Whenever news from Palestine flashes across our newsfeed, it’s tough to shake that sinking feeling of defeat it brings. Unfortunately, the ushering in of Naftali Bennett as the newly-minted Prime Minister of Israel may serve as a reminder that just when you think things can’t get worse, they do.
Bennett, who made his millions through developing anti-fraud software, is a right wing nationalist whose aim seems to not only maintain the apartheid stronghold that Israel has been enforcing over Palestinians for decades, but to further escalate the violence against Palestinians and annexation of Palestinian land. He is set to be at the helm of Israeli policy for the next two years, before passing the baton the next member of Parliament taking up the role of Prime Minister.
This follows as per the coalition agreement reached just a few months ago between minority parties in the Israeli parliament that saw Netanyahu ousted from his role as Prime Minister after a historic 12-year-long run. Here are five reasons why Bennett could be worse for the Palestinian cause than Bibi.
bennett doesn’t believe in a two-state solution
While Bibi was at times still open to coming to the table and trying to broker a two-state solution, according to Bennett this can and will never happen. Following the 2016 U.S. Presidential win by Donald Trump, he was even bold enough to post a tweet forecasting “The era of a Palestinian state is over!”
Citing the Bible as his source, Bennett believes that the region occupied by Palestine and Israel is land that Allah has promised to the Jews, so any reality where the entirety of Palestine is not extinguished would be a religious abomination. Isn’t it pretty convenient that he chooses to forsake the Torah for the Bible, but looking at what the Quran has to say on the matter is one step too far?
He plans to accelerate annexation fast – like Abu Dhabi Grand Prix fast
While Bibi didn’t show much reverence for the Oslo Accord of 1995, Bennett plans to metaphorically set fire to the historic agreement and dance around the flames. With ambitions to annex around 62% of the West Bank alone, he is advocating that Israel completely occupy Area C of the West Bank, which would force West Bank-based Palestinians to concentrate in Areas A and B, resulting in desperately overcrowded living conditions such as those currently existing in Gaza. Most desirably, this power play could also see scores more Palestinians forced to flee abroad to neighboring countries, as Bennett has made it very clear that he plans to not only continue this aggressive annexation under his administration, but to advance in these efforts with more brutality than ever before.
He doesn’t give a damn what America or anyone else thinks
In diplomacy, there are various tools that countries use to force other nations to do — or not to do — exactly what they want. These mechanisms, such as sanctions or threats to pull aid, work quite effectively. Where they don’t tend to work well is usually in regions where there are right-wing nationalist leaders in charge. While Bibi was pretty far-right nationalist-leaning himself, in many respects, he doesn’t even begin to hold a torch to Bennett, who would viciously criticize Bibi when he abandoned these extreme ideals in favor of more moderate-leaning policy objectives to please the international community (and by “international community”, I mean America).
Bennett has made some pretty sensationalist appearances on both national and international media outlets in his career, where he boldly and shamelessly defends his racist and genocidal political objectives. His latest response as Prime Minister to the U.S. frozen dessert magnate Ben & Jerrys’ move to rescind the sale of their products in occupied Palestinian Territories by the end of 2022 speaks volumes to how he will receive policy criticism going forward. Once this news had hit the press, Bennett swiftly hopped on a call with the CEO of Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, to protest this action, calling it “anti-Semitic” (bet you didn’t see that one coming) and promising serious legal implications for the company’s attack on Israel. He then also instructed the Israeli envoy to the U.S. to lobby 35 US states to place sanctions on the sale of Ben & Jerry’s in their jurisdiction under anti-Semitic laws in those respective states. Clearly Bennett is ready to fight hard and dirty to get what he wants.
Unlike Bibi, Bennett is not a career politician. Before entering the public sphere in 2006 where he served as Chief of Staff for the Netanyahu administration, Bennett was creating cutting-edge software out of the Big Apple. While digital warfare is nothing new in this conflict, a real concern exists that given Bennett’s resume, he may find creative new ways to further surveil, suppress and oppress Palestinian voices on the ground. From a policy perspective, we should look out for programs incentivizing this kind of “digital apartheid” in Israels’ Silicon Wadi.
He doesn’t like Arabs, and he isn’t afraid to say so
It’s shocking that in this day and age so many political leaders can be quoted saying outright racist comments and still be elected to office. Bennett is no different. When speaking about his time serving in the IDF, he was quoted saying “I have killed a lot of Arabs in my life and there’s no problem with that.” When questioned on his stance toward the “shoot to kill” policy against children who breach the border at Gaza, he replied “They are not children — they are terrorists.”
If this isn’t enough, Prime Minister Bennett has continued to allow many right-wing protests to take place during his term, with video footage showing children and adults passionately chanting “Death to Arabs” without expressing any condemnation of these actions. This racist attitude is particularly dangerous given the brewing tension within the Middle East, with experts predicting war to break out soon. Should Bennett still be at the helm of the Israeli administration when this occurs, there’s no telling what gruesome steps he may take given the opportunity to open fire on such a large concentration of innocent Arab and Muslim communities.
Only time will tell if Bennett will succeed in achieving his bold political ambitions, or whether members of Israel’s coalition leadership will force him to curtail these genocidal objectives – for the sake of the future of Palestine, let’s hope it will be the latter.