Netanyahu’s Ministers Aim to ’Empty the West Bank of Arabs’

by Philip Weiss, published on Mondoweiss, January 19, 2023

Benjamin Netanyahu’s radical rightwing ministers’ agenda is to “empty the West Bank of Arabs.” And yet high Biden officials are meeting with Netanyahu today, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due out within a couple of weeks, all to give Biden’s blessing to the unbreakable” bond between the two governments — and perform what the State Department admitted yesterday is “triage” on the complete failure of the two-state solution.

The ethnic-cleansing agenda of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was discussed by Yossi Alpher, speaking to Americans for Peace Now this week. He said the two openly-racist politicians are awaiting the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and the resumption of full Israeli administration of the occupied territories.

“This, then, is where Netanyahu’s new far-right government comes fully into play: significant parts of it will argue in favor of annexing all or part of the West Bank without giving Palestinians equal rights. Israel would now officially be a bi-national non- democratic state. Under these circumstances, it is easy to imagine Bezalel Smotrich announcing, ostensibly to calm international, Arab and moderate Israeli sensibilities, that equal rights will be discussed after, say, a 20-year transition period–during which Israel will look for ways to empty the West Bank of Arabs. This is Smotrich and Ben Gvir’s agenda.”

Ben-Gvir is a discipleof Rabbi Meir Kahane, the militant Zionist who was banned from the Israeli parliament in 1985 for being openly racist. Kahane endorsed a policy of expelling Arabs (in this 1980 book, excerpted on Amazon): “Every day the Arabs of Israel move closer to becoming a majority. Are we [Israel] committed to national suicide? Should we allow demography, geography, and democracy to push Israel closer to the abyss?

Yehuda Shaul, an Israeli activist, yesterday gave a report on the coalition agreements between the governing parties showing that Netanyahu has agreed with the radical right to pour billions of shekels into roadbuilding in the West Bank so as to serve more illegal Jewish settlements and fragment Palestinian society. The plans includes building up Eviatar, a famous outpost deep in the West Bank stopped by an earlier government, and “suburbanizing” settlements in the Jordan Valley so that residents can easily drive to Tel Aviv.

Israel is paving the road for hundreds of thousands more illegal settlers,” Shaul says [emphasis mine]. “Will the international community do what it takes to uphold international law and push back against Israeli de facto annexation of the West Bank?

Yes what about the international community?

Netanyahu is fully responsible for Ben-Gvir’s rise from a marginal figure to a leader of the third largest party because he could serve Netanyahu’s ambitions (says Dan Meridor).

But Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with Netanyahu today and covered the far-right government with legitimacy.

The State Department was quizzed yesterday about why it is providing legitimacy to Netanyahu’s expansionism. Spokesperson Ned Price deplored the “cycle of violence” in the country, and cited 15 Palestinians killed since Jan. 1. But he then described the American role as “triage” so as to “de-escalate tensions” and preserve the two-state solution.

Now, of course our longer-term approach continues to be support for a negotiated two-state solution, a negotiated two-state solution that will bring into existence what we ultimately hope to see: Israelis and Palestinians living side by side equally, enjoying equal measures of stability, of security, of democracy, of dignity, of prosperity as well. Now, of course, this is a moment in some ways of triage. Our end goal is one that is quite far off. We recognize that at the moment.

Triage: So the hemorrhaging two-state solution must be kept alive. And who continues to die, no matter what treatment is applied? Palestinians.

Price also said that he had seen Rashid Khalidi’s op-ed in the New York Times, published Jan. 17, denouncing a likely site for the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem because it includes confiscated Palestinian land. Price said the U.S. has not chosen the site and that “history” of land would be a factor in such decisions, but:

Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. The last administration recognized that; this administration recognizes that.

So Biden embraces Trump’s policy.

In his op-ed Khalidi called on the U.S. to exert pressure against the new Netanyahu government, rather than “greenlight” the evictions of Palestinians to make way for Jewish settlers.

To be clear, U.S. opposition to Israel’s settlement enterprise and expropriation of Palestinian land has never been more than rhetorical. For decades, Washington has bemoaned Israel’s behavior while remaining complicit in its colonization by providing the country with more than $3 billion in military aid every year, much of which is used to oppress Palestinians.

Even a conservative Israel lobbyist is concerned about the Biden approach. Michael Koplow says now is the time to be denying Israel “political gifts.” Blinken should not go to Jerusalem.

Blinken’s visit also sends a message coming so early in his new government’s tenure that the U.S. has no real concerns with its makeup or policy plans, and will undoubtedly be held up by Bezalel Smotrich, Ben Gvir, and others as proof that their radical approach will have no impact at all on U.S.-Israel relations… [Blinken’s visit] creates a perception that there is a seal of American approval—whether intentional or not—for the very policies over which the U.S. has already expressed concerns.

Thanks to Matthew Taylor.

*Featured Image: From left to right: Yitzhak Wasserlauf, Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich, and Orit Strook at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem Old city on October 20, 2021 (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) 

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of

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