Israel’s “Government of Change”: Strengthening Colonization and Apartheid
Israel’s “Government of Change”: Strengthening Colonization and Apartheid
Israel’s broad government coalition includes right-wing settler extremists and, ironically, an Islamist party and the Zionist left. While many in the international community have praised its composition as an opportunity for peace, this government has further consolidated Israel’s state policies to deny Palestinian rights on both sides of the 1967 border, cementing a one-state reality of Jewish supremacy. Israel’s illegal policies include:
- Advancing annexation through colonial-settlement expansion and the transfer of more Israeli settlers into the occupied Palestinian territory, in addition to the demolition of Palestinian homes and livelihoods structures, settler terror, and various attacks by the occupying Power and its forces.
- Racist legislation that restricts fundamental human rights, such as banning the reunification of Palestinian families.
- The criminalization of Palestinian civil society, youth groups, and all forms of Palestinian resistance against Israeli crimes and violations.
- Destroying the prospects for a political solution through Israel’s systematic violations of its obligations under the UN Charter, resolutions, and international law.
- Establishing procedures that make Israel the arbiter in deciding who can teach in Palestinian universities.This is on top of other arbitrary measures, including imposing a travel ban on more than 10,500 Palestinians from the West Bank in 2021 alone.
Since the current Israeli government came into power on 14 June 2021 until 28 February 2022, the Israeli occupying forces killed 51 Palestinians, including 12 children, injuring, together with the settlers, approximately 8,880 Palestinians, of whom 1,216 children. Moreover, the occupation authorities demolished, confiscated, or forced the Palestinian owners to demolish 679 Palestinian homes and other livelihood structures in occupied Jerusalem and the Oslo-defined Area C, displacing more than 850 Palestinians, including 444 children, and otherwise affecting the livelihoods of over 10,670 people.
A Government against the Two-State Solution
There has never been an Israeli government that endorsed the two-state solution as part of its political platform, not even the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and the current government is not an exception. In straightforward terms, Prime Minister Naftali Bennet stated: “as long as I have any power and control, I won’t hand over one centimetre of the Land of Israel. Period.” According to extremists, and a settler like the Israeli PM, the entire land of historic Palestine is the "land of Israel," including both sides of the 1967 border.
Similar statements rejecting the two-state solution have been repeated by:
- Foreign Minister Yair Lapid: “We cannot be asked to take part in the building of another threat to our lives,” talking about the State of Palestine.
- Israel’s “Defence” Minister Benny Gantz: “two-state solution takes us to a former framework. It’s a phrase that gives the illusion of (a return to) 1967 with the borderlines... things that cannot happen.”
- Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked: “We do believe in economic peace to improve Palestinian lives and to do mutual industrial zones. But not a state with an army, definitely.”
Instead, senior officials publicly endorse the approach of “shrinking the conflict”, perpetuating Israel's belligerent military occupation of Palestine's land and people while prioritizing its colonial settlement enterprise. It is an approach that doesn’t recognize Palestinian rights and instead advocates for a "greater freedom" for Palestinians under Israeli occupation. With such an approach, Israel would still retain control of the main attributes of true freedom, including borders, airspace, and electromagnetic fields, while maintaining control over Palestinian lives.
Israel’s Colonization under the Bennett-Lapid-Abbas Government
The first settlement expansion plans for this government, and the first since President Joe Biden took office, consisted of 2,865 settlements units in 25 different settlements in the occupied West Bank; including (628) units in one settlement, “Eli”, between Ramallah and Nablus, (491) in Qalqilya, (399) between Qalqilya and Salfit, (395) in Nablus, (290) in Ramallah, (279) between Jerusalem and Hebron, (176) in Hebron, and (137) in occupied Jerusalem. Other advanced settlement units are in Salfit, Jenin, and between Jericho and the Jordan Valley.
According to figures obtained from Peace Now and Ir Amim (until 21 March 2022), the current Israeli government has advanced a total of 21,780 colonial-settlement units (in plans and tenders) all over the occupied territory of the State of Palestine, including 17,560 units in occupied Jerusalem alone. In response to international pressure, Israeli officials claimed a “freeze” over a colonial project for around 9,000 units over the Jerusalem (Qalandia) Airport, but it hasn’t been cancelled.
A noticeable focus is on the southern Jerusalem area, where infrastructure is being built to consolidate the separation of occupied Jerusalem from Bethlehem and to provide more incentives to Israeli settlers in the Hebron governorate to connect with West Jerusalem. On 5 January 2022, Israel announced plans to construct 3,557 more units in illegal settlements in and around occupied Jerusalem; 1,465 of them in the illegal colonial settlements of “Givat Hamatos” and “Har Homa” (Jabal Abu Ghneim). Also in the south, among the advanced colonial plans, is the Lower Aqueduct Plan, consisting of 1,465 new settlement units, 465 of which will be on the Palestinian side of the green line. These plans aim to create contiguity between the various settlements while conducting heavy projects of additional infrastructure (light rails, bypass roads, bridges, and tunnels) in cooperation with international companies. Prominent examples in the southern Jerusalem area are the Spanish companies INECO, CAF, and OSSA, including infrastructure encircling Bethlehem from the west through bypass Road 60.
Separating Jerusalem and Bethlehem, which have been interconnected for thousands of years, is not just a threat to a political solution with the fragmentation of the land and the people of Palestine, but a direct attack against Palestine’s cultural heritage that is already felt in both cities, leading to the division of families and disruption of religious celebrations. Such a separation has also restricted access to educational and health institutions and denied Palestinians the right to develop occupied Palestinian lands that Israel uses to benefit its ongoing colonial settlement project and annexation process.
As part of their political program, Israeli government officials have stated that they are expanding their colonial settlement plans to “ensure the national interest in Area C” of the occupied West Bank. Housing Minister Zeev Elkin (a settler himself on occupied Palestinian lands in the Bethlehem Governorate) for example, published a tender for 1,355 new settlement units in the West Bank. He also plans to invest almost 62 million euros in 21 new settlements in the Jordan Valley to double the Israeli population there by 2026.
This environment, created by the new Israeli government, has established incentives for more colonial installations (outposts) to be developed. In March 2022, Israeli settlers created a new installation in Battir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This comes in addition to an earlier installation nearby Al Makhrour Valley of Beit Jala, with support from the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Both aim at separating the western Bethlehem villages from Bethlehem City while creating the ground for effective annexation and territorial contiguity for colonial settlements in the western Bethlehem area, including from “Har Gilo” to “Neve Daniel” and “Efrat” settlements.
Similarly, in Jabal Sabih mountain located in the northern West Bank on lands belonging to the Palestinian villages of Beita, Qabalan and Yatma, the new Israeli government reached an agreement with the settlers to not demolish the illegal colonial installation of “Evyatar”. Throughout the past nine months, the Israeli occupying forces and settlers have attacked Palestinians trying to defend the mountain and protest Israel's ongoing violations of international law, killing nine Palestinians.
Further Threats to Palestinians in Occupied Jerusalem
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” PM Bennett said. He added: “It’s not the capital of other nations.” Aiming to consolidate its colonial grip on the city, the Israeli government has recently approved a new budget of NIS12.6 billion for 2022 to further alter the character and identity of the occupied Palestinian capital. The Israeli Ministry of Tourism and the “Jerusalem Development Authority” continue to promote the city as a Jewish city open to arrivals from all over the world and organize international conferences and festivals to normalize Israel’s occupation and the city’s illegal annexation. Furthermore, Israel's Jerusalem municipality has asked the courts to reactivate demolition orders for dozens of buildings, housing more than 1,500 Palestinians in the Al-Bustan neighbourhood of Silwan.
In 2021, Israel demolished 177 Palestinian homes and other livelihood structures (55% of which were forced self-demolitions) in occupied Jerusalem, close to the combined number of the previous four years (2017-2020). In total, 140 EU-funded structures have been demolished or seized, the highest number since 2016. This represents an increase of 15% and 43% from 2020 and 2019, respectively.
Other Violations Include:
- The continued military raids into Damascus Gate and surrounding streets in occupied Jerusalem have become an everyday reality. During a recent Palestinian national holiday celebrating the birth of Prophet Mohammad, the occupying forces beat passers-by with batons, chased after children and families, fired tear gas and sonic grenades at crowds, and arrested children.
- The continuous attacks and raids by the Israeli occupying forces and settlers on the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, terrorizing its residents; the Salhiya family, as an example, was violently uprooted and their homes demolished, as well as other facilities at the site, in addition to arresting several family members. Also, the Salem family and others have been subject to attacks by Israeli officials and settlers.
- Coordinated attacks against Christian and Muslim sites. The latest was advancing a project to expand a national park onto church-owned lands in occupied Jerusalem, sparking fierce opposition from local Christian leaders. The occupying forces regularly allow illegal settlers to storm into the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound.
Criminalizing Palestinian Civil Society, Youth Groups and all Forms of Resistance against Israel’s Colonial Settlement Enterprise and Apartheid Regime
Israel has a long history of labelling Palestinian organizations as “illegal” or “terrorist”. Under Israel's domestic Anti-Terrorism Law, 2016, the Israeli Ministry of "Defense" announced on 19 October 2021 an unprecedented, draconian, and authoritarian designation of six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations as "terror organizations." The targeted organizations are: Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man (Al-Haq), Bisan Center for Research and Development, Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC). Palestinian women, children, farmers' families, prisoners, and civil society activists are among the groups these organizations serve.
This decision wasn’t taken in a vacuum; it resulted from years of efforts by the previous Israeli administration in coordination with several proxy groups. Israel hasn’t yet produced any proof of its claims against these organizations, which makes it clear that Israel only intends to attack them for excelling in their efforts, including with regard to the prosecution of Israeli criminals at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Al Haq said in a statement: “It is no coincidence that Israel’s recent escalation of punitive measures against Al-Haq and fellow civil society organizations has come in the immediate aftermath of the opening of an International Criminal Court investigation into Israel’s crimes in the Situation in Palestine.”
Despite the lack of evidence, some countries decided not to refute Israel’s accusations, and in one case, the Netherlands, decided to stop funding one of those organizations. The Israeli government's characterization of Palestinian human rights organizations as "terrorists” confirms its hostility to any form of opposition to the ongoing crimes, policies, and practices it carries out against the land and people of Palestine.
Israel continues to criminalize Palestinian civil society, youth groups, and all forms of resistance. This includes the detention of several Palestinian university students accused of organizing lectures or hikes, as was evident in the arrest of dozens of Birzeit University students.
Despite the consensus among Palestinian, Israeli, and international human rights organizations on Israel's apartheid policies, many governments have sided with Israel or declined to consider the evidence, including Germany, Hungary, Austria, the United States, and the United Kingdom. However, none of the rebuttals to such reports have analyzed Israeli policies that aim at consolidating a system of Jewish supremacy on both sides of the Green Line. There have been several manifestations of this, including the coordination between Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and Israeli radicals living in “mixed cities” (Jaffa, Haifa, Acre, al-Lydd and Ramleh) for attacking Palestinians on both sides of the 1967 border. Additionally, it is seen in the efforts of the Israeli government to ban Palestinian family reunifications impacting thousands of Palestinian families, involving a Palestinian spouse carrying an Israeli ID and a Palestinian spouse with a Palestinian ID, or citizens and residents of Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran. On 10 March 2022, the Israeli parliament voted to continue banning reunifications between Palestinian families; only 15 members voted against it, primarily representing Palestinian parties plus Meretz. Israel’s minister of interior, Ayelet Shaked, celebrated the approval by tweeting: “Jewish and Democratic State 1 – State for all its citizens 0”.
What about the “Confidence Building Measures”?
Israel hasn’t engaged seriously in the US-led initiative to present several "Confidence Building Measures" (CBMs) to create the right conditions for meaningful dialogue. Instead, it has taken limited steps that are barely a partial implementation of signed agreements. One of the positive steps so far has been the process of issuing Palestinian identification cards to around 5,000 Palestinians living in the occupied State of Palestine, but this doesn’t change the fact that Israel's control over the Palestinian population registry prevents Palestinians from changing addresses between Gaza and the West Bank.
The Israeli Government still refuses to implement its obligations under signed agreements.
The current Israeli government has brought no “change” but rather a continuation of colonial and apartheid policies. There has been no doubt that they oppose a Palestinian state, political negotiations, or even the prospects of a two-state solution. Israel's fierce opposition to implementing its obligations under international law and UN resolutions is one example. The irony is that, rather than imposing sanctions on Israel for its violations, Israel has forged deeper ties with several members of the international community. Israel enjoys privileged relations with the United States and the European Union, as well as several other member states that refer to it as a country they "share values with". Therefore, there is no incentive for the Israeli government to change but instead to continue with its current policies. Essentially, the current international position regarding the Israeli government serves as an incentive to undermine a rules-based world system by creating precedents for how colonial settlement occupation, annexation, and apartheid can be tolerated depending on who commits them.
By refusing to negotiate within the internationally agreed parameters and refusing to implement its obligations under international law, relevant UN resolutions, and signed agreements, Israel puts at risk any Palestinian-Israeli political framework toward a just and lasting peace.
 UNOCHA oPt
 Peace Now, these settlement units were approved by the Israeli government until 27 October 2021
 Several colonial plans are backed by Israel’s Interior Minister, Ayelet Shaked, the occupation’s Jerusalem municipality, and in several cases in coordination with settler organizations.
 Al-Haq Calls on Third States to Publicly Condemn and Call for the Full Rescinding of Israel’s Designation of Palestinian Human Rights NGOs as ‘Terrorist Organisations,’ 2021, https://tinyurl.com/2s3acp6w