Mickey Zohar
Mickey Zohar Esty Dazibov/TPS

In an interview granted to Israel Broadcasting Corporation (Kan), Israel’s new coalition chairman, MK Micky Zohar, has said he will not allow “even one Jew” to be evacuated from 25 small communities which appear to have been overlooked in the Deal of the Century.

Coalition chairmanship is a powerful parliamentary position in the Israeli Knesset. The coalition chairman, or “whip”, can be selectively vigilant about enforcing coalition discipline on various votes. This allows a coalition chairman to exert pressure on ministers who might otherwise oppose what the coalition chairman supports. Even senior ministers know that if they are at cross-purposes with the coalition chairman, they may find that their own pet projects are suddenly failing to achieve coalition support.

The conservative Israeli media has recently aired fears, in the Israeli right, that 25 small frontier communities might undergo “outpost removal”. The communities are mostly small farming communities, and also include well-known communities like Chavat Maon as well as Givat Asaf and Chavat Gilad where high-profile fatal terrorist attacks have occurred in the past.

The 25 communities are regarded as a gateway to 70% of Judea-Samaria, including the all-important mountain ridge which is traditionally prized as Israeli bedrock both historically and militarily. The Deal of the Century expresses conditional willingness to convert this area into an additional Arab state. The Israeli right vehemently opposes this, saying that the mountain ridge is part of the internationally recognized Jewish homeland. Even center-left leader Benny Gantz’s party does not support the “two-state” outcome.

Coalition chairman Zohar appears to have been responding both to concerns about the Trump peace plan, and to a recent decision handed down by Israel’s High Court striking down the Settlement Regulation Law. Israel’s High Court is the main power base of the Israeli left, hence constantly at loggerheads with the Israeli right who immediately vowed to re-legislate the law, deemed important for Jewish settlement rights in the Land of Israel. Zohar’s emphasis on “not even one Jew” appears to be responding to the longstanding position of the Israeli right, that due to international pressure, Arab human rights are seemingly upheld by the High Court at the expense of human rights of Jews.

Zohar also expressed strong support for the override clause. This long-awaited but controversial legislative change would allow Israel’s legislative branch an avenue to, under certain conditions, restore legislation struck down by its judicial counterpart. Currently, Israel’s unelected judicial branch has unlimited veto power over the elected legislative branch. Zohar said he would be delighted to assist former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, now in the opposition, who has vowed to legislate the override clause. “I will do anything to promote this,” the coalition chairman vowed. Zohar slammed the left end of the coalition, expressing concern that they would veto much-needed legislation.

Zohar and his interviewers then argued about whether the Likud had failed in promoting legislation to better balance the court system during its many years in power, a charge that Zohar only partly accepted, or whether there had never been a parliamentary majority for the needed changes.

'The last thing that interests me is what The Hague is saying'

In the same interview, MK Zohar predictably refused to accept that the International Criminal Court in The Hague holds any authority over Israel. Responding to the ICC’s ongoing bid to criminalize Israel, Zohar said that “the last thing that interests me is what Hague is saying”. This is in keeping with the State of Israel’s long standing position that the ICC can only be empowered by treaty signatories. Therefore, Israeli says, the ICC has no jurisdiction over Israel, since Israel, fearing this international organization situated in Western Europe would develop an anti-Israel bent, declined to sign the relevant treaty. Only about half the African countries and only a few Asian countries are ICC member states, compared to nearly all Western-European countries. The United States is also not an ICC member state.