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Israel facing a “one of a kind” crisis that could affect the entire Middle East

Jerusalem24 – In these days of turmoil, both Palestinians and Israelis seem to agree on one point: the Israeli community, its political systems, and its government are facing their deepest crisis since the creation of Israel in 1948.

“Israel is facing a crisis that could be one of a kind,” Adel Shadid, Israeli affairs expert and writer, tells 24FM, Jerusalem24’s sister station. “The issue today isn’t about the elections, forming a government, or about Netanyahu like it has been the past three years. It is way bigger than all of this, and than Netanyahu – who will not be able to find a way out this time.”

The whole of the Israeli community is more divided than ever, says Shadid. “Facts on the ground tell us that 75 years weren’t able to fix the interior cracks that are present in different dimensions.”

These cracks are manifest in ethnic tensions, in the long-simmering clash between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi Jews, and the tension between secular and religious Israelis, says Shadid.

“All of these developments point to different possibilities that might include internal clashes.”

Demanding a “democratic-Jewish-national” state

Street protests across Israeli cities, drawing six-figure numbers of participants, have been a hallmark of Israel’s new extreme right-wing government so far. Chief among the protestors’ concerns is the Netanyahu administration’s apparent intention to “eliminate” the judicial system.

Shadid has no doubts this intention is concrete.

“This is frankly very clear. The agenda of the current government and its components, specifically the Religious Zionism party, have declared war on the judicial system in Israel, especially the Supreme court.”

The judicial system believes that the strong internal and popular opposition to such plans – including the weekly Saturday protests as well as a one-hour strike held on Tuesday by employees of Israeli high-tech companies and startups – are a crucial card against the government’s project of eliminating it. Shadid believes that universities, the business community, and other segments of society will follow suit.

But Shadid cautions that the Israelis joining these protests are demanding an Israeli “democratic-Jewish-national state – not a ‘democratic’ one.”

Business as usual for Palestinians – but not for the wider region

Faced with the right-wing threat to their judiciary as well as LGBTQ and other minorities, Palestinians (whether under occupation, or with inferior status and rights) don’t even come into the picture for the protestors, argues Shadid.

“Any confrontation with the Palestinians receives a majority support from the Israelis,” he points out. “Out of the 130,000 Israelis who went out on Saturday night against the government, there are about 115,000 who support Netanyahu’s positions and policies against the Palestinians.”

And Palestinians shouldn’t expect any support either from neighboring Arab states if they find themselves at the receiving end of deflection tactics from Netanyahu’s administration. Shadid believes the prime minister could “choose a bloody option” in the form of another war on Gaza if predictions of internal clashes edge closer to the truth; but such an event, ventures Shadid, would not “substantially” change Arab countries’ current position vis-à-vis Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition.

Reshaping the political map in the Middle East

Nevertheless, the breadth of change within Israel and its capacity for upset in the wider region shouldn’t be underestimated, according to Shadid.

“There is an Israeli, international, and American belief that the limits of the change in Israel will not stay within the Israeli and Palestinian geography. If the religious national powers and Jewish religious powers in Israel succeed in establishing a Jewish religious state, it will reflect on the whole region.”

The outcome will affect political Islam, says Shadid, and is liable to reshape the political map in the Middle East and the world – “which is something the US administration and EU member states would not want.”

What worries the Israelis and the US administration the most, according to Shadid, is a “two-dimensional clash” between the secular and religious parties.

“The seculars won’t initiate violence,” speculates Shadid, “but the religious majority will not hesitate in using violence – whether against secular Israelis or Palestinians – if they feel that their new far-right extreme government is about to collapse.”

Hilltop Youth gone wild

In such a scenario, says Shadid, elements in Netanyahu’s administration might feel compelled to call upon the so-called “Hilltop Youth” – the extreme right-wing, religious nationalist settlers whose mission they have made it to establish outposts (illegal even by Israeli standards) across the occupied West Bank. The youth are renowned among both Palestinians and Israelis for their violence and volatility.

“If Netanyahu or Smotrich feel that this internal clash is about to come to a head, they will use about 20,000 to 30,000 of the settlement youth that are capable of leading the region into a bloody confrontation,” says Shadid. “This in turn will lead the Palestinians and Israelis to a worse scenario than the Second Intifada.”

Even the army has the potential to become a part of the crisis, says Shadid. “If extremist Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir had ordered the Israeli Border Police not to evacuate the illegal Or Haim outpost last Friday, it might have resulted in an unprecedented clash between the Border Police and the army.”

Many Israelis prefer not to consider about this scenario, according to Shadid. “They’ll say, ‘Do not baffle the army and its leadership structure’.”

But this thinking omits to take into consideration that the army is substantially influenced by Jewish religious figures, a point of “serious concern”.

“A few days ago, the Rabbi of the illegal Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba was warmly welcomed by Israeli soldiers in the occupied part of the city of Hebron – a welcome their own commanders or other military personnel do not receive.”

“Israeli soldiers are easily influenced by religious edicts.”

Ultimately, concludes Shadid, this is a conflict on the relationship of state and religion.

You can listen to the interview in Arabic below

Nadeen Alshaer

Alshaer is a Palestinian journalist, a Birzeit University graduate with a B.A. in TV and Radio Broadcasting Journalism. Alshaer has 6 years of experience in journalism. She currently works as a reporter, editor and presenter/producer for PBC-Palestine TV and Jerusalem24 radio. She’s a UN and Kelley School of Business alumna.

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