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What role will ‘religious Zionism’ play in the next Israeli government?

Religious Zionism is a growing force in Israel and will have a strong presence in the next Israeli government.

The formation of Israel’s most right-wing government was announced after the country’s prime minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, called President Isaac Herzog to brief him.

While Netanyahu’s Likud party forms the core of the new government, far-right allies who are part of the ideological movement of “religious Zionism” will occupy prominent positions, influencing policy towards Palestinians living in the occupied territories, after who did well in the Knesset elections. or Parliament, in November.

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The presence of these politicians at Israel’s highest table would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but their rise is indicative of the growth of the Religious Zionist movement in Israel.

Let’s take a closer look.

What is ‘religious Zionism’?

  • Established as a secular nationalist ideology, Zionism was initially resisted by many Orthodox Jews. A significant proportion of Jews continued to oppose Zionism even after Israel was established in 1948, considering it did not adhere to Jewish law.
  • The ideological movement of “Religious Zionism” arose as a way to marry religious Jews to Zionism, away from the latter’s secular influences. While the Jewish people’s nationalist claim to historic Palestine was central to traditional Zionist thought, for religious Zionists the concept of the land of Israel “promised by God” to the Jewish people was central.
  • The movement has only grown as the Orthodox community has become more populous in Israel and the country has become more right-wing.

How did the ‘religious Zionist’ parties perform in the Israeli elections?

  • Nine settlers living in the occupied West Bank are expected to serve in the new Knesset, according to Israeli media, six of whom belong to an alliance of parties that ran together under the banner of “religious Zionism” during parliamentary elections.
  • The Alliance of Religious Zionism emerged as Netanyahu’s main coalition partner and is the third largest bloc in the Knesset.
  • The alliance consisted mainly of Bezalel Smotrich’s Religious Zionism party and Itamar Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party. Netanyahu had encouraged them to form a joint list for the elections to overcome the entry threshold of the Knesset. The bloc won 14 seats before splitting again, but they remain ideologically similar.
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What positions do the religious Zionist parties have towards the Palestinians?

  • Both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are outspoken about their intention to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and annex Palestinian land, and are known for inciting violence against Palestinians. Both are settlers living deep in the West Bank.
  • Smotrich has publicly called for the annexation of the occupied West Bank, while Ben-Gvir says he opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and has led settler raids on the Al Aqsa Mosque compound and Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the east. of occupied Jerusalem.
  • Ben-Gvir’s record also includes a 2007 conviction for incitement to racism against Arabs and support for “terrorism,” as well as anti-LGBTQ activism.
  • Earlier this month, Ben-Gvir called for the expulsion of Al Jazeera journalists from Israel, shortly after the network filed a formal request with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate and prosecute the murderers of its journalist Shireen. Abu Akleh in May.

What roles are Zionist religious figures expected to play in the next government?

  • On December 16, the incoming coalition government approved the first reading of legislation that would allow Smotrich to become “an independent minister” in charge of building settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank through the most influential authority there, the Ministry of Defense, which includes the Israeli army.
  • If passed, it would be the first time such a position has been created and would give Smotrich the power to further his goals of preventing Palestinian construction in “Area C,” the 60 percent of the West Bank under direct Palestinian control. israeli army. – While he expands the construction of illegal Israeli settlements there.
  • Meanwhile, Ben-Gvir will assume the key role of Internal Security Minister, who will oversee not only Israeli police operations, but also the Israeli Border Police. The latter is part of the forces that impose the occupation of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and control the military checkpoints in the West Bank.
  • Ben-Gvir will also have control over the Israeli prison system through the ministry.
  • With tensions boiling in the occupied West Bank over the past year, the effect of such figures on key influential positions is likely to only further inflame matters on the ground.
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