A patchwork government doomed to fail

June 16, 2021 - 11:2

TEHRAN – Israeli security forces set up several checkpoints in the occupied Jerusalem (al-Quds) to prevent Palestinians from heading toward the Al-Aqsa Mosque amid heightened tensions over the new Israeli government’s decision to approve a provocative Israeli far-right march in Jerusalem.

The parade, also known as the flag march, is widely regarded as the symbol of the continuation of state-level extremism in Israel. It has been delayed several times over fears that such a controversial move would prompt another conflict between the Palestinians and the Israeli regime.

The flag-waving procession was planned to take place on Thursday, but the Israeli authorities, taking into account Palestinian warnings, delayed the event, which was organized by Israeli right-wing groups. The organizers of the procession had planned to march through the walled Old City's Damascus Gate and into its Muslim quarter, a provocative move that prompted the Palestinians, including the resistance groups in the Gaza Strip, to warn Israel of the consequences of the procession should it proceed.

However, the Israeli government did not heed this warning, giving the far-right groups the green light to hold their controversial parade, which was held on Tuesday. 

The so-called flag march has always been a controversial move. It is held to commemorate the so-called Jerusalem Day, one which reminds the Palestinians of the day when they lost control over Jerusalem’s Old City during the 1967 war. Now, Israeli right-wing marchers want to roam the streets of the Old City to further remind the Palestinians of the roots of the oppression they go through almost on a daily basis.

This may explain why the Palestinians vowed to confront the flag march. The Palestinians published online calls to gather at the entrance to Damascus Gate in a bid to prevent the Israeli settlers from holding their provocative procession. 

The Israeli government wasted no time in standing by the side of right-wingers. Heavily armed paramilitary border police and other forces patrolled the streets of the city, set up checkpoints, and blocked off roads throughout East Jerusalem. Iron barriers were placed outside the entrance to Damascus Gate, Al Jazeera reported.

Palestinian factions in the occupied West Bank have called for a “Day of Rage” against the march. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called the march a “provocation.”

“This is a provocation of our people and an aggression against our Jerusalem and our holy sites,” he said. 

“We warn of the dangerous repercussions that may result from the occupying power's intention to allow extremist Israeli settlers to carry out the Flag March in occupied Jerusalem,” he added.
Tensions in Jerusalem also drew a warning from the UN envoy for the region. “Tensions (are) rising again in Jerusalem at a very fragile & sensitive security & political time, when UN & Egypt are actively engaged in solidifying the ceasefire,” Tor Wennesland said on Twitter.

The march could not come at a more sensitive time for the Israeli political class. A group of various and contradictory political factions has recently formed a government that is widely seen as a fragile cabinet. New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet has assumed office after putting together a bizarre alliance of right-wing, centrist, left-wing, and Arab parties that enabled him to oust Netanyahu. He took office on Sunday and ended Netanyahu's long rule.

The flag march posed the first test for the Bennet government. He heads a far-right party and diverting the procession could anger members of his religious base and expose him to accusations he was giving the Gaza Strip veto power over events in Jerusalem, according to Reuters. 

At the same time, allowing the nationalist procession to proceed could put the new, fragile government of Israel at the risk of going to a new war with the Gaza Strip in a precarious situation. 

The new government approved the march. After meeting with Israel’s police chief and other security officials, newly sworn-in Internal Security Minister Omer Barlev approved the march and said police were well prepared, according to a statement carried by Israeli media.

“[Great] efforts are being undertaken to preserve the delicate fabric of life and public security,” Barlev was quoted as saying.

The episode put the focus on whether the patchwork government of Bennet would finish its four-year term. Many analysts inside Israel and outside believe that this government will soon collapse under the weight of its contradictions.
Conventional political logic says that the new Israeli government will not last for the duration of its mandate. It is made up of very contradictory parties. It was formed from two factions that shared power equally: the Right bloc that includes 12 deputies, and a bloc seeking change which includes 49 deputies. In addition to the contradiction between the two blocs, there is a contradiction no less severe within the Lapid faction. It includes Avigdor Lieberman's far-right party and Meretz's far-left party, and between them are Benny Gantz's party, Labor and the party of Lapid himself as well as the Islamic movement. 

The only thing that united all these factions is a strong desire to get rid of Netanyahu. If hatred of Netanyahu proves sufficient for the government, getting the government to continue its work requires something more unifying than the hatred of the former prime minister, who now places much hope on the fragility of the current government.

The Bennet government is so fragile that if a deputy in the coalition fell ill with diarrhea and had to be absent, this government could fall. Netanyahu, who knows this full well, pins all his hopes on this fragility to return to power.

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