Editorial: Change is permanent

Israel’s new government has shown little interest in addressing the decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, but it may not have a choice. Jewish ultranationalists are already staging provocations aimed at splitting the coalition and bringing about a return to right-wing rule.

In doing so, they risk escalating tensions with the Palestinians weeks after an 11-day Gaza war was halted by an informal cease-fire. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s best hope for maintaining his ruling coalition which consists of eight parties from across the political spectrum will be to manage the conflict, the same approach favored by his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, for most of his 12-year rule. But that method failed to prevent three Gaza wars and countless smaller eruptions.

That’s because the status quo for Palestinians involves expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank, looming evictions in Jerusalem, home demolitions, deadly shootings and an array of discriminatory measures that two well-known human rights groups say amount to apartheid. In Gaza, which has been under a crippling blockade since the Hamas militant group seized power in 2007, it’s even worse.

They talk about it being a government of change, but it’s just going to entrench the status quo, said Waleed Assaf, a Palestinian official who coordinates protests against West Bank settlements. Bennett is a copy of Netanyahu, and he might even be more radical.

Bennett said little about the Palestinians in a speech before being sworn in on Sunday. Violence will be met with a firm response, he warned, adding that security calm will lead to economic moves, which will lead to reducing friction and the conflict.

Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg, a member of the dovish Meretz party, told Israeli television’s Channel 12 that she believes the peace process is important, but that the new government has agreed, “at least at this stage, not to deal with it.

The government faces an early challenge on Jabal Sabeeh, a hilltop in the northern West Bank where dozens of Jewish settlers rapidly established an outpost last month, paving roads and setting up living quarters that they say are now home to dozens of families.

The settlement, named Eviatar after an Israeli who was killed in an attack in 2013, was built without the permission of Israeli authorities on land the Palestinians say is privately owned.

Israeli troops have evacuated settlers from the site three times before, but they returned after an Israeli was killed in a shooting attack nearby early last month. Clearing them out again would embarrass Bennett and other right-wing members of the coalition, who already face fierce criticism and even death threats for allying with centrist and left-wing factions to oust Netanyahu.

 

NT Bureau