The results of the April 9 Israeli elections are in and Benjamin Netanyahu is set to get his fifth term as Israel’s Prime Minister. This is good for the PM, as it will help him deal with the corruption charges against him. However, Netanyahu’s reelection will be dangerous for both Israel and the United States.
For Israel, his reelection shows a further political shift to the right. Netanyahu and his Likud Party made a deal to get reelected in the form of offering the far-right Jewish Power Party two cabinet positions in exchange for its support. As reported by The Guardian, the Jewish Power Party supports the forced deportation of all Palestinians and making Israel a theocracy.
Many members are former followers of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who is the founder and leader of the Jewish Defense League and promoted many of the same views. His movement was banned in Israel for its open racism against Palestinians, and the Jewish Defense League was labelled a terrorist organization by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Prior to this election, no other party wanted to work with the Jewish Power Party due to its close ties to Kahane and his movement, however, Netanyahu has made a great effort to embrace the party and to support it.
A further threat to Israel is the U.S.’s recognition of the annexation of the West Bank at the behest of Netanyahu. This is a threat for a couple of reasons. As pointed out by The Hill, “while the military situation in the Golan has not changed, Trump’s decision fundamentally alters the political context there.” The first reason for this is that the move will prevent any kind of peace between Syria, who claims ownership of the Golan Heights, and Israel, who militarily occupies it.
As the Syrian Civil War goes on and Israel makes bombing incursions into Syrian territory, this will exacerbate an already existing conflict between Israel and Syria. The move not only prevents peace between Syria and Israel, but it also gives Iran and Hezbollah a pretext to remain in Syria and the Golan Heights to defend against the “Israeli threat.” The legitimacy behind such a claim is powerful enough that it could boost recruitment numbers among groups like Hezbollah as they will see Israel as a much greater threat.
The move also undermines the United States in three major ways. First and foremost, it undermines American efforts to combat Hezbollah by giving the group more justification for pushing people to want to fight for them. The second way is that it undermines the broader U.S. foreign policy. According to The Hill, the U.S. has vocally opposed the Russian annexation of Crimea by using the argument that Russia is interfering in Ukraine’s domestic affairs, then recognizing Israel for doing the same thing. This move also undermines America’s broader efforts to combat China and Russia interfering in domestic politics by doing this during a closed election, which helped swing the outcome.
Lastly, as per Al Jazeera, it helps politicize Israeli-American relations as Trump and Netanyahu both antagonize the left-wing of their nations and forge close ties with each other. This has served to marginalize the left-wing of Israel and could do the same in the U.S. It could also have the opposite effect and drive Americans to stop supporting Israel entirely because of politics. This second effect could be good for pushing Israel and Palestine to finally come to a conclusive deal on the entire Israeli-Palestine conflict, or it could just swing the conflict in the favor of Palestine. Neither of these are things Israel wants, given Netanyahu’s reelection.
A final threat to Israel caused by Netanyahu is his promise to annex the West Bank. The settlements there have long been considered illegal and Netanyahu’s annexation of them will just show his blatant disregard for international law. According to Reuters, 400,000 Israelis live in the West Bank compared to 2.9 million Palestinians. Reuters goes on, stating that Netanyahu has made inflammatory remarks only to backtrack later. If he were to go through with annexing the West Bank, however, it would destroy any chance of a two-state solution. It would also be illegal according to the Geneva Conventions, which ban the settlement of land captured in war.
With Netanyahu’s reelection, it might seem like there is nothing left, and that Israel is going to keep marching down a path that is drifting further and further to the right. However, as Vox points out, Netanyahu is not out of the woods yet. There is still an ongoing corruption case and if he cannot get a law passed that would make him immune to the case, then he could end up impeached, which could be Israel’s best option.