Naftali Bennett speaks to crowd in Beit El.

What’s New with the Israeli Coalition Government?

When we last checked in with the Israeli governing coalition in June, we found fractures in the coalition dealing with Israel’s secular-religious divides, such as Religious Minister David Azoulay calling Reform Jews a “disaster for the nation of Israel”. Recently, however, the coalition has found itself embroiled in controversy that is perhaps the most divisive issue in Israel: the settlements. Here are some the stories we’ve been following:

  • Tensions rose last week over the settlement of Beit El, a Jewish town north of the Palestinian city of Ramallah. Two buildings there, known as the Draynoff buildings, were illegally built on private Palestinian land. Though they were ordered by Israel’s High Court of Justice to be demolished, the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, which is the main party of the settler movement, denounced the demolitions. Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads the Jewish Home, spoke at a protest in Beit El last Tuesday, criticizing the use of the military to carry out the order. That night, police clashed with the protesters, who had to be removed from the buildings. The buildings were demolished last Wednesday.
  • Under pressure from the Jewish Home and members of his own party from the destruction of these buildings, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that the government would approve the construction of 300 new housing units in the Beit El settlement. The announcement has drawn criticism from the U.S. State Department.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing international pressure for the planned demolition of the Palestinian village of Susiya in the West Bank, which would make way for a Jewish settlement of the same name. Susiya was built without approval from the Israeli government, and the Israeli Supreme Court is set to decide on August 11 whether the IDF can go through with the demolition order. However, diplomats from all 28 of the European Union member countries visited Susiya last month in a show of support for the village, and the U.S. State Department has said that it is monitoring the situation. Yet, the right-wing members of Netanyahu’s government are watching settlement policy very closely, so it remains to be seen whether the government will carry through with the demolition order.
  • In the wake of the firebombing of a Palestinian home that left one infant dead, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has been dealing with an increasingly hot tinderbox in the West Bank as authorities attempt to apprehend the attackers, who are supposedly located in the settlement of Ma’ale Efraim, and to quell widespread Palestinian uprisings over the weekend. President Reuven Rivlin has urged Israel to take a stronger stance in combatting Jewish terrorism, and many have questioned how Israeli policies about settlements affected this horrific attack.

The horrific events of the past week would put a strain on any government, but they have put an even larger strain on a coalition that has already been pulled in so many different directions. To keep updated on new developments on settlements and the Israeli coalition, check out RACblog and the Israel issue page.

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Jonathan Edelman

About Jonathan Edelman

Jonathan Edelman is a 2014-2015 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the RAC. A 2014 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Jonathan is originally from Jacksonville, FL and is a member of Congregation Ahavath Chesed.

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