by Martin Odoni

Yes, before anyone asks, I did smile merrily when the news came through last night that Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to fall as Prime Minister of Israel. How could I not? Without even taking into account his Zionist militancy, Netanyahu is a hard-right, corrupt egomaniac, very much in the Trump-Johnson-Bolsonaro leadership mold. That alone should make anyone of even a slightly progressive inclination happy to see him fall. And as it was my birthday yesterday, well, what better present could I have asked for?

As Netanyahu and his wife have corruption charges hanging over them, and under Israeli law could not be tried for them so long as he was in office, there is now every probability that Netanyahu will see in the next few Rosh Hashanahs from behind the bars of Hadarim Prison.

Netanyahu is likely to serve time for his corruption, but don’t expect his demise to advance the demise of Zionism one iota

Netanyahu has been Israeli Prime Minister for 12 years. It is his second stewardship of the Israeli Government since a brief spell in office in the late-1990’s. Constant political intriguing on his part as leader of the Likud Party led him repeatedly to form coalitions with other parties in the Knesset that kept him in power. Unfortunately, due to the degree of fragmentation of support, these coalitions tend not to remain stable for long, and this is why we hear of new General Elections so frequently in Israel. For over ten years, ‘Bibi’ was able to play the system just well enough to keep himself at the head of these coalitions, but after this year’s poll, no fewer than eight parties have grouped together to topple him.

However, the problems of Israel-Palestine are far more fundamental than anything to do with ‘Bibi.’ Israel was an issue before his birth (his real family name is ‘Mileikowsky,’ and the name ‘Netanyahu’ is an invention based on the city of Netanya in central Israel), which was in 1949, during the early months of the Nakba. Netanyahu did not invent Israel, he did not invent Zionism, and he is far from the originator of its horrors, or of its gruesome strategies.

But the main reason no one should get carried away with the celebrations is because there is no way that Netanyahu’s fall will result in a substantial change in policy. Netanyahu’s likeliest successor, if the new coalition is approved by the Knesset, will be Naftali Bennett of the extreme-right Yamina Party. He is a particularly bloody militant and religious nationalist, who regards the rights of Palestinians with even less respect than Netanyahu.

The real problem is that all of the non-Arab parties in the Knesset are explicitly and, it could well be argued, fanatically, in favour of the Zionist ideology driving Israel. As I have explained in the past, Zionism inevitably leads to persecution of non-Jewish inhabitants of the land in which it is enforced, and to colonial apartheid. And only the tiny Arab parties in the Knesset are non-Zionist. Right, left or centre economically, the mainstream parties in Israel are all Zionist. All shades of the spectrum, when in power in Israel since 1948, have mercilessly pursued the same strategy of Arab-purging, and occupying more and more Palestinian land. The policy towards Arabs in the 1950s and 1960s, when leftist parties dominated the Knesset, was barely distinguishable from the policy of the right-wing Governments of the modern age, and where distinction has existed, it has tended to be for practical reasons rather than ethical ones.

The accession of a bloodthirsty militarist like Bennett will certainly not lead to the slightest alteration of that, nor will the make-up of the coalition. Seven of the parties forming the coalition are Zionist. The eighth party is an Arab Party, a political Islamist faction called the Raam Party. It is the first independent Arab group to join a governing coalition in Israeli history. But it too is very conservative in most of its policy positions, and the influence it can have on fundamental policy is deeply doubtful. Its decision to join the Government looks naive, merely giving false credibility to the notion of Israel being ‘an inclusive democracy.’

Yes, good riddance to Netanyahu. But the riddance that is really needed is that of Zionism, and that riddance is still a long, long way from being accomplished.