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Israel set for general election after collapse of weakened government

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Israel’s weakened coalition government has announced that it intends to dissolve the Knesset, setting the stage for the country’s fifth election in three years and a potential return to office for longtime prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A statement released by the office of the prime minister, Naftali Bennett, on Monday night said that “attempts to stabilise the coalition had been exhausted” and his fractious government, made up of eight ideologically disparate parties, will submit a bill next week to dissolve parliament.

If approved as expected, the legislation will force new elections and mean the foreign minister Yair Lapid takes over as caretaker leader as per an existing agreement.

In comments in a joint media conference after the unexpected announcement, Bennett said that dismantling the government “isn’t an easy moment”. “Over the past weeks, we did whatever we could to save this government, not for us, but for the benefit of the country,” he said.

“I held many talks and understood that if the Knesset did not dissolve within 10 days, Israel’s security would be severely harmed,” Bennett added, referring to the coalition’s inability to agree on the renewal of legislation relating to Jewish settlers in the West Bank before a deadline at the end of June.

Lapid, the incoming premier, praised Bennett as a friend and for the “responsibility he is showing today, for the fact that he is putting the country before his personal interests”.

Factions from Israel’s left, right, and for the first time, an independent Arab party, banded together a year ago as part of an ambitious coalition experiment in order to oust Netanyahu from power. The government has struggled to function, however, since losing its slim majority in April.

Monday’s decision was met in the Knesset’s corridors with surprise; Israeli media reported that neither the defence nor interior ministers were aware of the move in advance. It appears to be an effort to pre-empt the Netanyahu-led opposition, which had warned it would submit its own bill to dissolve parliament later this week.

Netanyahu said in a statement on Monday night that the coalition’s imminent collapse was “great news for millions of Israeli citizens” and that his conservative Likud party would seek to form a “wide, national government”.

Elections are expected in late October or November, after the conclusion of several major Jewish holidays. While Likud is leading in the polls, it is unlikely that the rightwing-religious bloc, nor the centre-left bloc led by Lapid, would win an outright majority.

Israel also held four inconclusive elections between 2019 and 2021 that were largely referendums about the corruption scandal-plagued Netanyahu’s ability to rule while on trial, in an unprecedented era of political gridlock.

Likud may now only be able to work with other parties if it promises to remove Netanyahu as leader.

The former prime minister denies wrongdoing. Three separate trials, into allegations that he sought preferential treatment for a telecom company, solicited favourable media coverage and received gifts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, are ongoing.

Bennett’s government can claim some successes during its short tenure: it formed the most diverse coalition in Israeli history; passed overdue budgets; guided Israel through the latter stages of the pandemic without ordering new lockdowns; and made amends with a judiciary much maligned by Netanyahu.

It has also largely dampened the tensions that last May led to a round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group in control of the Gaza Strip, as well as ethnically charged violence on the streets of Israeli cities.

A year after ousting, Israel’s Netanyahu gets ready for a comeback

An agreement to focus on areas of common ground in government and avoid divisive issues such as the occupation of the Palestinian territories, however, proved too difficult in practice – the coalition’s architects spent much of their time dangling carrots and wielding sticks at wavering factions threatening to quit.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, capitalised on the coalition’s disunity by encouraging the opposition to vote against every government-proposed bill in a bid to further paralyse his rivals.

The government lost its majority in Israel’s 120-seat parliament two months ago when a member of Bennett’s hardline Yamina party announced her departure over what she described as compromises made by the prime minister to keep the coalition afloat.

Recent divisions over the renewal of a measure extending legal protections for Jewish settlers in the West Bank caused fresh friction, with some Arab members of the coalition refusing to back it. Nationalist party New Hope, also part of the coalition, threatened to exit the arrangement if the government could not get the settler legislation passed.

The government’s supporters had hoped it could cling on until the close of the Knesset’s summer session in five weeks’ time.

As it stands, the dissolution may derail a visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories by Joe Biden, the US president, scheduled for mid-July. On Monday night, Israeli media quoted the US ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides, as saying that the president’s trip would take place as planned. Lapid is expected to host Biden during the state visit.

The new elections come as Israel deals with the aftermath of one of the deadliest waves of Palestinian terrorist attacks in years, clashes at Jerusalem’s holy sites, and an escalation in tensions with Iran.

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Article source: The Guardian | Naftali Bennett | 21 Jun 2022

2022-06-24 01:28:28.000000

Media Release: Free Palestine Melbourne statement on Israeli apartheid and forthcoming Australian Federal election

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Amnesty’s report, Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime against Humanity, demonstrates how Israel violates numerous basic rights of 1.9 million Israeli Palestinians, 5.2 million Occupied Palestinians and 8 million Exiled Palestinians, and in particular for 55 years has denied Occupied Palestinians the chance to vote for the ‘democratic’ government ruling them.

The Report has provoked disingenuous Zionist allegations of lying and anti-Semitism against anti-racist Jewish and non-Jewish humanitarians critical of Israeli human rights abuses.

Amnesty International joins other human rights specialists (Human Rights Watch, and Israeli B’Tselem and Yesh Din), human rights activists, and Jewish and non-Jewish South African anti-apartheid heroes (notably Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu) in exposing and condemning Israeli apartheid. 

Anyone denying the entrenched reality of Israeli apartheid is challenged to demonstrate how the repressive laws, regulations and the enforcement of these applying only to Palestinians in areas as diverse as (e.g.) marriage, travel and property can otherwise be explained. In Amnesty’s words, the Report “documents how massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions, and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinians are all components of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law. This system is maintained by violations which Amnesty International found to constitute apartheid as a crime against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statute and Apartheid Convention… Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem, Hebron, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights.” *

Denial of Israeli apartheid is notably espoused by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) to which Australia shamefully belongs with Coalition and Labor support. The IHRA’s weaponising of Holocaust denial to shield Israel from scrutiny and frank assessment has discredited its voice, and over 40 anti-racist Jewish organizations have condemned the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. 

Denial of Israeli apartheid, notably by the Australian and US governments and the Murdoch media though airy claims to ‘democracy’ and comparisons with nasty dictatorships, is unacceptable. The measure of whether or not Israel is an apartheid state is what is happening on the ground and Amnesty’s careful and detailed assessment clearly demonstrates that it is apartheid.

Decent anti-racist folk world-wide must (a) speak out to everyone they can, and (b) urge and apply Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel for its flouting of the international statutes on apartheid.  

In the 2022 Federal election, decent, anti-racist Australians should question all candidates about their position on Israeli apartheid, and vote accordingly.

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