PLO Negotiations Affairs Department: Media Brief
During the first 100 days of the newly formed Israeli government, aggressive moves were made to implement the coalition's program. This has led to sharp divisions within Israeli society, exacerbating the confrontation with the Palestinian people and leadership and severely affecting Israeli regional and international relations.
On 28 December 2022, Israeli media released the government's political platform with Article 1 stating: "the Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel." The political program included a pledge to reinforce annexation policies in Jerusalem and expand Jewish-only colonial settlements in the rest of occupied Palestine and the Arab Syrian Golan. These policies have been reaffirmed and put into action on the ground.
Netanyahu's new government is the most extreme right-wing government in Israel's history. A key objective of the government coalition's program is to change Israel's government system and structure, its relations with its neighbors, and its policy towards the Palestinian cause and people. Several Israeli political leaders perceive this change as a shift toward fascism. Essentially this means transitioning to a dictatorship of the majority inside Israel and an expansionist policy in relation to "resolving the conflict" with the people of Palestine based on annexation, ethnic cleansing, and the consolidation of apartheid.
The absence of any political party that supports ending Israel's occupation of Palestine is notable, especially given that the new coalition is primarily composed of Zionist extremists and religious fundamentalists, including Likud, Shas, United Torah Judaism, and the Religious Zionist Coalition that are closely affiliated with terrorist settlers. Despite variations among those different factions in Israeli politics, their policies of colonial settlement occupation and Jewish supremacy, which tremendously impact Palestinian lives, have remained largely unchallenged within the Israeli political system.
This media brief focuses on the first 100 days of the new Israeli government led by Netanyahu, Smotrich, and Ben Gvir. It examines its narrative, policies, and practices, especially toward the Palestinian people and their national and human rights.
Overview Analysis: The Multifaceted Israeli Government Escalation
On the Internal Front: a major internal conflict has centered around judicial reform, which aims to change the rules of engagement between the authorities so that the brakes that limit executive power are removed. The majority of the ruling coalition can thus perpetuate its power dominance by changing the deep state's structure. In an alternative to the secular Ashkenazi elite, an alternative elite can dominate based on the Mizrahi Jews, the Hadedim (religious), and the Hardal Jews (religious nationalists).
Consequently, the ruling coalition's rush to implement its internal program is leading to a sharp and deep internal division in Israeli society. This indicates the possibility of a civil war for the first time in Israel's history, especially because opposition to this transformation has shifted from the public to the military and security apparatus.
In Relation to the Palestinian People: the government coalition's program stems from a false claim that the Jewish people have exclusive rights in all parts of the "land of Israel" (i.e., the land of historic Palestine), including the so-called Judea and Samaria (i.e., the occupied West Bank). This principle is translated into the government's commitment to strengthening Jewish settlement expansion at the expense of Palestinian presence in the occupied Palestinian territory (as was the case in the Galilee, the Triangle, and the Negev). Therefore, among the most prominent steps in this direction was the legalization of nine new illegal colonial installations (outposts) and the initiation of the establishment of nearly 10,000 settlement units in several existing settlements compared to almost 13,000 settlement units in 2022.
Additionally, Israel repealed clauses of its Disengagement Law allowing settlers to return to four settlements in the Northern West Bank. These settlements are "Homesh," "Gadim," "Kadim," and "Sa-Nur." Several colonial settlements are also set to be legalized by Israel's Prime Minister after a few months per the political program of the government coalition. This settlement expansion is linked to a change in the status and nature of Israeli presence in the occupied Palestinian territory. By granting the Finance Minister, a settler, Bezalel Smotrich, broad authority over civilian affairs in the occupied West Bank, including oversight of settlers from Israel's "Defense" Ministry, the change can be described as a covert annexation. In practice, this means applying Israeli law to the settlements in the Oslo-defined Area C and continuing to end the Palestinian presence in occupied Jerusalem and Area C through home demolitions and other illegal policies. Smotrich is empowered to deepen Israel's presence in the occupied West Bank, increase settlement construction, and thwart Palestinian development. Additionally, the Israeli border police in the occupied West Bank have been subordinated to the newly created Ministry of National Security. In other words, a police force will deal with the occupied Palestinian population like the police force operating inside Israel.
A meeting was held in Aqaba, Jordan, at the end of February, followed by another in March in Sharm Sheikh, Egypt. Representatives from the United States, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel participated in these meetings. And again, despite commitments to stop approving settlements, Israeli authorities published tenders to construct 1,029 new units in colonial settlements.
On the External Front: although the government's program focuses on two priorities, namely confronting the so-called Iranian threat on the one hand and accelerating the process of normalization with the Arab world and expanding the Abrahamic agreements on the other hand, it is noticeable that the government's behavior on the internal level and towards the Palestinians has been leading to the opposite. From the deterioration of relations with the United Arab Emirates to the cancellation of the second Naqab summit in Morocco and the decline in normalization prospects with Saudi Arabia, especially in light of the Iranian-Saudi agreement, to the acute crisis with Jordan that had developed since Ben Gvir stormed into Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, and further deteriorated after the Smotrich incident when he spoke from a podium featuring a map of "Greater Israel." It's important to note that the Israeli government did not disown Smotrich's behavior but only confirmed the Wadi Araba Treaty's obligations. These developments have also led to tensions in the relationship between Israel and the United States. However, the latter was keen to contain the current tensions by emphasizing Israel's alleged right to self-defense.
Enhanced diplomatic engagement with the previous Lapid/Gantz government, including hosting the EU – Israel Association Council for the first time in a decade, did little to change policies against the Palestinian people. The current government has radicalized existing policies, from the forcible displacement/ transfer of the Palestinian population and colonial settlement expansion to the persecution of Palestinian media and civil society. It has also boosted terror attacks by settlers, including hateful incitement and attacks against Christian and Muslim Holy Sites. And while the government's program was clear from the beginning to be Jewish supremacist and colonialist, it was warmly welcomed by several Western governments, from the United States to the European Union. Such engagements, including commitments to "deepen relations," a focus on "shared values," and claims of a "rock solid, unbreakable relationship," provided further assurances to the Israeli government that the international community would not change its previous approach, which was characterized by a lack of action and promotion of impunity.
Negationism: The Denial of the Palestinian People’s Existence
Denying the existence of the Palestinian people is a way to challenge their rights. Numerous international parties expressed outrage when the settler Minister Smotrich, originally from Ukraine, declared that Palestinians do not exist. Not a single Israeli government official condemned his statement. This view is rooted in the Zionist interpretation of history that claims that Palestine was a "land without a people" when the Balfour Declaration was issued. It is consistent with the Israeli government's political program, policies, and practices implemented for decades. All Israeli governments since 1948 have endorsed anti-Palestinian policies, such as denying Palestinians the right to return to their homeland while allowing anyone with one Jewish grandparent to become an Israeli citizen. Numerous discriminatory laws further reinforce these policies.
For example, to divide Palestinian families: the law extending the ban on Palestinian family reunifications, approved on 10 March 2022, explicitly states that this is to ensure a Jewish demographic majority. This law was approved as a matter of consensus among all main Zionist parties, whether in the government or opposition. It affects Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jerusalem ID holders married to Palestinian ID holders. Another example was the decision to ban the acceptance of certificates from Palestinian universities in Israel, which was made with the intention to further fragment Palestinian society and to prevent Palestinian students from Israel from studying in Palestinian universities.
The Opposition to All Forms of Palestinian Resistance
In response to the Palestinian right to resist the occupation and advance and protect the nation's rights, including through international forums, the Israeli government continued policies from previous administrations by implementing collective punishment against the Palestinian people and leadership.
In the first week of January, the government of the occupying Power formed a ministerial committee, including the ministers of finance, "defense," and strategic affairs, to deal with the "diplomatic terrorism" of the Palestinian government. This was in response to the UN General Assembly's vote to ask the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to provide an advisory opinion on the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Decisions taken by the committee included: (i) continuing the confiscation of Palestinian funds; (ii) preventing Palestinians from building in over 60% of the occupied West Bank; (iii) and taking further action against Palestinian human rights organizations involved in political and legal resistance to the occupation – a continuation of the actions taken by the previous government against Palestinian human rights organizations. Additionally, a constant barrage of military raids against Palestinian towns, villages, and refugee camps continued to repress Palestinian demonstrations, resulting in the arrest of more than 2,200 Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club. Also, Ben Gvir ordered the Israeli police to ban the Palestinian flag.
Numerous laws were enacted and proposed against the Palestinian people under the new Netanyahu government. The approved laws include placing the police corps, including the "border police" to the settler Minister Ben Gvir in the ministry of "security,” revocation of Israeli citizenship and Jerusalem residency from Palestinian prisoners that receive funds from the Palestinian National Authority, amending the Basic Law of the Government to advance annexation through taking responsibilities over the occupied West Bank from the Ministry of "Defense" to the Ministry of Finance, banning Palestinian family reunifications, and allowing police to search homes without court orders, mainly affecting Palestinian citizens of Israel. In addition, several bills were introduced, including laws to displace the families of Palestinians whom Israel labels as "terrorists," increase sentences for those convicted of throwing stones, ban the display of the Palestinian flag in Israeli universities, prevent the formation of Palestinian national student blocs in Israeli universities, preventing their work and preventing those students who are active in such movements from pursuing their education, withdraw national insurance from political prisoners, restrict admission to Jewish towns (to prevent Palestinian citizens of Israel from living in them), further withdraw medical and human rights from political prisoners, impose the death penalty on Palestinian political prisoners (passed in the preliminary reading), prohibiting the raising of the Palestinian flag in public spaces and lowering the age of criminal conviction for “terrorist offenses” to 13 years old, in a clear attempt at prosecuting Palestinian children. The policies and practices of this legislative activity are similar to those of apartheid.
One Hundred Days of Israeli Violations: Key Facts and Figures
- A total of 1,050 shooting incidents occurred in different Palestinian governorates, including 885 in the occupied West Bank and 165 in the Gaza Strip (including airstrikes), resulting in the killing of 95 Palestinians, of whom 18 were children and the injury of at least 648 civilians.
- The IOF conducted more than 2,090 military raids and erected 1,260 sudden military checkpoints at the entrances to Palestinian villages, towns, and refugee camps to search vehicles and inspect ID cards.
- An estimated 123 attacks were made against civilian property during these military operations, resulting in 127 property confiscation cases.
- According to UNOCHA: the occupation authorities demolished 290 structures, including 72 homes, throughout the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem. A record number of 954 demolitions of structures, including 193 homes, had already been set in 2022 by the previous Israeli government. Among the destroyed buildings (until the end of March) were 43 donor-funded structures. As a result, 81 families with 423 individuals, of whom 200 were children, were displaced (1,836 other families with 11,266 individuals, of whom 4,889 were children, were otherwise affected).
- Israeli settlers carried out nearly 500 attacks, including burning homes, vehicles, and agricultural lands, hurling stones, running over and shooting at residents, storming villages and cities, attacking citizens and property, obstructing residents' access to their crops, and stealing and destroying crops. Most attacks were recorded in Nablus Governorate, followed by Ramallah and Hebron.
In Focus: Attacks Against Occupied Jerusalem & Its Holy Sites
Israel’s colonial settlement plans and construction continue amidst various illegal Israeli policies against Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem. And as a result of the Israeli government's principle of Jewish exclusivity, those who seek to erase the Arab, Palestinian, Muslim, and Christian identities that make up the city are empowered to do so, including the settler Minister Ben Gvir that urged the Israeli police to prepare for "Operation Defensive Shield 2." Ben Gvir reportedly requested that the occupation's municipality provide him with a list of the more than 200 unimplemented demolition orders. With the pretext of security, Ben Gvir's call encourages demolishing Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem to escalate violence against Palestinians.
The following highlights the scope and magnitude of Israeli violations in occupied Jerusalem during the first quarter of 2023:
- The IOF and settlers continued to constantly storm into Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound, especially during the holy month of Ramadan that started on 23 March. The occupying Power tightened the entry procedures and increased the deployment of its forces at the gates leading to the Compound. On multiple occasions, the IOF used force to evacuate worshippers and arrested and banished from the Compound those who resisted. More than 11,450 extremist settlers stormed the Compound during the reporting period. And in serious recent development, during the first week of April, IOF attacks against worshippers increased, especially on 5 April, when the IOF stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound using excessive force against worshippers, beating them with sticks and firing stun grenades and toxic gas at them to remove them from the Compound. More than 400 worshippers were arrested.
Muslim and Christian holy sites in occupied Jerusalem have been the target of several attacks, with no signs of abating. This trend continued with the desecration of the Episcopal Cemetery on 1 January. Two days later, Ben Gvir stormed into the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in violation of the principle of the historical status quo of the holy sites. Also, the Armenian Convent was defaced with hateful graffiti, and attempts were made to remove the Armenian flag from the entrance. A few meters away from an Israeli police station, other incidents took place, including an attack on a Christian-owned restaurant and the desecration of the Roman Catholic Church. The Orthodox Church of Gethsemane was also the target of desecration attempts. Despite the condemnation by the Heads of Churches and calls for accountability, these attacks have continued.
- The IOF killed seven Palestinians in Jerusalem governorate, including two children and Palestinian doctor Mohammad Al-Osaibi. On 31 March, the IOF executed Al-Osaibi near the Chain Gate (Bab Al-Silsila) to the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound. Al-Osaibi, a 26-year-old Palestinian from Hura village in the Negev, was shot ten times by Israeli police. According to eyewitnesses, he tried to prevent Israeli police from harassing a woman trying to enter the mosque. According to Israeli police, he attempted to grab a soldier's weapon. Osaibi's family disputed the police's account and asked for CCTV footage. It’s important to note that the corpses of 24 Palestinian martyrs from Jerusalem continue to be withheld by Israel in morgue refrigerators or military cemeteries called “cemeteries of numbers.”
- And to suppress Palestinian institutions and events that highlight Jerusalem's historical and cultural significance, Ben Gvir ordered on 20 March the closure of a company that provides media and production services to the official Palestinian media and summoned its staff for questioning. The action was taken to prevent the public from getting coverage of events in Jerusalem.
- The occupation authorities have also continued their violations against prominent Palestinian figures in Jerusalem, including Governor Adnan Ghaith, who was put under indefinite house arrest in August 2022, Sheikh Ekrima Sabri by storming his home and summoning him for investigation under unfounded accusations of incitement, Shadi Mtour, the secretary of the Jerusalem branch of Fatah, by banning him from entering the occupied West Bank for two months, as well as Nasser Al-Hadmi by extending his travel ban, despite him already being under house arrest.
- Israeli settlers carried out more than 50 attacks, 6 involving physical abuse. Furthermore, there were attacks on Islamic and Christian holy sites, with settlers violating their sanctity and attempting to destroy their properties. This was accompanied by inciting calls from settler groups, such as the request to open a synagogue within the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound. They also called for the allowance of full Talmudic rituals and the entry of animals into the Compound during the Jewish Passover holiday.
- Until 7 April- according to the Palestinian Prisoners Club: the IOF arrested over 1,200 Palestinians in the Jerusalem governorate. Additionally, until the end of March, Israeli courts imposed heavy fines on prisoners and issued 112 sentences, including 36 administrative detention orders. The occupation authorities also launched a campaign against prisoners and their families. Under the pretext of receiving money from the Palestinian National Authority, the occupation authorities imposed financial penalties and seized the private property of nearly 170 Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem. They also issued over 80 house arrest orders (ranging from two days to open-ended house arrest), ten travel bans, and 79 deportation orders, including 36 from Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound.
- Until 7 April- according to UNOCHA: the occupation authorities demolished 79 structures in occupied Jerusalem, including 26 homes, commercial establishments, agricultural barracks, water tanks, and horse stables. Consequently, 31 families with 157 individuals, of whom 81 were children, were displaced, and (77 other families with 474 individuals, of whom 201 were children, were otherwise affected).
Current Israeli policies represent radicalizing policies under previous administrations, including Lapid/Gantz. These policies aim at ensuring Jewish supremacy, colonial settlement expansion, and fragmentation of the land and people of Palestine. Essentially, the Jewish-Nation State Law perpetuates the denial of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including our right to exist in our homeland.
The Israeli government's approach to Jewish exclusivity includes attempts to change the Status Quo of the Holy Sites in occupied Jerusalem. To ensure respect for the principles of the rules-based world order set out in the UN Charter, the international community should take this as a wake-up call to abandon obsolete and even insulting slogans such as "sharing values" with the Israeli occupier. The focus should be on implementing the long-overdue rights of the Palestinian people per international law and norms.
With the new Israeli government beginning its first 100 days, there is concern that without proper accountability measures in place, the situation could deteriorate further. This lack of accountability violates the rights of the Palestinian people, undermines the possibility of a political solution based on international law and UN resolutions, and contributes to further instability in the Middle East. The international community is responsible for holding Israel responsible for its actions and supporting the Palestinian people in their quest for justice and freedom. This includes backing Palestinian initiatives and efforts, such as their case at the International Court of Justice, supporting their bid to become full members of the United Nations, and providing international protection for the people of Palestine.
 Israel's new government was sworn in on 29 December 2022. This media report mainly covers events until 7 April 2023.
 A biblical term with no legitimacy under international law. It encompasses all of the land of historic Palestine, as well as parts of other countries, particularly Jordan.
 Mizrahi Jews are Jews whose origins are from the Middle East and North Africa, and they are sometimes referred to as "Arab Jews." The term "Mizrahi" means "Eastern" or "Oriental" in Hebrew and is used to describe Jews with geographic roots in the Middle East.
 In 2022, the occupation authorities approved 158 expansion plans for 78 Israeli settlements, including approval for constructing 12,934 housing units on 14,983 dunums of confiscated occupied Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem.
 Covert annexation is the act of adding new territory to a country, state, or city in a secret or hidden manner. It involves the acquisition of territory through actual possession without the making formal announcement of annexation.
 Labor Party's Omer Ber Lev (Ben Gvir's predecessor) and the brutal police attacks against Shireen Abu Akleh's funeral in May 2022 is an example of similar policies implemented by previous governments.
 Excluding Israeli colonial settlement announcements and activities that are covered in NAD’s monthly violations reports. Main Source of information: NAD and the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
 This operation refers to the IOF military invasion of the West Bank in 2002 during the Second Intifada.