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Lia Tarachansky says that the negotiations over the new coalition government gave positions critical to the settlement project to settlers and the Orthodox

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. On Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to an agreement with the head of the Jewish Home party, which means he has enough seats to form a coalition government in the Knesset. Now joining us to unpack all of this is Lia Tarachansky. Lia is a journalist, filmmaker, and the creator of the documentary On the Side of the Road. Thanks for joining us, Lia. LIA TARACHANSKY, MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT, TRNN: Thanks for having me. DESVARIEUX: So Lia, after Israel’s former foreign minister Lieberman resigned Monday–last Monday, I should say–Netanyahu found himself without a majority coalition in the Knesset. So Netanyahu is right now, as I mentioned, he came to an agreement with the Jewish Home party to form a majority coalition. So just tell us, whose interests are being reflected in this potential government? TARACHANSKY: Well, there’s one thing that I wanted to correct in the sense that whether or not Lieberman would have joined the government, Netanyahu’s efforts have always allowed him to create that coalition. The question has never been about Lieberman, the question has been about Bennett. What’s amazing is that Lieberman basically threw a wrench into the machine and pulled himself out. So whether or not–basically, having Lieberman in that coalition would have made it a much stronger coalition. Because we would have been talking about a coalition of 67, an extra six seats. Now, Lieberman basically pulling the rug underneath Netanyahu’s strong coalition, leaving him with a very, very, very sort of thin, just scraping by what he needed to form a coalition in the Israeli political system. Basically threw sort of the sand in the face of Netanyahu and said, you know what? You’ve been ignoring me. Obviously you and I are not aligned as strongly as we used to be. So you can go to hell. And so all of the efforts on Netanyahu’s party, the Jewish Home, or HaBayit HaYehudi party, have intensified. And this is why that party’s leader, Naftali Bennett, was successful in getting one of the most controversial politicians in Israel’s echelon to get the Ministry of Justice, which is a very, very important ministry in the Israeli political, basically, institution. He got that into the hands of Ayelet Shaked, which is one of the most controversial–and in my opinion radical, extreme right-wing–politician. She is now going to be in charge of the Ministry of Justice because Lieberman pulled out and basically gave all of his political capital to Naftali Bennett, and Netanyahu’s basically hopes at forming this coalition were all in the hands of one man who could basically dictate whatever terms he wanted. DESVARIEUX: All right, let’s switch gears and talk about the U.S. relationship with Israel, because the mainstream press has often reported on the supposed tense relationship with the U.S. over the issue of Netanyahu’s commitment to the two-state solution and whether or not he’s really committed to it. Bennett has a strong base in the settler movement, which seeks to sort of annex large portions of the occupied West Bank. Do you think his presence in the government will affect the settlement construction which the UN and many international human rights organizations say is illegal under international law? TARACHANSKY: I mean, in the last government Naftali Bennett had a much bigger power over what happens politically. He had much better ministries in his folder. And in fact, had much more power. So there’s not going to be any difference based on Naftali Bennett in this government. What you have to understand about Israeli politics is because it’s such a small country, every little political change has a very big impact. And because it’s a country in constant conflict, where political movements and political experimentation is still alive and well, every small political change has a very big impact. And so who sits at the top of the ministry has very real repercussions for what the practices and policies of that ministry are going to be. So who is the head of the Ministry of the Interior will have a direct impact about, on who is a citizen and who is not. Who gets deported, who doesn’t get deported. And the fact that this coalition formulation took so long is a testament to that, because of course the reason the negotiations were taking so long is because the various parties are fighting over which ministries they will have, knowing that which ministries they will have will dictate what the next years will mean for their populations and their constituents. And so that—having said that about the top of the ministries, the ones who are actually putting into practice on the ground the policies, the ideology of the ministry are the low-level deputies and the bureaucrats. And what we see here is fascinating, because what the ministry–what these negotiations basically created is, Netanyahu gave the deputy positions to many of the ministries where the settlement construction will actually take place to settlers and to the Orthodox. Basically guaranteeing that the parliament system will continue to go that no matter what the opposition decides to do, the people who are actually in charge of that rubber stamp, that can actually create or dismantle settlements, will be the kinds of people that would support the settlement movement. But I want to take a step back, and I want to say that of all of the parties that are currently in the parliament, we’re talking about an overwhelming majority directly opposed to the two-state solution. And in fact I think that as journalists try to do justice to this conflict, we have to step out of the dichotomy of the two-state solution and to step out of this conversation about the peace process. The Americans have done nothing to advance the peace process, have personally sabotaged the peace process, whether or not Netanyahu is or is not in power. And therefore the American government’s sort of deliberating about whether or not Netanyahu is committed to the two-state solution is nothing more than theater. Because the Americans have done very little to actually move that forward. DESVARIEUX: So Lia, we know who’s in the coalition government, but who’s in the opposition? TARACHANSKY: So this is what’s interesting. Because of course the coalition is a very homogenous group. But in the opposition we’re seeing a very large–the Arab party coalition, which is 13 seats. We’re seeing Meretz with 5 seats, which is a leftist Israeli party. We’re seeing the big Zionist bloc, what used to be called the Labour party. Yesh Atid, which is a very Zionist party, but in a way is more focused on economic issues. And now that Lieberman has stepped out of the foreign ministry, potentially also Lieberman’s party. So you’re seeing here a fairly diverse opposition. But with a much, much, much stronger presence of both non-Zionist and anti-Zionist members of parliament, which means that the coming four years, if this government lasts the actual four years, are going to be very interesting. DESVARIEUX: All right, Lia Tarachansky. Always a pleasure having you on. Thank you for joining us. TARACHANSKY: Thanks so much for having me. DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Lia Tarachansky is a journalist and filmmaker at Naretiv Productions. She is a former Israel/Palestine correspondent for The Real News Network, where she produced short, documentary-style reports exploring the context behind the news. She has directed several documentaries that tackle different aspects of social justice struggles in Israel/Palestine.