Statement of the Israeli Communist Forum (18/9/2021)
Three months of the Bennet-Lapid Government
This week marked three months of the tenure of the Bennet-Lapid Government, formed on June 13. The very creation of this government was a totally unexpected. It took place in complete contradiction to the predictions of the best “experts” and political commentators.
For the first time in many years, a government was formed in Israel which was not headed by Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu's tenure had been marked by a policy of perpetuating the occupation and repression, of embarking on dangerous and adventures military operations, of serving the interests of the wealthy at the expense of the weaker sections of society, of a years-long weakening of the public sector, including the health care system, of increasing the discrimination of the Arab population and growing incitement against its political leaders, and of increasing violation and infringement of democratic freedoms.
In many aspects, such policies are characteristic of all Israeli mainstream parties and of the governments formed by such parties. However, with Netanyahu this kind of policy was implemented in a more extreme and dangerous manner – most especially in the last years of his tenure.
Netanyahu boasted at the end of his term that "Israel is the first country in the world to emerge from the Corona Virus crisis" – but within a short time, this assertion proved baseless. This kind of irresponsible declaration led to public complacency, and later to a high rate of infections, an increasing number of Corona Virus patients in various conditions – a significant part of whom proved fatal. This, despite the vaccination campaigns, beneficial in themselves, undertaken both during Netanyahu’s tenure and at present.
The Bennet-Lapid Government constitutes a rare heterogeneous coalition of parties with different and mutually contradicting opinions, from PM Bennet who holds very right-wing political and social position up to the "Left Zionist" Meretz party and the Islamist Ra’am Party, headed by Mansur Abbas – the first Arab party to ever become an official member of an Israeli governing coalition. The biggest coalition partner is the Yesh Atid (There is a Future) Party of Foreign Minister Ya’ir Lapid, who is supposed to take over as Prime Minister by the government’s mid-term.
The new government was dubbed “A Government of Change” but in many aspects it continues the policies of the previous government. Indeed, in some aspects it actually exacerbates them – in particular, in its socially retrograde economic policies.
Prime Minister Bennet is continually declaring that during his term there will be no diplomatic process whatsoever with the Palestinians. In addition, repressive acts are continuing in the Occupied Territories, including the demolition of homes and the shooting to death of unarmed civilians, among them boys and children. Settlers continue to harass the Palestinian population and wantonly damage its property, with the tacit or explicit support of the security forces. There are increasing military attacks on the Gaza Strip and a renewed threat to launch an all-out war in the Southern border.
Also, bombing raids on Syria are continuing, and there are threats to attack Lebanon as well. A campaign of retaliations and collective punishment of all Palestinian prisoners, in reaction to the escape of the six of them (who in the meanwhile were captured and re-imprisoned) has created an additional powder keg, which might ignite both in and outside the prisons.
In the economic sphere, Finance Minister Lieberman presented an unprecedented anti-social budget. The harsh measures planned include raising the retirement age for women from 62 years to 65, cutting the general pensions budget, freezing and lowering of wages, cutting welfare benefits, mass dismissals of employees and raising the prices of public transportation. Conversely, there will be benefits to the wealthy, partly in the framework of the so-called “reduction of regulation”. Considerations of health, safety and environment are to be pushed aside in favor of increasing profits. The struggle against these repressive measures is going on, and we hope that many of them will be altogether removed before the budget is finally approved.
This reactionary socio-economic policy is also harming the struggle against the Corona Virus pandemic. There were, indeed, some additions of budget to the health care system, but far less even than what was needed before the pandemic, and certainly far less than what is needed now. On the other hand, many billions were added to various military budgets.
We oppose the government’s decision to stop altogether the payment of benefits, the so-called “leave without payment”, to workers thrown out of work due to the Corona pandemic. Also deserving of criticism is the complete stop of any compensation to the owners of small-scale businesses, which were heavily damaged by the pandemic.
We believe that there should be a considerable increase of the budgets to the Arab population in Israel, which suffers from a decades-long discrimination. Also, concrete measures – rather than purely verbal ones – must be undertaken to put down violent crime in the Arab sector, which has reached unprecedented levels in recent months.
The policies of the present government pose both the threat of a new warlike conflagration and a danger to the economic future of a large part of the population, who might be pushed down to degrading poverty. Moreover, this policy plays into the hands of former PM Netanyahu, who still enjoys the support of large parts of the public and is backed by some significant media outlets.
We congratulate the Joint List, with Hadash at its center, which constitutes the only substantial opposition to the government.
We call for:
– A real change of government policies, making it a true Government of Change.
– An end to the killings and repression in the Occupied Territories.
– An end to the relentless settler rampage against the Palestinian population and its properties.
– Real, immediate measures to stop the mounting wave of murders and crime in the Arab communities.
– Recognition of the “unrecognized” villages in the Negev.
– Changing the budget and diverting billions of Shekels from the military budgets to health, education and welfare.
– Removing all socially retrograde measures from the proposed budget.
– A significant strengthening of the public health system, making appropriate medical care accessible to all parts of the population, in all parts of the country, significantly increasing the number of health service personnel of all kinds, and significantly improving the wages and working conditions of these public health professionals.