Israel’s Rightward Turn

Ultranationalists are in the driver's seat in Israel's new government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the cabinet meeting, Jan. 3, 2023, in Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the cabinet meeting, Jan. 3, 2023, in Jerusalem. Photo: Atef Safadi/AP

Last week Israel inaugurated the most right-wing government in its history, with the country’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at the helm once again. Avner Gvaryahu of the group Breaking the Silence, which collects testimonies of Israeli soldiers about their experiences in the occupied territories, joins Ryan Grim to discuss his country’s latest political turn.

[Deconstructed theme music.]

Ryan Grim: Hey, I’m Ryan Grim and in today’s episode we’re going to be talking about the dramatic rightward shift in the Israeli government. 

And I’m joined from Tel Aviv by Avner Gvaryahu, who is co-director of Breaking the Silence, which is an organization that gives voice to Israelis who’ve served in the military or as part of the occupation and want to share what they’ve witnessed and participated in with the rest of the public. 

Avner, thanks for joining me, and welcome to Deconstructed. 

Avner Gvaryahu: Great to be here.

RG: And for folks who don’t know, this podcast was founded back in 2018 by my former colleague, Mehdi Hasan, and I wanted to start by playing pieces of a monologue he did for his program on MSNBC, which is cleverly named the Mehdi Hasan Show. And I want to get you, Avner, to elaborate on what Matt is talking about here. 

Zach, can you play the first little bit?

Mehdi Hasan: But while everyone is focusing on America’s governing shenanigans, Israel just swore in what many are calling the country’s most right-wing government ever, led once again by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

And if you think Bibi is right-wing or extreme, some of his new coalition colleagues, some of those new Israeli government ministers, make our own House GOP caucus look like U.C. Berkeley acapella group. 

Case in point: It’s Itamar Ben-Gvir, who we’ve told you about before, he was appointed National Security Minister. Ben-Gvir is a student of the late anti-Arab Rabbi Meir Kahane, who once called for a ban on Jewish-Arab intermarriage and founded a political party that the United States once designated as a terror organization.

Ben-Gvir, who lives in a settlement in the occupied territories, was convicted in a Jerusalem court of incitement to racism and supporting a terrorist organization back in 2007. He’s now in charge of the Israeli police forces that monitor Jerusalem’s holy sites. He’s also been known to show off a photo of Baruch Goldstein in his home, the American Israeli who opened fire in the West Bank mosque, massacring 29 Palestinians. And then Ben-Gvir is not treading carefully. On Tuesday, just days after taking office, he provocatively visited a very sensitive holy site in Jerusalem, angering Palestinian and Arab leaders.

RG: And so after that’s a reference to Ben-Gvir visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque. What’s been the fallout of that visit? And what power will he have as head of the police?

AG: So trying to sort of break down some of Ben-Gvir’s future actions and the power he’s holding already, we really have to understand a bit of what the situation is like already. 

I mean, I think that we have to take into account that there has been — and this is an understatement — but an ongoing erosion to any sort of fundamental idea, liberal progressive idea, respect to human rights, and even sort of the concept of upholding rule of law equally, much before Ben-Gvir took office, right? 

RG: Mhmm. 

AG: This has been an ongoing process of a variety of governments, right-wing governments, center-right wing governments, but even the last sitting government that was led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, they basically continued the status quo in the territories, which was entrenchment.

RG: And that was a government that called itself what — centrist? Center-right? How did they —?

AG: That’s a good question. 

RG: What would they have called themselves? 

AG: That’s a good question, because basically, the only thing that this government agreed upon is not to talk about the elephant in the room, which is Israel’s control over Palestinians are basically a military dictatorship over millions of people. And that was the only thing that allowed this very weird coalition to stick together; economic issues, they were sort of center-right and on other issues, they may be a bit more central left, but generally, on the core issue of the region, which is our relationship with the people under our control, the agreement was basically not to touch it. And not to touch it in our region means allowing what happened already to continue. 

So we get to Ben-Gvir, or some of his other allies in his party or sister party like Smotrich or Avi Maoz, all sort of extreme-right, extremely religious, homophobic, racist, you name it — they’ve entered into institutions and systems that have already been pushed so much to the right. So they’re not going against the stream, right, but with the stream. 

It doesn’t mean there isn’t a shift here; it doesn’t mean this isn’t concerning. But even if you would follow a bit of the debate around Ben-Gvir, a lot of the quote-unquote opposition to Ben-Gvir, this new government, can’t really point to fundamentally what they oppose with some of what Ben-Gvir is asking for. But the responsibilities that Ben-Gvir is given now is basically responsibility over the entire police — obviously, as Minister of Interior Affairs — he has requested direct authority over the border police. And part of his big push that didn’t pass as he wanted, but part of where he’s trying to push is to make sure that he will have a final say over the chief of police, shifting a very delicate balance that wasn’t really there before this moment.

RG: In the U.S. lately, we’ve been using the phrase “saying the quiet part out loud” a lot, when it comes to the Trump administration. And it almost feels like somebody like Ben-Gvir, is a personnel choice that just says the quiet part out loud. Would that be an accurate way of putting it?

AG: Yeah, I agree. I mean, I think that it’s a real sort of unmasking moment, where it’s easy to think of the Israeli political sphere as sort of having a right and a left, but anyone following the reality in Israeli politics knows that’s not true. For many, many years, there’s a growing centrist position, sort of the radical center. And the radical center is basically what some of us call the control camp, right? Believing that between the river to the sea, there’s space for only one sovereign country, which is Israel. So they’re not for annexation, but they’re definitely not for an independent Palestinian state, ending occupation, and so on. 

To the right of them there has been growing in a very, very dramatic way the annexation camp, right? The camp that wants not only de facto but de jure annexation, and this is where Ben-Gvir comes in. So we really see sort of the Ben-Gvir phenomenon pulling at this control camp, and getting many, many seats. But it’s again — it’s bigger than Ben-Gvir. It’s Ben-Gvir, but it’s also Likud, it’s Netanyahu’s party. So in that sense, Netanyahu is the one who opened the door to this Jewish supremacist, to this racist, and not as sort of a sideline position, but as many people have been calling this government, it’s a Ben-Gavir government. And I think that’s pretty accurate.

RG: And so when people talk about, in the U.S., Israel as an apartheid government, often what they mean is that, in effect, it’s an apartheid-like system, because there are people living within its borders, who do not have the same rights as other people who live in the same borders — and that’s based on race and ethnicity and religion. 

And oftentimes, the counter to that is to say: Well, no, it’s actually an occupation. And so, as a result of that, there are different rules that apply to occupations. But when you start talking about annexation — like actual, legal annexation — then you would have, from the river to the sea, people who are living in the same legal entity, the same country, which would then make the apartheid designation not just in effect, but actually just by definition, apartheid. 

Here in the U.S., that’s still a huge insult to throw at the Israeli government. Is that an insult over in Israel for people like Ben-Gvir? Or are they in some ways welcoming that? Or do they still reject the name, but embrace the idea?

AG: I mean, I think that it’s something to hold onto that it’s still seen as an insult. 

RG: Mhmm. 

AG: But I think that that is also eroding, like many other elements and concepts. And I agree with sort of your last point; people will push back on the branding of apartheid. But practically, when they’re asked or probed on, that’s exactly what they’re describing. 

And I have to say that as an Israeli citizen, as someone who grew up here, who cares deeply about the people living here, this is home for me at the end of the day, to understand that we’re not only walking towards this road, but we’ve been paving it for so many years is sad. It’s a tragedy. And it’s extremely embarrassing. 

But I think that the truth has to be said, even though it’s difficult. When we’re talking about the reality of apartheid, or the crime of apartheid, historically people go to South Africa, and automatically have the imagery of South Africa with separate buses and Bantustans and so on and so forth. But even though we can look at the similarities between apartheid South Africa and the reality on the ground in Israel-Palestine, we also have to remember that there is a legal definition to apartheid. And when we talk about the legal definition, then a lot of the realities that groups like us have been documenting throughout the years — and many other colleagues, both Israeli anti-occupation human rights organizations and Palestinian groups as well — coupled with the leading human rights organizations around the world, I think that it’s very, very difficult to argue that there isn’t a systemic system of discrimination in the occupied Palestinian territories. And that system of discrimination is only being entrenched more and more. 

And if we have this system — and no one can argue that we don’t have two separate legal systems, that the military treats Israelis and Palestinians differently, I mean, this is basically the epitome of the entire system — if we’re upholding this reality and if we’re moving from a de facto to de jure reality, then we’re basically opening a door not only talking about apartheid in the territories themselves, and to the Israelis and Palestinians living there, the difference there between the Israelis and Palestinians, but definitely the processes of this government are leaving, I think will end this sort of argument is there an apartheid only in the occupied territories or in all of Israel? If we’re moving to annexation, and this is what the government has promised, then the reality of apartheid definitely goes beyond the OPT, occupied Palestinian territories.

RG: Earlier you mentioned one of Ben-Gvir’s allies, Bezalel Smotrich. Zach, can you play Mehdi’s clip about him real quick?

MH: Also appointed to the new Israeli government, Bezalel Smotrich, the new finance minister. Smotrich, like Ben-Gvir, lives in an illegal settlement. He supports the Israeli annexation of the occupied West Bank. But Smotrich has also voiced support for evicting Palestinians from that area and demolishing their homes. Perhaps even more shockingly, he once advocated for segregating maternity wards, tweeting “Arabs are my enemies and that’s why I don’t enjoy being next to them.”

RG: And so, Avner, what is the situation with evictions? I know there’s been an ongoing battle around South Hebron Hills. Can you talk a little bit about that? And also what’s going on in Area C, the West Bank?

AG: Yeah, so I’ve been part of Breaking the Silence more or less ever since I finished my military service. So obviously I grew up in Israel and served for three years. I served as a paratrooper in a special ops unit. And most of my service was Nablus and Jenin, cities [that were] more the northern part of the West Bank. But we were sent for a few weeks to do regional guarding duty, which was sort of seen as a bit of grunt work for young soldiers at the time, in an area that I didn’t know so well, which is called the South Hebron Hills. And we were basically sent to guard Israeli settlements in this area, which is an area really in the most southern tip of the West Bank, really south of Hebron. And while we were guarding settlements and outposts — settlements are illegal under international law, Israel reads international differently, but they’re definitely illegal under international law — and additionally, there are outposts or unauthorized outposts that are illegal both under Israeli law and under international law. We were guarding both of the settlements and the outposts, right? So you have Israeli soldiers guarding what is seen as illegal under Israeli law. These outposts, obviously the settlements are connected to water, electricity, infrastructure, roads, schools, you name it. 

Now, in the shadow of these communities, you have dozens, and dozens, and dozens of Palestinian communities. These Palestinian communities that are in Area C, 60 percent of the West Bank, an outcome of the Oslo Agreement under direct both municipal and security control of Israel, are unrecognized by the Israeli authorities, which I think is just amazing, even though these communities predate the Israeli occupation and predate, many of them, the establishment of the State of Israel. And because they’re not recognized, their construction, in most cases, is seen as illegal under Israeli authority. They are, in many cases — and this is the case in the South Hebron Hills — many of these communities are, today, in 2023, not connected to water, not connected to electricity, not connected to roads. Specific 12 communities live in an area that Israel declared as a firing zone.

RG: What does that mean to be a firing zone?

AG: Basically, it means an area that Israeli soldiers can train in. So you’ll have APCs, armored personnel carriers, train in fields of wheat of Palestinians. You’ll have soldiers being dropped out of helicopters inside communities. You’ll have patrols of soldiers making their presence felt. 

But beyond that, a Supreme Court hearing, and this is, again, to understand how embedded this reality is into the Israeli system of control, the Israeli Supreme Court greenlighted a massive eviction, after many, many years of back-and-forth in the Israeli courts, that will basically give the ability of any Israeli government to evacuate over 1000 Palestinians from this specific area. 

If this happens, we’re talking about the biggest mass eviction that we’ve seen, basically, since the ’70s.

Now I got to know these communities, really, through my service there, really learning and understanding how much I didn’t understand about what’s happening on the ground. With Bezalel Smotrich entering not only as Minister of Finance, but also having the authority over a body called the Civil Administration, which is a military body that administrates Palestinian lives, we’re talking about a threat that isn’t only going to continue what we’ve seen up until now, but basically giving one of the most right-wing extremists as we’ve just heard, the keys to decide the fate of thousands of Palestinians and the fate to decide about the Palestinians living in the South Hebron Hills and Masafer Yatta.

RG: So this 1,000-plus person community, which has been living with Israeli soldiers, training in their midst, how long have they been living in this area?

AG: So this was part of this very long court case that’s been going on for many, many years. And like many cases that we see throughout the world with native communities, there’s back and forth between the Palestinians and their attorneys and the state on basically the mere facts. So there’s been a lot written about this, and a lot of probing into the history of these communities. 

What we know to be factual is that these communities date back, some of them, hundreds of years, communities that the left from the larger cities, from Yatta and Hebron, into the rural areas. There are aerial photos predating the Israeli occupation. And there are historians, Israeli historians, that have met with these communities before Israel occupied the territories. 

So we’re talking about communities that have deep roots in this area, and even just visiting them, this reality is pretty evident in the way these communities live. These communities are called cave-dwellers because, unlike nomadic communities that the region also knows, these communities have been living not only off the land but in the land. They have been carving — historically carving, these caves, and water cisterns, and [are] really embedded into the land. And the history of the South Hebron Hills is really very much connected to the history of these people.

RG: And if they are evicted, where do 1,000-plus Palestinians go? Are they just scattered to the winds? Where do you suspect these folks wind up?

AG: I mean, I hope they’ll be able to stay on their land. That’s what I think we have to fight for. And I think there’s been a pretty amazing sort of movement of Israelis, internationals, welcomed by the Palestinians there to stand with these communities and highlight their stories and do what we can to make sure people hear about Masafer Yatta and fight to save Masafer Yatta and this area, this firing zone. 

If we look at the more recent history, there were attempts in nearby areas to the firing zone around the year 2000 to literally uproot some communities; in some cases, entire communities, including their flocks. And women, children just uprooted; homes demolished; and they were put on trucks and thrown to a junction, basically pointed to the direction of the nearby urban area called Yatta. So that’s definitely an option. 

I think another option, as we’ve seen in other places, is maybe an attempt to sort of come to some sort of agreement and offer them another area. From what I understand from the community, that’s not something that they’re interested in; they want to live on their own land. And we do know that in other places where this was put on the table, land usually has history to it. So they don’t want to take anyone else’s land either. So I think the fear of these communities in Masafer Yatta and the firing zone, and the reality for Palestinians all over Area C is definitely of grave concern to many of us.

[Musical interlude.]

RG: I noticed that Netanyahu in his Twitter thread announcing what the program of his new government was going to be mentioned that he was going to be building an immense number of new homes and new apartments, and then also was going to be encouraging Jewish migration from around the world to Israel. What is it about the South Hebron Hills that is so attractive to settler-developers? Is it that this is a wide-open space where they can fulfill that agenda? Are they running out of space to build enough homes and apartments for the migrants that they hope to attract?

AG: So I think, first of all, we have to remember that the settlement project that started right after the Six-Day War, right in ’67 — and in places like Hebron already in April ’68 — we had settlers moving in, [and it] was aiming or imagining to have over 1 million settlers in the territories, or as they will call it Judea and Samaria, by the year 2000. 

That didn’t happen. We have to remember that it’s true that the Israeli population, Israeli citizens, definitely Jewish-Israeli citizens, are going more to the right. But they’re not flocking by the hundreds and thousands to live in the territories. We definitely might see a change or a shift as this government will not only support the settlement project, as many did, but really incentivize movement there. 

I think that we see construction, or we see the settlement moving, really trying to expand its settlements and outposts all over the West Bank. I do think that the South Hebron Hills specifically has become sort of an important center for the settler community — some of the reasons are what they see as their sort of strategy in disconnecting Palestinians from Israel proper, ’48- ’67. Some of it has to do with the connection to historical areas or ancient Jewish communities that lived there in the past, definitely like Hebron, but in other places as well. 

But some of it has to do also with having the ability to build a cheap house not too far from Be’er-Sheva, not too far from Jerusalem, and live with a beautiful view. So I think that it’s always sort of a combination of those elements. And you can also see similar kinds of struggles in other places in the West Bank, but definitely, the South Hebron Hills is one of the places to keep our eyes open on. 

And I will add to that that one of the things that we’ve seen over the past two years now is an increase in settler violence, the past year were maybe the highest years in numbers of attacks, and this is something that we see pretty systematically in areas like the South Hebron Hills. So coupled with the ideology or the economical issue, you also have not small groups of extremely violent Israeli settlers that are using their might and force, in many cases backed by the Israeli military, to entrench themselves.

RG: And speaking of the military, Zach, can you play the clip on Avi Maoz?

MH: And then there’s Avi Maoz, who will become a deputy minister in charge of the curriculum at some Israeli schools. Maoz is openly homophobic, calling same-sex relationships deviant and abnormal, while his party’s website supports gay conversion therapy and objects to women serving in the military.

RG: Yes. So I wanted to ask about the military. First of all, is this push to ban women from serving in the military a fringe position? Because my understanding is that the Israeli public has been very proud of its universal military service, so this would seem to be taking things pretty radically in the opposite direction.

AG: Yeah, I would agree. I mean, I think that some of the wishes and wants of Smotrich, Ben-Gvir, and Maoz, [there’s] a good chance that they will happen, especially when it comes to what we just discussed, the treatment of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, and other minorities. 

I think that some of Noam, this is the party that Avi Maoz runs, is a fringe even within the right. But I do think that even though it is very hard to see definitely not banning women from military service or combat positions, but even sort of lesser actions that will be demanded by Maoz, I think will meet pushback even within the military itself. But I think the fact that Netanyahu allowed someone like Avi Maoz, an open homophobe and obviously racist and so on to gain so much power, talks about this point that we’re in in the Israeli political sphere, and how much Netanyahu — and at the end of the day, both Smotrich and Maoz are in Netanyahu’s government — how much Netanyahu is willing to give them or pay, even in places where fundamentally his base or his voters disagree, I think shows the place that Netanyahu is in and his maybe even hysteria in his need to form a far-right coalition that will allow him to move forward with a lot of what he wants, but definitely in protecting him against his indictments.

RG: I also wanted to ask you, for your analysis on why it is that Israeli politics has moved so steadily over the decades to the right. What is it about the construction of the state? Is it something about being an ethnostate that just, over time, pushes the state in that direction? Is it something about universal military service and having people participate in this brutal occupation that then grinds their politics to the right as they reenter civil society? I’ve seen you talk about that a little bit in the past. 

But I’m curious if you think this was inevitable, or if there were hinge points where things could have gone differently, or if this was just the destiny of the state?

AG: I mean, I have to say, and this will answer your question, but also connect it to Maoz or Smotrich or Ben-Gvir. I grew up in the religious community in Israel, what we call religious nationalists or religious sciences. I went to Yeshiva until 12th grade. The people I care most deeply about, that I really sort of appreciate their thoughts, close family, friends, and so on, are still a part of the religious community. In the same way that I don’t think that religion or religious Jews, for that matter, have to find themselves in the Avi Maoz position, right? There’s other models, there’s other leaders, other teachers; I have to say, I think, in the same way about the state of Israel generally. And there were other models and there is a vibrant, active, energetic civil society community, you know, artists, writers, thinkers, politicians, who have been and are fighting this. 

With that said — and definitely, Breaking the Silence is part of that and we’re proud to be part of that — I think that there are elements that we cannot ignore, with the formation and the history of this place. And I think that not only do we have to recognize our current responsibility over millions of Palestinians that we’re controlling by force and an Israeli saying that has become a bit of a cliche, [in Hebrew] “the occupation corrupts,” I think is something that is so clearly true and visible in what we’re seeing in Israel today. I mean, you can’t understand Ben-Gvir and Smotrich without understanding where Ben-Gvir lives, which is Hebron, right? And as Medhi mentioned in his monologue, the support of Ben-Gvir of people like Goldstein, right, a mass murderer who killed 29 Palestinians.

But 1967 isn’t the whole story. We also have to look back to ’48, and I think even before that, and understand that at the end of the day, the State of Israel wasn’t created in a land without the people for people without the land, right? I mean, that’s a myth, but a dangerous myth. You know, I live in Tel Aviv; Tel Aviv is adjacent to Yafo; the history of Yafo and the history of Hebron and Lod are things that we cannot and should not ignore. 

And I think that part of the silence that we want to break has to do with our military service in the occupied territories Israel controlled after 1967. But the silence around Israel’s occupation is not the only silence that we’re walking around with. When we’re talking about the Israeli war of independence, this was the Palestinians in Nakba. These are things that we have to remember, and we have to teach ourselves, and we have to teach our communities. And I think as long as we will ignore this history, and sort of embolden this imbalance of power, then our ability to live up to any sort of ideals of equality, justice, or even just the basic concept of real democracy will never really be able to live together.

RG: I was gonna ask Zach to play the last part because it gets into the U.S. role here and the role of global politics.

MH: So, where does that leave the United States government, which is, of course, a government that sends billions of dollars in aid to Israel? 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States will focus on policies, not personalities, when it comes to Israel. But that’s a bit of a cop-out, given the new far-right personalities are deciding the new far-right policies. 

The new Israeli government, for example, will be taking a different stance than the previous government when it comes to the war in Ukraine. That’s right. New Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said Monday that: “On the issue of Russia and Ukraine, we will do one thing for sure — speak less in public.”

This is a break from Cohen’s predecessor, Yair Lapid, who condemned Russia’s war on Ukraine and said that Putin’s army had committed war crimes. 

Russia indeed seems happy about Israel’s new governing coalition with President Putin, celebrating Netanyahu’s return and hoping for Russian-Israeli cooperation in all areas “for the benefit of our peoples.”

RG: What struck me about the move around Russia-Ukraine was that I’ve always had this hunch that the Israeli right was kind of hunkering down, hoping that they could make it through this period in which the global community believes in the idea of democracy and that they were hoping that at the other end of this is a more autocratic period. And I think, with the rise of Modi, and with the rise of Putin, et cetera, you see glimmers of a potential future in which they could stop having to kind of pretend about civil rights, democracy, human rights, and then could just lock things down. 

And so this shift towards Russia in this conflict, I thought was maybe an indication of that. What do you make of that idea? And how much should we read into what Cohen is saying here?

AG: I think that — and this was definitely true in the previous government more under Bennett and Lapid — but I think we’re seeing just maybe a deeper shift in policy, warming towards Russia. I don’t know if we could talk about a total shift in policy yet, but definitely the fear of losing the Israeli-Russian relationship, which sort of has geopolitical connections and obviously Iran is in the background there, and so on and so forth.

But I think that the warming up to Russia, again, is sort of built on some of the history of Netanyahu’s legacy. This government was formed after Israel’s fifth election in a very short period of time. And in some of the first rounds, the billboards that Netanyahu and the Likud had up all around Israel are basically pictures of Netanyahu with Donald Trump, and Netanyahu with Putin, and the pictures had the sort of a slogan that Netanyahu is a league of his own, basically. 

And I think that Netanyahu very strategically has really built ties with illiberal democracies or countries that are definitely non-democratic. We remember Netanyahu’s connections to Bolsonaro, and obviously Orbán in Hungary, Duterte. So I think there’s definitely a trend here. 

I think that Russia and Ukraine actually pose a bigger challenge to the Netanyahu government. And I think it will be interesting and worthwhile paying attention there. But I think part of the challenge is, which should also be on the table, that a lot of the way the world will treat Putin, who is taking control of territories with a military force, maintaining a military occupation, will reflect on Israel and our occupation over Palestinians. 

And there are yes comparisons, no comparisons, but this is something that many are paying attention to. And I think that Netanyahu is as well.

RG: Although the way the world is implementing those sanctions has a lot to do with the way that the United States is insisting that the world implement those sanctions. And so I’m wondering: Does the Israeli right sort of take us domestic support for granted? Do they feel like they’re so locked in here, that nothing that they do on the ground there will shake that?

AG: I think that there is that notion in big parts of the Israeli right, the center-right, I would say definitely taken for granted. There was a tape leaked — not clear who it was leaked by — when Netanyahu was in conversation with Arnon Mozes who was a publisher of one of the bigger Israeli newspapers, one of his cases of indictment. And this is the last time that Netanyahu formed a very right-wing coalition around 2015. And the publisher of the newspaper asks Netanyahu in this recording that came out: Aren’t you scared of the reaction of the world to this right-wing government? 

And Netanyahu answers, I think very tellingly, says something along the lines of: The world doesn’t really matter. There’s only one country that matters, and that’s the U.S. 

So Netanyahu feels that he understands the U.S. and that he has the support he needs from the U.S. to move forward with his actions. And I think that this makes the role of the U.S. so much more important. I walked around with a gun, with helmet, and sometimes [a] uniform, all made by the USA, right? I mean, the involvement of the U.S. is not only in financial support, but literally half of the Israeli army walks around with M16s, which are made by the U.S. So the involvement is very deep. 

And I think that, in that sense, the responsibility of this administration, for sure, is to be very clear to this government that we could talk about the personalities versus the policies, but now, it’s not about personalities anymore. The policies are on the table. Right? This Israeli government wants to move forward with formal annexation — and a bunch of other things. And this is being done with the backing of the U.S., if we’d like that or not.

And I think that if there was one capital that Netanyahu and members of his cabinet will pay attention to, it’s Washington.

RG: Well, Avner, thank you so much for joining me. I deeply appreciate it.

AG: Thank you so much, with pleasure.

[End credits music.] 

RG: That was Avner Gvaryahu, and that’s our show. 

Deconstructed is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our producer is Zach Young. Laura Flynn is our supervising producer. The show was mixed by William Stanton. Our theme music was composed by Bart Warshaw. Roger Hodge is The Intercept’s editor in chief.

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