New Israeli government, same old smoke and mirrors

Unless one seeks the truth, it is easy to fall for the hasbara-messaging such as ‘shrinking the conflict’ or ‘economic peace’ that Bennett keeps repeating.

Sam Bahour


Naftali Bennett, Israel’s prime minister (Source: U.S. Embassy Jerusalem)

ISRAEL’S NEW GOVERNMENT is in full swing, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at its head. Now that Bennett has made his maiden trip to the White House as prime minister, one can confidently, albeit regretfully, acknowledge that nothing has really changed except the personalities.

In Middle East politics, personalities are a sideshow. They can change frequently or remain in place for decades, and their global legitimacy standing will be the exact same. Being viewed as legitimate should not be confused with having popular legitimacy that allows one to lead.

For very different reasons, Israeli and Palestinian leaders face this same dilemma; they are viewed as legitimate from abroad but fall short of minimum popular legitimacy at home to move the needle on any substantial issue, let alone the stubbornest needle of all, that of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Bennett allowing himself to come to power on the back of the United Arab List says more about political opportunism than it does about Israel’s democracy.

Fifty-four years into this occupation, and counting, Bennett has entered the scene to announce loud and clear what every previous Israeli government since its founding has said or stood for — no Palestinian state. Like President Trump, Bennett does not mince his words, and as with Trump, that does not mean his words are worth any more than the next news cycle’s headlines.

Bennett is a known commodity; once the head of a prominent Jewish settler group, he served as Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Minister of Education, Minister of Religious Services, Minister of Defence, leader of the New Right party and leads The Jewish Home party, Yamina. His politics and values are all too known.

No one in Palestine was waiting for a new-and-improved Bennett to come forward after becoming…