Israel’s new Government: A Danger of Fascism?

The new coalition government is the most right wing government in Israel’s history. This is about much more than the individual Benjamin Netanyahu.


Media Reception in Germany

In Germany, the newly elected Israeli coalition government is being described as “extremely right wing”. But this says little about its character. Instead, reports generally concentrate on prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Reports say that because of the ongoing corruption trial against him, he has entered into a marriage of convenience with the far right in order to escape a prison sentence.

Even if it is true that the disempowerment of the Supreme Court has forced Netanyahu’s Likud to work with even more right-wing parties, the focus on individuals hides the driving factors behind the rightward shift in Israel.

Deeper roots

Neither Netanyahu nor fascist figureheads like Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich are solely responsible for the fact that there are now 61 extreme right members of the coalition. Given the parliamentary majorities after the election, we should look at the explanation of minister Miki Zohar from the Likud Party.

According to Zohar, Israelis would never believe the allegations of corruption levelled against Netanyahu because “the public in Israel is a public that belongs to the Jewish race, and the entire Jewish race is the highest human capital, the smartest, the most comprehending. The public knows what the prime minister is doing for the country and how excellent he is at his job.”

Netanyahu himself claims that he wants to and is able to restrain the more right wing forces in the coalition.

Religious Zionism

The electoral success of the religious Zionist list is the expression of a move to the right in Israeli society. The reason for this is not religion. The Jewish religion, like other religions, must not express itself in reactionary politics.

However, parts of the coalition are at their core fascistic. They want to limit the powers of the Supreme Court, to be able to use the “Nation State Law” to intensify the oppression and reduction of rights of the Palestinian people. Moreover, they also want to reduce basic democratic rights for Jewish women, sexual minorities and others.

The rise of Kahanism

What unites many parties on the electoral slate, and now in the coalition government, is their relationship to the ideas of Meir Kahane. Kahane was a right wing rabbi from the USA, who demanded the immediate expulsion of Palestinian people, and the violent establishment of a theocratic state “Greater Israel” from the Nile to the Euphrates.

The coalition parties Noam (sweetness) and in particular Otzma Jehudit (Jewish power) stand in the Kahanist tradition. Noam follows an aggressive politics that is hostile towards women and LGBTQ* people. Otzma Jehudit’s party programme declares its aims as “total war” for a “Jewish capitalism”. Various ministers and leading activists openly declare themselves to be fascists and have reacted positively towards Nazism.

Danger of Fascism

Otzmar Jehudit’s tactical orientation is not primarily based on involvement in parliament and government, but on its paramilitary street wing. Lehava, the street movement led by party leader Ben-Gvir, is carrying out a fight against business and personal relationships with non-Jews. Former police chief Almog Cohen organised a terrorist militia in the Negev, and now has a government post.

Ben Gvir’s control over the border police in the occupied West Bank and annexation of East Jerusalem has split a military parallel institution from the traditional police force. Two occupying soldiers in Hebron referred to Ben Gvir’s new “order” after they beat up a left wing Israeli.

Breeding ground for Israel’s move to the right

Because of the economic crisis, fascist forces in Israel have been gaining ground. Central economic pillars have suffered in recent times. Important IT branches, which are key for the national economy, have sunk in value by 34 billion dollars in the last few years. During the pandemic, unemployment was, at times, at 25 per cent.

The standard of living has deteriorated, in particular for the middle class. The Corona crisis and Russia’s war in Ukraine have weakened the effectiveness of the unilateral subsidisation of Israel by a range of great powers. At the same time, the formation of new Palestinian resistance groups and growing international pressure are cause for Israeli concern.

Settler colonialist context

Although the new Israeli government contains openly fascist forces, we should not forget that, irrespective of the current Zionist government parties, the Israeli State is a settler colonialist project which depends on the continued oppression and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

Voting in a government without fascist forces will not change this, as is shown by the whole history of the State of Israel. Only the end of Zionism, the elimination of all walls and checkpoints and the establishment of a common secular state can bring necessary justice.

Weak Opposition

Despite large protest actions in Israeli cities against the extreme right government, the actual power of the opposition movement should not be overestimated. The demonstrations bring together the contradictions, which can only be temporarily bridged by the rejection of Netanyahu.

The opposition consist not only of left-liberal small parties like Meretz, which have sunk into irrelevance. Leading parts of the anti-Netanyahu camp are also other right-wing extremists like Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the oppositional settler party Our Jewish Home.

The Palestinian question is also central for the future perspective of the settler community. But it cannot be solved by an Israeli movement opposed to Netanyahu. The new coalition government and the impending strengthening of fascist forces in Israel increase the urgency of building an international movement in solidarity with Palestine, which can confront its own governments.

In Germany, the fight against the criminalisation of Palestine solidarity, and the commemoration of the Nakba – the expulsion of Palestinians 75 years ago provide a good starting point for this.

This article first appeared in German on the marx21 website. Translation: Phil Butland. Reproduced with permission.