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Background on the issues in the Kairos Palestine statment of 30 April 2020
2 May 2020 – Israel has held an unprecedented three elections in a period of about one year. Israeli voters were voting for members of the Knesset, their legislature. The leader of the party that gets a majority of seats (over 50%) would become prime minister.
In each of the last three elections, no party got 51% or more of the seats. In that situation, the leader of the party that has the most seats will try to form a government. That is done by forming a coalition among two or more parties, with the result that the coalition would have 51% or more of the seats in the Knesset. When that is achieved, the agreed leader of that coalition can appoint a cabinet and he/she would serve as the prime minister.
After the first two elections in the last 12 months, Netanyahu’s party, Likud, didn’t have a majority, but they did have more seats than any other party, so Netanyahu tried to form a coalition that could govern. But with the opposing positions that potential partners had on some thorny issues, he never could quite reach 51% of Knesset seats in any coalition he could form - hence the need for the second and third elections.
During these elections, the biggest opponent to Netanyahu was Benny Gantz; he was leading a political alliance called Blue & White - Kahol Lavan in Hebrew. He and other prominent Israeli leaders in this alliance made it their primary objective to remove Netanyahu from leadership, his perceived corruption being the biggest complaint.
Netanyahu has been indicted with charges of corruption and may be put on trial. So the legal question of whether someone under indictment can serve as prime minister has arisen lately, but it looks like that is not going to stand in his way.
Blue and White was an alliance of powerful leaders who came together on the one thing they could agree about: the paramount goal of getting Netanyahu out of the government. That’s what they campaigned on and that’s what people voted for. And they had a lot of supporters, at times almost as many as Likud, Netanyahu’s party.
After the third election, it actually looked like Israel might have to have a fourth one! Both Netanyahu and Gantz were failing in attempts to form a coalition that could govern.
Then two shocks hit Israel/Palestine: the Covid-19 pandemic began and Benny Gantz did something that had not seemed possible. He joined with Netanyahu in forming a government. He said it was necessary because of the extraordinary circumstances of the health crisis. The two leaders drew up a complicated agreement including many political arrangements that may or may not be legal under Israeli law. The legal challenges have begun, and their Supreme Court will have to decide. If the court strikes down the agreement, a fourth Israeli election could be coming up.
One very controversial element of the agreement: it restricts the legislative work that the Knesset may do for the moment; they can deal only with things related to Covid-19. But an exception to that is included in the agreement, for matters related to annexing Palestinian territory in the West Bank.
The most talked about feature of the agreement: Gantz becomes Speaker of the Knesset for now and Netanyahu remains as the Prime Minister. After 18 months, they switch places and Gantz is supposed to become Prime Minister. Already a lot of has been written about how Netanyahu could get out of keeping that promise.
With the news of what Gantz had done with Netanyahu, the Blue and White party immediately disbanded. Gantz's allies and many others have condemned him for making a 'deal with the devil' and betraying his political party and the Israelis who had voted for Blue and White in order remove Netanyahu. As of this writing (2 May 2020), there have been major demonstrations against this agreement each weekend since the news came out on 20 April.
The whole year-long election cycle in Israel has been filled with mounting, incendiary racism against Palestinians, including the 20% or so who are citizens of Israel, more explicit, ugly, and extreme racism than we might think possible in a country that prides itself on being a democracy.
There has been much talk during these elections about political positions on the annexation of the West Bank. After the Trump Administration presented the appalling “Peace to Prosperity” plan early 2020, many in Israel and worldwide saw that as a green light from the US for Israel to formally annex occupied Palestinian territory in violation of international law. Turns out they were right - this week, the US State Department has said it would accept such moves by Israel.
Benny Gantz had flip flopped a bit on the subject of annexation, but it seems now that he is going to fall in line with whatever Netanyahu wants. So Israel may start formally annexing portions of the West Bank this summer. Exactly what changes on the ground formal annexation could cause for Palestinians in the West Bank is not clear, but it won’t be good.
Take away from me the noise
of your songs; I will not listen to
the melody of your harps. But
let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an
The board of Kairos Palestine raises an alarm regarding the consequences of the third failed Israeli election in less than a year. The resulting coalition entered on April 20, 2020, combines two of the most right-wing parties—Bennie Gantz’s Blue and White and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud—in a deal that directly threatens Palestinians’ freedom, health and human rights.
Described as an “emergency government” to address the impacts of COVID-19, and under the cover of a so-called “coronavirus cabinet,” the State of Israel is empowered to continue its policies of home demolitions, closures, arrests, child detention and settler violence.
• As a result of the political arrangement, Gantz gave up his campaign promise to amend Israel’s Nation-State Law which legalizes institutional discrimination in Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
• In the deal for a joint government, Gantz relinquished his commitment not to pursue annexation in the West Bank without international consensus, freeing Netanyahu to pursue his long-standing promise to annex substantial portions of the West Bank as early as July 1.
• While the “emergency government” may only take up legislation related to the corona virus, an exception was agreed upon to consider bills related to U.S. President Trump’s so-called Deal of the Century.
• According to international law, an occupier is mandated to see to the health and welfare of the occupied, but a lack of medical supplies, the complete blockade of Gaza, Israel’s control of the Palestinian economy, piracy and theft of Palestinian tax money and increased restrictions on movement put Palestinians at a greater risk of suffering from COVID-19.
For the past few years and especially during the administration of both Trump and Netanyahu the foundations of the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis have been sabotaged by the different policies and announcements that both administrations have unilaterally adopted. This annexation is only one of these moves. While we see that the equation of land for peace have lost its credibility and now look impossible for a two states solution, we at KP are committed for our people and churches to continue to struggle for the values that make for peace. Equality and Justice are our beacon. Thus, we urge all churches to support these values in every means. We urge them to say no to injustice of any illegal political move and building for a future of equality on this land between all the peoples, no matter what the political frame it brings at the end. We struggle for democracy and the natural human rights in this land, that no people are under occupation or discrimination or siege. That people enjoy their self-determination without prejudice to their religious, national or ethnic origin. This land has been blessed by its multicultural, multi- faithful and multi- national identity. This is how it should look like in any solution.
In this struggle, Kairos Palestine calls on people of faith and all those of conscience around the world to:
• Plead with your elected representatives to hold the State of Israel accountable to international law and human rights;
• Demand that your governments do not recognize Israel’s annexations of East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan, that your governments express their disapproval of Israel’s further plans of annexation, and that your governments pressure Israel with concrete measures to comply with international law and UN resolutions. All know what is due to the Israelis, and what is due to the Palestinians. Clear decisions are already taken by the UN. So why further waiting to apply what is already decided? Just comply with what you have decided. Take concrete measures which compel Israel to comply with your own decisions.
• Protect Palestinians’—and all people’s—right to resist, including Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, until Israel complies with its obligations as an occupying power.
Our plea is rooted in what is described in the Kairos Palestine document as “the logic of love”—a concern for the life and future of both peoples with a firm hope for the day when both oppressor and oppressed create a new society for all the people of the land.
Board of Directors
“Kairos Palestine, the most extensive Palestinian Christian ecumenical non- violent movement, is based on Kairos Palestine document: A Moment of Truth, launched in 2009, affirming that the Palestinian Christians are part and parcel of the Palestinian nation, calling for peace to end all suffering in the Holy Land by laboring for justice, hope and love, embraced by the Christian community, signed by all historically recognized Palestinian Christian organizations, and endorsed by the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem.”
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