Israel poll outcome ends peace hopes

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is greeted by supporters of his Likud party as he arrives to speak following the announcement of exit polls in Israel's parliamentary election in Tel Aviv, Israel on April 10, 2019. REUTERS

Although the right-wing Likud Party and the centre-left Kahol Lavan party tied with 35 seats each in the just-concluded Israeli general election, the Likud Party will form Israel’s next government. With two other right-wing parties extending support to Likud, the latter reached the finish line first. This will give Benjamin Netanyahu his fifth term as prime minister. Despite facing serious corruption charges, Netanyahu managed to win. US President Donald Trump played an important role in his victory. In the run-up to the Israeli general election, the Trump administration recognised Israel’s sovereignty over Syria’s Golan Heights. The US also moved its embassy to the “undivided capital” Jerusalem. This provided a boost to Netanyahu’s stature, especially among Israeli hardliners. Israel’s left-wing Labour Party won only six seats in the election, reaffirming the terminal decline of a party that once dominated the Israeli political landscape and stood for dialogue with the Palestinians. Israeli voters have sent a record number — five — of gay and lesbian candidates to parliament; this is the only heartening feature of the new Knesset. Fewer women and Arab-Israelis will sit in the new parliament. The shrinking presence of Arab-Israelis in parliament has been attributed to low Arab-Israeli voter turn-out. Likud intimidation kept Arab-Israelis from voting. Apparently, the Likud provided observers in polling stations in Arab neighbourhoods with hidden cameras, prompting Arab-Israelis to stay away from exercising their franchise.

Netanyahu’s return to power does not bode well for the region. During his previous terms, Israel’s policies shifted significantly to the right, especially on the Palestinian question. Peace talks collapsed and the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank accelerated. During the recent election campaign, Netanyahu promised to annex these settlements if he won a fifth term. He can be expected to deliver on that promise. It will inflame Palestinian emotions. The two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which envisages two separate and sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, co-existing side by side has underpinned the peace process so far. Israel weakened this foundation over the years. Under Netanyahu, the two-state solution is expected to die and be buried forever.

It is the Palestinians who have emerged the biggest losers from the Israeli election. Trump is expected to put forward a new ‘peace’ plan. Given their very weak situation, Palestinians will have to accept whatever is offered to them, even a moth-eaten West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian frustration is likely to explode in violence. The world has left them with no other option.

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Israel poll outcome ends peace hopes

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