The recent formation of the Israeli government is not news, by any means. Like the election results, it more or less reproduces the previous Likud-led government, only minus the left-of-center Labor Party. As such, this government is going to be the most right wing and extreme in all of Israel’s history.
From a Palestinian perspective, there are many reasons why this government is very dangerous. First and foremost, its composition includes the Likud and other parties that are to the right of the Likud, dominated by the personality of Ariel Sharon who has shown himself extremely hostile to the historical compromises negotiated in Madrid and Olso, and also to the relevant international law that has so far formed the basis of the peace process. Some of Sharon’s coalition partners are even more extremist than he in this regard, and in the warped political prism of today, actually make him appear moderate.
The second reason this government is dangerous is that it coincides with an American administration that is also right wing and in some ways fundamentalist, adopting positions vis a vis the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that are comparatively the most biased positions and attitudes that we have seen from the US since the conflict began. The United States is the only country that has leverage over Israel, and therefore the joining of this Israeli government hand-in-hand with this particular US administration is an explosive mix–one encouraging the hostile and aggressive attitudes of the Israeli government, and ultimately very dangerous for Palestinians and the prospects for peace.
It is no coincidence that this Israeli government comes to power at a time when Palestinian extremist groups are also on the rise. These groups actively oppose the peace process, and their activities (especially attacks against Israeli civilians inside Israel that have been condemned by the Palestinian Authority) are providing this right-wing Israeli government the justification, ammunition and reinforcement for its violent policies. (And of course, the converse is also true: Israeli aggression against Palestinian civilians is strengthening the Palestinian opposition.) In other words, extremism is the name of the game, as the activities of Palestinian opposition groups gain momentum under the intense attacks of this Israeli government.
All of this occurs as the region approaches a war in Iraq, thus magnifying the dangers before us. While very few Palestinians are worried about the direct consequences of an Iraq war, we are all very concerned that this war will be exploited to increase the atrocities carried out against the Palestinian people and their leadership.
As such, this Israeli government comes as no surprise, but does bring with it significant warning alarms for the Palestinian people. Not only do we see before us grave dangers, but we are almost certain that this government will leave no opportunity for the resumption of the peace process. Its dominant ideology is deeply incompatible with the international legal requirements for peace, in particular the very heart of compromise: the exchange of land for peace. This government not only shuns that spirit, but is wholeheartedly and daily engaged in the process of consolidating its military occupation on Palestinian land.
Mr. Ghassan Khatib is a Palestinian political analyst and director of the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.
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