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In Israel, the triumph of the far right “will undoubtedly aggravate tensions”

Itamar Ben-Gvir had a particularly pleasant election day. This Tuesday, November 1, the far-right deputy strolled through the Israeli settlements of the West Bank, to the applause and anti-Arab cries of his supporters. As evening fell, after the announcement of the first results, Ben-Gvir gathered his supporters in Jerusalem to celebrate what looks like a resounding victory for his supremacist movement: radioactive for thirty years, he now wins 14 seats in the Knesset and stands out as the country’s third political force. This score should allow his ally Binyamin Netanyahu to return to power through the front door, and Ben-Gvir to make himself essential in a future government.

“Calm down, I’m not Prime Minister,” Ben-Gvir tempered in front of his supporters, displaying a broad smile. Before adding: “For now…” According to witnesses, the crowd responded by singing their favorite refrain, “Death to the Arabs”. According to the party, she only sang “Death to terrorists”.

“Netanyahu has created a Golem”

This Wednesday, Israel wakes up to an unbelievable situation: the probable return to power of Binyamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister for twelve years in a row before being ousted last year, finds himself eclipsed by the breakthrough of Jewish supremacist parties , at an unprecedented level in Israel. “The far right has always played a very marginal role in Israeli political history, but Netanyahu dubbed it and legitimized it, underlines David Khalfa, researcher at the Jean-Jaurès Foundation. Barely a year ago, Ben-Gvir was not ministerable, therefore not frequentable. To return to power, Netanyahu played the sorcerer’s apprentice and created a Golem, a kind of monster of which he will now be the prisoner.

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With 14 seats in the Knesset, the party of Ben-Gvir and his ally Bezalel Smotrich becomes essential to form a government. “We must put into perspective the importance of the Israeli far right, which represents less than 10% of the electorate, but not its danger, continues David Khalfa. Full proportional representation gives these parties significant power and their meteoric rise raises questions.” The two men already see themselves at the head of important ministries, Internal Security for Ben-Gvir, Defense for Smotrich. But Netanyahu, despite his fiery rhetoric, will not give in so easily to his new partners and will negotiate each position, if necessary by offering them to the opposition.

This score of the extreme right, however, risks upsetting the fragile political and social life in Israel. In the campaign, Ben-Gvir spoke out so that the army and the police could open fire more easily on the Palestinians. “They are throwing stones at us, that we are shooting at them”, notably declaimed the deputy, a weapon in his hand. His party militates for a total annexation of the West Bank, without granting the right to vote to Arab residents, and “tolerate” only non-Jewish citizens, encouraged to leave Israel if they disagree with the authorities. A follower of the extremist rabbi Meir Kahane, he has long made his own the slogan “No Arabs, no attack”, before trying to de-demonize himself in recent years.

This speech, now on the front of the stage, aggravates an already explosive situation in the north of the West Bank. For the past week, the region has been experiencing major demonstrations, particularly in Nablus, after the death of several Palestinians in raids by the Israeli army targeting paramilitary groups. “The security situation is already very fragile, with part of the Palestinian youth who have fallen into armed struggle, points out David Khalfa. The results of these elections will undoubtedly aggravate tensions, but Netanyahu knows how to be cautious when he is Prime Minister, and he has no interest in making decisions that would spark general violence.”

If he decides to form a coalition with the far right to govern, the ghostly Netanyahu will have a lot to do to prevent Israel from sinking into a spiral of hatred. He will have it, whatever happens, largely fed.


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