In an article published by the pro-Zionist, anti-Arab Washington Post, Mairav Zonszein argues that the current Israeli government is not as different from its predecessor led by Benjamin Netanyahu as it would like the world to believe. Naftali’s government is in fact following the previous government’s same policy albeit with silk gloves on. In an attempt to repair what was ruined by Netanyahu’s arrogance with the European countries, Yair Lapid, the current Israeli foreign minister, stated last July that Israel would no longer immediately declare that anyone who disagrees with its anti-Semite and Israel-hater, but that is not how you handle a country’s foreign relations. Zonszein clarifies that when one company announced that it won’t sell its products in the illegal settlements located in the occupied Palestinian lands, Lapid himself described the decision as anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. At the same time, Bennett’s government continues with the expansionist settlement policy adopted by Netanyahu, which is based on forcing Palestinians out of their lands and destroying their homes.
On the other hand, the education minister announced her commitment to suspending Israel’s award to mathematics professor Oded Goldreich due to his endorsement of boycotting the Israeli Ariel University located inside one of the occupied West Bank settlements. Likewise, the deputy-foreign minister cancelled a meeting scheduled with Belgian officials following Belgium’s announcement that it will put a label on the Israeli products manufactured in settlements, not with the aim of boycott, but in the interest of transparency. The Israeli Foreign Ministry quickly issued a statement describing the Belgian decision as anti-Israel, ignoring the current government’s alleged policy of improving Palestinian lives and Israeli relations with Europe. What the article demonstrates is that the Israeli government considers the settlements built on occupied Palestinian land an inseparable part of Israel.
Netanyahu’s government retreated from annexing the occupied West bank to Israel after declaring its intention to do so. But Bennett’s government uses the West Bank settlements to behave as if it were already annexed; any boycott of the settlements is a boycott to Israel itself. This makes the present government worse than its predecessor. While Netanyahu’s government was clear in its policies – whether we agreed or disagreed with it – the present government is characterised by evasion and concealment of its intentions under the false guise of moderation. It also announces its desire to reach a settlement without demonstrating any wish to approach the negotiating table. All this occurs while the situation is worsening in the occupied lands, where a few days ago extremist settlers stormed the Aqsa Mosque under the protection of the security forces. The Palestinians’ lives are growingly more miserable by the day at the hands of a racist Jewish government that doesn’t accept the Gentiles, be they Muslim or Christian.
Indeed Christians in Jerusalem are facing mounting persecution aimed at the reduction of their presence as well as the Judaisation of the holy lands which have been multireligious throughout history. Christian leaders in Jerusalem warned recently that their communities are facing the threat of expulsion from the Holy Lands. Father Francesco Patton, the Catholic Church’s Custos of the Holy Lands and guardian of the Christian holy places in the Holy Land, wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph saying that the presence of Christians in Jerusalem is precarious and their future at risk, adding that their lives have become unbearable due to the radical moves by Israeli groups aimed at making the old city of Jerusalem free of Christian existence, including the Christian quarter itself. Some churches and holy sites were desecrated and vandalised and systematic crimes against priests, monks and worshippers go unpunished. Patton mentioned in his article that Christians used to constitute 20 per cent of Jerusalem’s inhabitants, and now they don’t exceed two per cent.
Patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem issued a joint statement warning about the danger represented by radical groups, which they said aim at diminishing Christian presence in Jerusalem and the Occupied Territories. Similar warnings came from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in a joint article published in the Sunday Times with Hosam Naoum, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, in which they warned of what they called a historical tragedy now unfolding. They said that what drove them to write the article was the joint statement issued by the Jerusalem churches. However, the Israeli government rejected the statement and described it as leading to violence and harming innocent people.
Perhaps there really is no difference between the current government and its predecessor.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 January, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.