A Revolution in the Netherlands

A government emerges without Geert Wilders as prime minister but with his vision at its center.

AP/Peter Dejong, File
Geert Wilders, leader of PVV, or Party for Freedom, talks to the media, two days after winning the most votes in a general election, at The Hague, Netherlands, on Nov. 24, 2023. AP/Peter Dejong, File

The emergence of Geert Wilders at the center of a new government in Holland would have been difficult to predict two decades ago when, after the murder of the filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, he was forced to go into hiding along with another Dutch dissident, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. She wrote the film for which Van Gogh was murdered. Flash forward now to the victory Mr. Wilders’s party won in elections six months ago and the deal it has reached today to govern.     

The context in which the world will see this news is the rise of the right. Mr. Wilders is an ally of such leaders as Prime Ministers Orbán in Hungary and Meloni in Italy and France’s opposition leader Marine Le Pen. He is known as the “Dutch Donald Trump.” Reports, though, have it that he will not be prime minister even though his Party for Freedom secured the most seats. The incoming government will comprise four parties of the right. 

The new regime’s charter is a 26-page document titled “Hope, Courage, and Pride.” It aims to, among other policy goals, “stem the excessive influx of asylum seekers and immigrants” by imposing stricter measures on migrants, discarding a policy of family reunification for refugees, and reducing the number of international students. It wants to “deport people without a valid residence permit as much as possible, even forcibly.” 

The new government — reflecting the fact Mr. Wilders is pro-Israel — pledges to explore “the appropriate time” for “the move of the embassy to Jerusalem” from Tel Aviv. Never before has such an aspiration been voiced by a European coalition. He also promises that anyone sitting the exam to secure citizenship will be required to demonstrate knowledge of the Holocaust, during which perished 75 percent of Dutch Jews, including Anne Frank.

The firebrand’s election win was in November, not long after the attacks by Hamas on October 7 and the surge of anti-Israel hate that followed across Europe. The Dutch, for whom sensibility is as much an inheritance as Rembrandt, could have reckoned that “there but for the grace of Geert go us.” This is not to endorse everything Mr. Wilders has said, or his way of saying it. Politics, though, can be about prescience, and this world is one he foresaw.

Take the University of Amsterdam, which this week canceled classes and shut its doors because of anti-Israel rioters. The Associated Press reports that the 400 year-old school “could not guarantee the safety of anyone on campus after a group of masked agitators barricaded doors and spray painted slogans on the walls.” The school blames “destructive elements” for causing “wanton destruction.” One student said he has “never seen such violence.” Europe certainly has.

When President Herzog visited Amsterdam in March to dedicate a Holocaust museum there, Mr. Wilders took to X to write that “Israel has, and always will have, my full support in its fight against terror.” Putting an embassy in the country’s capital, in the midst of Israel’s war, would be a magnificent demonstration of that support. Plus too, it is promising that Mr. Wilders, knowing himself to be a flawed messenger, is a servant to the causes he has championed. 


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