We often hear that the current Israeli cabinet is the most extremist government in Isreal’s history and that, with a more moderate one Israel would be more receptive to the establishment of a Palestinian state. In fact, Israeli policy in this regard has remained unchanged, regardless of the character of the government in power. Every government may have its particular way of implementing the policy, but the policy itself remains unchanged. At its heart is the belief that all the land of Palestine (and even more) belongs to the Jews and that Jews from anywhere in the world have the right to settle in any part of that land. It follows that they have the right to expel any Palestinians they find in the area they call Eretz Israel (the “Land of Israel”), to demolish their homes and to seize the property handed down to them generation after generation. The policy is rooted in the very philosophy that underpins the establishment of the Israeli state. So it is no surprise that no government that has come to power since then has thought of revising it.
This policy is also the source of the problem of the Jewish settlements that fill the occupied Palestinian territories today and physically impede the establishment of the Palestinian state on the land on which it was meant to be established. True, some governments that were not described as extremist held that some - but certainly not all - of these settlements were illegal. But, like their more extremist counterparts, they did nothing to dismantle them or prevent further construction. Today, there are 500,000 Jews from around the world living in settlements in the West Bank and another 300,000 living in the settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. All Israeli governments, regardless of where they fall on the “moderate” to extremist scale, were responsible for building these settlements. The problem with these settlements is not limited to the land they have expropriated from Palestinian people or the space they occupy on the territory allocated for the Palestinian state. On top of this is the general fanaticism of the settlers themselves, who are born and raised in these settlements. Their epitome is the overtly racist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, the product of a settlement in the Golan who triggered an outcry with his call to “wipe out” the Palestinian village of Huwara.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 March, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly