world’s governments, who saw Shireen Abu Akleh killed in front of the cameras and did nothing.

However, I hope that civil society organisations and free peoples of the world will understand that Palestinians are humans – each one of them important and valuable – and act on this understanding. I hope they will also understand that Palestine is an oppressed country that has the right to its freedom.

Mustafa Sheta is general manager of The Freedom Theatre in Jenin.