Home FOREIGN Netanyahu’s Electoral Victory As Israeli Leader Causes Ripples Across The World

Netanyahu’s Electoral Victory As Israeli Leader Causes Ripples Across The World

Israel Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu
Israel Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu

Benyamin Netanyahu’s sweeping victory in Israel’s general election is causing ripples across the world as it appears to be another nail in the coffin of fading hopes for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Netanyahu’s eve-of-pledge that he would not agree to the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and scaremongering about Arab citizens voting “in droves” showed him at his most manipulative and implacable.
The coalition government he looks set to form will likely include nationalist extremists such as Naftali Bennett, of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party, as well as ultraorthodox parties that lean to the right. Concessions to centre parties will be on domestic and economic issues rather than the core questions of territory, borders and peace.
Palestinians had low expectations of Israel’s election and always doubted it would lead to a re-launch of substantive peace negotiations, whoever won – though the Labor party’s Isaac Herzog would certainly have held out more promise on paper. The Palestinian Authority will now likely go ahead with plans to take Israel to the international criminal court over its actions in the occupied territories.
Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza, will be confirmed in its strategy of armed resistance – though it would not have been abandoned had the centre-left won. Egypt and Jordan both have peace treaties with Israel but are preoccupied with the aftermath of the Arab spring and focusing on domestic affairs and the threat from jihadi groups.
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states share Israel’s concerns about Iran: one Gulf official even blamed Iran for Netanyahu’s victory. But a win for Herzog might have brought a revival of the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel pan-Arab recognition in return for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. That is unlikely to happen now.
Barack Obama will be deeply disappointed that Netanyahu has won a fourth term, though given the salience of Israel in US domestic politics, he has no choice but to grit his teeth, accept the outcome and work with him. Netanyahu has brought personal relations with the White House to a historic low, culminating in his recent controversial speech to congress on the danger posed by the P5 + 1 nuclear negotiations with Iran and the prospect of a wider rapprochement between Washington and Tehran.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state – in Lausanne for the final stretch of those talks – pointedly refused to take questions on the Israeli election result. The US will be hoping that there is wriggle room behind Netanyahu’s firm “no” to a Palestinian state. If there is not, then then US-Israeli special relationship will face new strains.
The Islamic Republic, which conducts no formal relations with Israel, said it expected “business as usual” under a new Netanyahu government. “The Israeli parties are the same and they are all accomplices in their crimes against the Palestinians and in their acts of aggression,” said the foreign ministry in Tehran.
But on one argument hardliners in Iran prefer a rightwing government in Israel, whose own undeclared nuclear arsenal is currently the only one in the Middle East. Iran also firmly supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah is an important ally and proxy in the confrontation with Israel. Tehran may fear that a re-elected Netanyahu might resort to military threats if a nuclear agreement is reached.
David Cameron’s pro forma congratulations to Netanyahu mask unease in the British foreign policy establishment at the demise of the two-state solution. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, has already signalled a tougher line on Israel if he wins May’s general election. The EU wants to give a higher priority to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. But it is hard to see how Netanyahu – openly hostile to meddling European governments and NGOs – fits in with that. Punitive action against illegal settlement activity will increase. Carl Bildt, the former prime minister of Sweden, said Netanyahu’s victory risked a “profound crisis on [the] Palestinian issue.”
A new government in Israel risks profound crisis on Palestinian issue. Difficult to see any credible political path forward.
Supporters of the Palestinians across Europe will renew efforts to pressure Israel, using consumer and cultural boycotts to raise the cost of continued occupation. The strong electoral performance of the United Arab List of Israel’s Palestinian citizens will boost hopes for more effective civil and human rights campaigns in the absence of a viable diplomatic process. Already-toxic arguments about the link between criticism of Israel and antisemitism are likely to intensify.

Leave a Reply