Israel’s Netanyahu races ahead with hard-line agenda

Jan 8, 2023, 8:37 PM | Updated: Jan 9, 2023, 9:39 pm
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's...

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)

(Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)

              Protesters march in Tel Aviv, Israel, against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)
            
              Israeli lawmakers Ayman Odeh, center right, Mossi Raz, second from right, and Ofer Cassif, right, march behind a banner reading "This is our home. This is our home," in Tel Aviv, Israel, to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)
            
              Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)
            
              Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convenes a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP)
            Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Interior and Health Minister Aryeh Deri at a weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool Photo via AP) FILE - Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister of national security in Benjamin Netanyahu's new government, attends a weekly cabinet meeting on Jan. 3, 2023, in Jerusalem. Israeli police broke up a meeting by Palestinian parents in east Jerusalem about their children's education, claiming it was unlawfully funded by the Palestinian Authority. Police said they prevented the meeting from taking place Sunday, Jan. 8, and that they were operating under an order by Ben-Gvir to shut it down. (Atef Safadi/Pool Photo via AP, File) Activists lock arms in Tel Aviv, Israel, to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Thousands of Israelis protested plans by Netanyahu's government that opponents say threaten democracy and freedoms. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov) Activists lock arms in Tel Aviv, Israel, to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Thousands of Israelis protested plans by Netanyahu's government that opponents say threaten democracy and freedoms. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov) A protester holds a Palestinian flag in Tel Aviv, Israel, at a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Thousands of Israelis protested plans by Netanyahu's government that opponents say threaten democracy and freedoms. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov) A protester holds a Transgender pride flag in Tel Aviv, Israel, to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Thousands of Israelis protested Netanyahu's government that opponents say threaten democracy and freedoms. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov) A protester holds a Palestinian flag in Tel Aviv, Israel, at a demonstration against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Thousands of Israelis protested plans by Netanyahu's government that opponents say threaten democracy and freedoms. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov) A person wears a knit cap in the colors of the Palestinian and Israeli flags in Tel Aviv, Israel, during a protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. Thousands of protesters turned up, days after the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in the country's 74-year history was sworn in. (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov) Activists chant slogans in Tel Aviv, Israel, to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. The placard at left reads: "The settler government is against me."; the placard at right reads: "housing, livelihood, hope." (AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government has wasted no time implementing its ultra-nationalist agenda, including adopting a seemingly petty ban on displaying the Palestinian flag and shaking the foundations of Israel’s democracy with a proposed legal assault on the Supreme Court.

After barely two weeks in power, the most hard-line and religious government in Israel’s history already is fomenting divisions at home and barreling toward conflict with the Palestinians and Israel’s allies abroad.

“We are not waiting, and I think the citizens of Israel already feel this,” Netanyahu told lawmakers in his Likud Party on Monday. “We formed a different government, with different policies, and we run things differently.”

Just days after taking office, his national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site — a hilltop compound revered by Jews and Muslims. While Ben-Gvir respected existing norms that bar Jewish prayer at the site, the visit was seen by many as a provocation given his past calls for giving Jewish worshippers greater access. It drew Palestinian condemnations and angry statements from the United States and Israel’s own Arab allies.

Netanyahu has also taken aim at the internationally recognized Palestinian leadership in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians successfully lobbied the U.N. General Assembly to seek a legal opinion from the International Court of Justice on Israel’s policies in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, and the Israeli government responded with a series of punitive measures.

Some of the steps have hit the Palestinians hard, such as withholding some $40 million in tax revenues and instead using the money to compensate Israeli victims of Palestinian violence. There are also plans to halt development in Palestinian villages in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank.

Other moves have been more symbolic, such as revoking the VIP privileges of top Palestinian officials and banning displays of Palestinian flags inside Israel. Israeli authorities over the weekend even broke up a meeting of Palestinian parents discussing their children’s school conditions in east Jerusalem. Israel claimed the meeting was funded by the Palestinian Authority but provided no supporting evidence.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Monday accused Israel of trying to “topple the authority and pushing it to the brink, financially and institutionally.”

At home, Netanyahu and his allies have unveiled a sweeping plan to overhaul the country’s justice system. The centerpiece proposal would give parliament the authority to overturn Supreme Court decisions with a simple majority. Critics say that would destroy Israel’s democratic system of check and balances.

Thousands of Israelis joined a demonstration over the weekend against the proposed legal overhaul, and former Supreme Court President Aharon Barak warned that the plan would turn Israel into a “hollow democracy.” Benny Gantz, a former defense minister who now sits in the opposition, warned Monday that Netanyahu was pushing the country toward “civil war.”

The Netanyahu policies are no surprise. After four inconclusive elections in just three years, Netanyahu was able to eke out a victory in a fifth round of voting by joining forces with a collection of far-right and ultra-Orthodox partners.

“We received a clear mandate from the public, to carry out what we promised in the elections. That’s what we will do,” Netanyahu said at Monday’s faction meeting.

The coalition is dominated by hard-liners who detest the Palestinians, oppose the idea of peace talks and reject the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Ben-Gvir, for instance, is a follower of a deceased radical rabbi who advocated mass expulsions of Palestinians from the country.

Convicted over a decade ago on incitement and domestic terrorism charges, Ben-Gvir is now a senior Cabinet minister overseeing the national police force. His partner, the hard-liner Bezalel Smotrich, is a settler leader who has been placed in charge of West Bank settlement construction.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, was willing to turn over authority to his partners because they share his animosity toward a legal system they believe is elitist and hostile. It is widely believed that the legal overhaul, spearheaded by Justice Minister Yariv Levin, a close confidant of Netanyahu, will eventually lead to dismissal of the charges against the prime minister.

“This is the most extreme government that Israel has ever had,” said Nadav Eyal, an Israeli commentator and author of “Revolt,” a book about the rise of populism and nationalism worldwide. “What we’re seeing right now is a manifestation of their views, and they are basically doing what they promised.”

“To a large extent, the international community and many Israelis did not understand that they intend to actually implement much of their portfolio, and they don’t have anything to counter them politically,” he added.

Nahum Barnea, a veteran columnist at the Yediot Ahronot daily newspaper, said Netanyahu appears to be “testing the waters” by allowing his partners to promote their hard-line policies while he tries to deflect international criticism.

But he said Netanyahu will face problems reining in his coalition partners “because he doesn’t have partners for a more moderate policy.”

He said Netanyahu has no interest in picking a fight with the Biden administration. “But Netanyahu is no dictator. He has to take into consideration these very strong voices.”

Levin said last week that his plans to weaken the Supreme Court are just a first stage of action. The government’s published guidelines call for more West Bank settlement construction, the legalization of dozens of illegally built outposts and eventually the full annexation of the territory.

Such proposals will almost guarantee a showdown with the U.S., the Palestinians and the broader international community. The West Bank already is in the midst of its deadliest burst of violence in nearly two decades.

So far, the Biden administration has issued a series of cautious statements stressing the deep ties with Israel while reiterating the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution.

The tone could sharpen when top officials — including national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken — visit in the coming weeks.

Israel’s new Arab allies in the Persian Gulf, particularly the United Arab Emirates, could also play a key role. The 2020 Abraham Accords between Israel and four Arab countries are among Netanyahu’s proudest accomplishments, and he has said he hopes to add regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia to the list.

The UAE criticized Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Jerusalem holy site, and according to Israeli media reports, delayed Netanyahu’s plan to visit.

But any damage to relations was minor. The UAE is hosting Arab and Israeli and American diplomats this week ahead of a major regional summit expected this spring.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Se...
Associated Press

Boeing to be arraigned in court over two Max jet crashes

Boeing representatives and relatives of some of the passengers killed in two crashes of Boeing 737 Max jets will meet face-to-face in a Texas courtroom Thursday, where the aerospace giant will be arraigned on a criminal charge that it thought it had settled two years ago.
11 hours ago
abortion Capital gains tax Olympia meeting legislature abortion...
Associated Press

Washington lawmakers hear testimony on 7 abortion bills

Abortion rights proposals have been front and center in Olympia, Washington, this week as state lawmakers heard hours of public testimony on seven proposals that would reinforce abortion access.
11 hours ago
FILE - The sun dial near the Legislative Building is shown under cloudy skies, March 10, 2022, at t...
Gene Johnson, Associated Press

Justices weigh effort to balance Washington state’s tax code

SEATTLE (AP) — An effort to balance what is considered the nation’s most regressive state tax code comes before the Washington Supreme Court on Thursday, in a case that could overturn a prohibition on income taxes that dates to the 1930s. Washington is one of nine states without an income tax, and its heavy reliance […]
11 hours ago
Space Shuttle Columbia team members remember the loss of the STS-107 crew during NASA's Day of Reme...
Associated Press

NASA marks 20 years since space shuttle Columbia disaster

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA marked the 20th anniversary of the space shuttle Columbia tragedy with somber ceremonies and remembrances during its annual tribute to fallen astronauts on Thursday. More than 100 people gathered under a gray sky at Kennedy Space Center to remember not only Columbia’s crew of seven, but the 18 other […]
1 day ago
FILE - The logo for Chevron appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchang...
Associated Press

Chevron’s buyback boosts stock, get rebuke from White House

Shares of Chevron climbed Thursday after the oil company announced that it would repurchase $75 billion of its stock, one of the largest-ever stock buyback plans. The company’s board also approved an increase of about 6% in its quarterly dividend, to $1.51 per share. Chevron Corp. said the buyback is effective on April 1, and […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Missouri Senate GOP backs bills on transgender children

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The leader of Missouri’s state Senate on Thursday said Republican senators are unified against letting transgender girls play on girls’ sports teams. Senate President Pro Tem Caleb Rowden’s comments to reporters on Thursday signal that restrictions on what teams transgender student athletes can play on have a good chance of […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Israel’s Netanyahu races ahead with hard-line agenda