The outcome of the Israeli elections indicates a significant plunge in Netanyahu’s political power. While it is assumed that he will be the prime minister, I think the thrust of his conquering tendencies will be deterred, especially by the emergence of the centrist political party Yesh Atid, which will likely only join his coalition on its own terms. Yesh Atid’s 19 seats beat the Labor Party, which won a solid 17 seats, while the leftist Meretz party saw a doubling of its representation to six instead of three members. Despite this political humiliation of Netanyahu, it does not mean that Israel’s aggressive policies will be softened. It does mean, however, that they cannot be constantly undertaken with impunity.
Clovis Maksoud examines the results of the Israeli elections and calls for Palestinian unity.
The emerging political map will likely renew the mandate of Netanyahu — but definitely not with the arrogant freedom to act that characterized his previous terms. It is hoped that the nine Arabs elected to the Knesset will coordinate amongst themselves in an effective and credible manner to ensure that the issues of institutional discrimination against Arab citizens are not only reduced but ultimately eliminated. While changes in the political map in Israel might carry certain minor positive signs, it is important to note that unless Israel acknowledges its presence in the Palestinian occupied territories as an occupying power (which is, at this moment, far-fetched) the Palestinian occupied territories should hasten the unity of the existing authorities in Gaza and the West Bank. Unless this fundamental step is taken by the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, the creeping annexation and establishment of settlements and displacement of Palestinians in Jerusalem will continue.
It is therefore imperative that the Palestinians do not look at the weakening of Netanyahu as a sign of shrinking determination to implement his policies. It is necessary at this time for the emerging political scene in Israel not to project the illusion that significant changes in policy are going to take place. Furthermore, the reelection of Obama is an important factor. While focusing primarily on the economic priorities, he might during the next few months bring about a review or reassessment of his policies concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict. And in this respect, it is crucial that he deals with the Palestinian situation exclusively as an occupied territory where settlements are illegal and that the treaty between Israel and Egypt is not the “cornerstone” of the US strategy in the Middle East. These two factors must be carefully and thoroughly studied by the Palestinian resistance leadership, for a united Arab effort to rediscover what unites the Arabs and restores Palestinian rights to a priority in Arab strategic and diplomatic efforts.
Clovis Maksoud is a former ambassador and permanent observer of the League of Arab States at the United Nations and its chief representative in the United States for more than 10 years.