Madar organizes a Panel titled “The Annexation is Faltering but was not Removed from the Agenda”
Ramallah: Israeli Knesset member from the Joint Arab List, Aida Touma, and prominent researcher Antoine Shalhat, saw that the protests taking place in Israel will likely have a dramatic impact on the political scene and the future of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Although the Annexation Plan is stumbling, it has not been removed from the agenda.
The panel, which was held online on Monday, 27 July 2020, was titled “Between the Annexation Plan and the Protests: What is the Fate of the Fifth Netanyahu Government?”. It was organized by RLS partners the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR) and was facilitated by MADAR’s General Director Ms. Hunaida Ghanem. During the panel, the two speakers emphasized that the protests in Israel do not necessarily mean the fall of Netanyahu from the helm of power but may mark the beginning of the end of his era.
MK Touma pointed out that Netanyahu is seeking to create a political reality that no future Israeli leader can reverse later, hence the need to remain vigilant despite the stalemate in the Annexation Plan.
According to Aida Touma, there are four crises facing Netanyahu at this point, which led him to lose the Israeli public’s confidence in his ability to deal with problems.
The first crisis is the health and economic problem emanating from the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. MK Touma notes that “with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and its various consequences, the Netanyahu government entered into a real crisis; and especially because the government did not understand that it cannot continue to deal with this crisis with the old-fashioned economic tools of pressure on citizens, hence the Israeli public started running out of patience”.
She added that the health crisis in Israel is expected to exacerbate in the coming months, and the effects of the economic and social crisis will be seen much more clearly.
The second crisis is the court cases faced by Netanyahu. MK Touma asserted that “starting from January, Netanyahu will have to appear before the court three times per week, hence there were many calls to stop him from running state affairs and be removed from the Prime Minister’s position”.
According to MK Touma, the third crisis faced by Netanyahu is the democratic crisis in Israel, where Netanyahu took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to strengthen his grip on power and establish a dictatorial rule in every sense of the word.
As for the fourth crisis, it is related to the Israeli government coalition which is characterized as being weak and volatile.
According to MK Touma, Netanyahu did not succeed in providing any real solutions to the health and economic crisis, hence he is afraid and is trying to alleviate people’s anger by providing financial assistance. However, she stressed that Netanyahu has two possible solutions that he can resort to: i. the dismantling of the government coalition and introducing a narrow government, or ii. adopting the option of war.
On his part, researcher Antoine Shalhat emphasized that the protests are mainly political and they focus on removing Netanyahu from office and making demands on his government which they deem as “corrupt” and “disconnected from reality”.
Shalhat noted that the general prevailing tone in these protests is the liberal egalitarian tone of the young Israeli generation who carry a new spirit and are suffering from unemployment and hopelessness.
He added that, although these protests will take some time to achieve the goal of toppling Netanyahu, they do have some other political demands. However, the following question arises: Even though the toppling of Netanyahu is necessary on both the internal and external levels, what is the alternative if that happens, and what policy will that alternative adopt?
Shalhat also pointed out that “when protests are taking place in Israel (and especially social ones), we renew our hopes for a change inside of Israel, but it is difficult to predict the extent of this change”.
According to Shalhat, the Palestinian aspiration for a political change inside of Israel has a large number of risks. Of course, the Palestinians support the protests but we should not take risky steps on the basis of their potential success, i.e. we should not base our actions on wishful thinking.
He also asserted that “it is clear that the Annexation Plan is faltering but we cannot say that it has been removed from the [Israeli] government’s agenda, and we must never underestimate the gravity and seriousness of this plan”.
Shalhat noted that the Annexation Plan will be put on the table once again because there is a difference between the Israeli sovereignty being a de-facto power and it being governed by a law that stipulates annexation, i.e. a “legal” annexation. This will have tremendous implications on the level of controlling Palestinian properties.
Moreover, he mentioned a number of Israeli and American factors behind the faltering of the Annexation Plan but he did not rule out its activation in the future; and especially if there is more pressure from the [Israeli] settlers or an intervention by U.S. President Donald Trump to accelerate the Annexation Plan’s implementation to boost his electoral popularity.
Shalhat also highlighted that Netanyahu is in dire need of annexation to solidify his legacy and political future because if he decides to stand for elections once again, he, too, will need to enhance his political base.