Meet Israel’s new government: a justice minister against law, a housing minister who led settlers

Israel’s new coalition government has been finalized, and is expected to be sworn in tonight.

The results of weeks of negotiations are awkward for those commentators and Israel advocacy groups who, after January’s election, suggested that the Israeli electorate had returned a “center” or even “center-left” government that would be open to meaningful peace talks.

Leaving aside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, who are the other ministers in the new cabinet? Here are some examples.

Naftali Bennett (Trade and Economics) has stated that “there is not going to be a Palestinian state within the tiny land of Israel,” referring to the whole of Mandate Palestine. He supports the annexation of 60 percent of the West Bank.

Yair Lapid (Finance) delivered an election trail speech in major West Bank colony Ariel, declaring that Israel will retain illegal settlement blocs. He has said that he wants to “be rid of” Palestinians in the West Bank and to “put a tall fence between us and them.”

Tzipi Livni is incoming Justice Minister, a strong contender for most ironic appointment award, given her expressed disdain for the law: the Palestine Papers revealed that she once said: “I am a lawyer … But I am against law — international law in particular. Law in general.” She is also a war crimes suspect.

Moshe Ya’alon (Defense) too has had to alter his travel plans to avoid an arrest warrant for war crimes, and has described “the Palestinian threat” as “harbor[ing] cancer-like attributes” — a racist statement he later reiterated in an interview with Haaretz. He has also expressed support for the West Bank settlements that are illegal even under Israeli law.

Yisrael Katz (Transport) has previously pressed for a change in road signs so that Arabic names would be a direct transliteration of the Hebrew, commenting: “This government, and certainly this minister, will not allow anyone to turn Jewish Jerusalem to Palestinian al-Quds.”

Gideon Sa’ar, incoming Interior Minister, made his mark as the previous Education Minister by targeting freedom of speech and political dissent.

Gilad Erdan (Communications and Home Front Protection) opposes the planned West Bank Palestinian city Rawabi, and has previously introduced a bill to give the courts power to revoke Israeli citizenship based on “disloyalty to the state.”

Uri Ariel, incoming Housing Minister, is in an ideal position to advance the colonization of the West Bank. Ariel has himself helped found illegal settlements, and has already rejected the idea of a so-called construction “freeze.”

Uri Orbach (Minister for Senior Citizens Affairs) has attacked human rights group B’Tselem for giving cameras to Palestinians to record abuses as “[Jews] trying to catch the soldiers of their own country doing bad things by handing out cameras to our enemies.” In 2008, Orbach wrote: “We, the Jews, have no intention to commit suicide and lose our Jewish State in the name of our democratic values.”

Uzi Landau (Tourism) is another supporter of the more extreme Jewish settlers, and has attacked Palestinian community leaders as “an anti-Semitic group that seeks to undermine our right to exist here.”

Yair Shamir (Agriculture) opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, and regarding the occupied West Bank, commented: “The Arabs there who call themselves Palestinian, they’ll stay or go, but we’ll definitely stay. We need to keep building in the land.”

Limor Livnat (Culture and Sports) has urged Israeli filmmakers to exercise self-censorship in order to avoid presenting a bad image of the country abroad. In 2008, Livnat drafted a bill to make Hebrew Israel’s exclusive official language so as to oppose efforts by Palestinian citizens “to turn Israel into a bi-national state.”

Yuval Steinitz (International, Intelligence and Strategic Affairs) has supported the denial of citizenship to Palestinians marrying Israeli citizens in order to protect “demographic balance.” He also believes that Israel will need to maintain control of “security zones” beyond even the (illegal) route of the Apartheid Wall.


Ben White

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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.