With the rising possibility of Netanyahu appointing two far-right politicians to power in his government, the Biden administration may boycott the nominees to prevent further violence in Palestine.
The result of the fifth election in Israel says Netanyahu can now secure a majority coalition and form a government. This is expected to stabilize years of political indecisiveness in the country, where voters have gone to the polls five times in under four years.
But Netanyahu’s return to power is not going to be without controversy while he is still standing trial in three corruption cases in which he faces up to 10 years in prison. His victory also required him to build on an alliance with far-right parties criticized for their treatment of Israel’s Arab minority population and further inflaming tensions with the Palestinians.
Israel’s extreme right parties saw unprecedented success in Tuesday’s election, with the Jewish supremacist Religious Zionism list set to win 14 seats, which is the highest number of seats for the radical right in the history of Israel.
Ben-Gvir, who was convicted in 2007 of supporting a terror organization and inciting racism, said he wants to be the minister of internal security, a post that would put him in charge of the Israeli police and policies around Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound.
His political partner, Bezalel Smotrich, said he wants to be defense minister, a role that also oversees Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza and approves settlement building. Smotrich has a history of making racist remarks about Arab citizens of Israel.
And the problem for Netanyahu is that even if he doesn’t like the two, he has no choice but to accept their demands because the far-right party is the only hope for Netanyahu to form a government.
To make matters worse, Netanyahu is still charged with corruption and he will have to rely on the two extreme right politicians to pass laws to stop his corruption trial. After all, they will have a lot of leverage to get the positions and the policies they want.
US may boycott the new far-right ministers
The Biden administration, which has seemingly been a proponent of peace and stability between Israel and Palestine, is now mainly concerned about Ben-Gvir and his party’s racist rhetoric. This is alarming because his coming to power will threaten the position of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as well as the Arab minority in Israel.
According to the words of two U.S. officials, there is no formal policy decision about Ben-Gvir yet, but the administration’s thinking in recent weeks was that they wouldn’t work with him. It is unclear if the administration is considering making the same decision about Smotrich or other members of their parties.
In this regard, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made a phone call with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas this Saturday and reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
He also discussed joint efforts to improve the quality of life for the Palestinian people and enhance their security and freedom in a call with Abbas on Friday, the statement said.
Blinken “underscored his deep concern over the situation in the West Bank, including heightened tensions, violence, and loss of both Palestinian and Israeli lives, and emphasized the need for all parties to de-escalate the situation urgently,” according to the Department of State.
The statement came against the backdrop of soaring violence between Israel and the Palestinians.
And this is where Washington seems to fear the most because the moment far-right politicians such as Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich come to power in Israel’s new government, violence between Israel and Palestine is the first thing that is expected to increase to alarming levels. And this is something that completely opposes Biden’s agenda on Palestine.