Netanyahu's win means no more illusions for Palestinians

Netanyahu's win means no more illusions for Palestinians
Analysis: Netanyahu's convincing victory means that Palestinians can have no more illusions that they will gain anything from the peace process.
5 min read
18 March, 2015
Netanuahu's last-minute attempt to scare the Israeli electorate appears to have paid off [Anadolu]

Binyamin Netanyahu's last-minute scare tactic over the danger threatening Israel's right wing appears to have made the difference in the ballots, leading him to a fourth term, after promises not to allow a Palestinian state's existence.

Exit polls collated from 99 percent of polling places suggested Netanyahu had won 30 seats, putting him ahead of his "centre-left" rivals by six seats.

According to the polls, Zionist Union, led by Labor's Isaac Herzog and Hatnua's Tzipi Livni, won 24 seats, while the Joint List, largely representing Palestinians in Israel, won 14 seats.

A new right-wing coalition

Netanyahu is headed for a new term, and could find an alliance with former Likud member Moshe Kahlon, who led the Kulanu list and won 10 Knesset seats. Netanyahu may also turn to other far-right leaders from the Jewish Home party, Yehudet Hatorah, Shas or Israel Beiteinu.

Netanyahu, the Palestinians and the United States will likely remain at odds, after the collapse of peace talks and Netanyahu's criticism of Obama's policy in the US Congress.

It is not possible that the US will remain Israel's strategic ally and the sole patron of the peace process in the same time
- Nabil Shaath

Fatah's Foreign Relations Commissioner, Nabil Shaath, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was ready for such results and would not return to negotiations unless his three conditions - to stop settlement activity, set a deadline for Israel's withdrawal from occupied territories and internationalise the process - were met.

"It is not possible that the US will remain Israel's strategic ally and the sole patron of the peace process in the same time," Shaath said. There will be no return to the "old peace process", he added.

"We will not return to negotiations like before, we will only return under international patronage," he said.

"We have three conditions; a complete and final stop to settlement activity, especially in Jerusalem, setting a deadline for Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, and not a deadline for the talks, and an international reference."

Hanna Amireh, who represents the leftist Palestinian People's Party on the PLO Executive Committee, said that the threat Netanyahu posed at this moment was greater that just a risk to the peace process. His election is expected to further raise heightened tensions in Jerusalem and increase settlement building.

"The general composition will lead to more tension and more settlements and obstruct the path of the solution based on the two states, and situation will only get worse," said Amireh.

What next for the Palestinians?

Amireh confirmed that the Palestinian plan was to internationalise the Palestinian question through seeking further international recognition among states and international organisations, as well as at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The Palestinians' diplomatic strategy could be used by Israel to excuse more aggressive reactions, pushing Palestinians off the cliff. But Palestinians say they will have nowhere to go from there, except into the laps of the international community. The international community must undertake its responsibility in the aftermath of any Israeli unilateral move - such as the withholding of Palestinian tax money, which has crippled the PA since early this year.

"We are in a worse situation, based on Netanyahu's clear rejection of the two state solution," said Mustafa Barghouti, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, the latest party to join the PLO.

"This means that Israel is an apartheid state and we are headed toward an irreversible political impasse."

Barghouti called for taking steps towards cutting ties with Israel immediately. "If the price for that was the collapse of the [Palestinian] Authority, then, let it be."

Many Palestinians feel Israel's left offers nothing better than the right; disappointment in both camps is a widely shared view and is indicative of a widespread feeling of futility regarding the "peace process" with either left or right in Israel.

Political analyst Khalil Shahin says there is no difference between the Likud and the liberal Zionists, citing Netahyahu's rivals Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni's positions regarding Palestinian statehood.

Shahin says the only difference is that "Herzog could have opened the door without ever closing it".

"He would more likely be the one to re-launch peace talks, but at the same time, he would work to keep his promises with regards to settlement expansion, a unified Jerusalem as a capital for Israel, no return for refugees, and maybe even disarming Gaza's resistance groups in return for its reconstruction."

Shahin disagrees with Fatah's Shaath and believes Abbas would be pressured to return to negotiations if the Israelis were to release a fourth batch of veteran Palestinian prisoners and announce a freeze in settlement building. Shahin thinks these were the messages Abbas wanted to send to Herzog from the recent PLO meeting.

Netanyahu has already started his coalition talks, according to Israeli media sources, calling his former Likud colleague Moshe Kahlon.

Netanyahu and Kahlon can comfortably sit in an expanded government coalition formed with the remaining four right wing lists. This will give Netanyahu a more stable alliance, securing some 67 seats in the Knesset.

It is not just a government of the right, it is a government of colonial expansion
- Honaida Ghonem

Unless Netanyahu tries to persuade what passes for the centre-left in Israel to join him, the Israeli government will be seen by many in the international community as an "extremist government".

At any case, it is hard to imagine a scenario that would be comfortable for Palestinians.


According to Honaida Ghanem, the director of the Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies, this means a prolonged political impasse for the Palestinians.

"The results of this election proves that Israel's transformation towards the right is strategic and due to integral changes in Israeli society," she said.

"I believe it is more convenient now for Palestinians to work internationally," she added.

"Whatever new Israeli government comes to power, it will not cease to change facts on the ground, in Jerusalem and the West Bank; it is not just a government of the right, it is a government of colonial expansion."

Ghanem sees the road towards the two-state solution as more complicated, but simultaneously giving more reason for Palestinians to work to pressure Israel internationally.

Netanyahu is likely to re-introduce his Jewish Nation bill, putting the cart in front of the horse, said Ghanem.

The coming weeks will reveal Netanyahu's new government, and from that point, at least Palestinians will be left with no illusions of peace.