In Gaza, Israel’s general elections have been one of the most heatedly argued topics over the past few days. Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc lost a considerable number of seats — winning 31, down 11 from the previous term — while other center and left-leaning groups, most notably Yesh Atid and Labor, won a combined total of 59 of the 120 parliamentary seats.
Despite most in the media noting Netanyahu's weakened position in the next Israeli government, many Palestinians in Gaza seem to agree that the results will not effect their situation on the ground. The next Israeli government, many believe, will not bring about any change with regard to Palestinian issues such as the occupation, settlements, the right of return and recognition of their own state on the 1967 borders. The Israeli government will only pursue the “extremist and discriminatory” policies of its predecessors toward the Palestinians.
Al-Monitor started by asking Said Mhanna, the owner of a bookshop in Gaza City, about his opinion of the results of the Israeli elections and how that might affect the situation of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The next Israeli government, Mhanna said, will go on with its “belligerent policies” against the Palestinians, such as the marginalizing and punishing of the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas, its blockade of the Gaza Strip and uncurbed lethal attacks by settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank.
“The center-left camp are not as extremist as those in the right,” Mhanna said, “but despite this and despite the fact that negotiations are more possible when they’re in government, all Israeli factions have one and the same goal, which is to secure as many Israeli gains as possible at the expense of Palestinian basic rights, even if that requires pursuing extremely hostile policies, including killing them and expropriating more of their lands.”
Bassim Diyaa Zada, owner of the Al-Andalus clothing company in Al-Rimal district, held similarly distrustful views. According to Zada, the Palestinians have experienced several Israeli governments from both the right and the left over the years, “but they all were the same when it comes to treating the Palestinians. There is no difference between left-wing Israeli factions and right-wing ones when the Palestinians are concerned,” Zada told Al-Monitor.
However, Zada explained that the only difference which we will witness is that this time, the Israeli government will have to deal with “one unified and representative Palestinian side, who will be able to defend their people and their rights, not a fragmented one, as was the case with the past Israeli government.”
“The last Israeli government was extremely radical and right-wing. The next one will be even more extreme and believes there is no real partner for peace to engage with. This is because they do not believe in our right to be here, and that sooner or later we will have to leave.”
Similarly, Adel Zaqoul, who is a fruit salesman from the Jabaliya refugee camp, believes that as long as “Netanyahu remains on top of any Israeli government, peace will remain out of reach in the region.” Moreover, Zaqoul added that Palestinians have to understand that there can be no genuine partner for peace on the Israeli side.
“Netanyahu will continue to be on top of the next Israeli government. They will not lift the blockade on Gaza. which will continue to be under their fire. There will be neither peace negotiations nor peace agreements. They will continue to delay the peace process and accuse us of not being serious about wanting to live in peace with them. In fact, we have to understand that every time, it was the Israeli government who constituted the real obstacle to peace.”
Walid al-Mudalal, an expert in Israeli affairs from Gaza, explained what the latest Israeli elections tell us about the Israeli public, and how they might impact the situation of the Palestinians in Gaza.
According to Al-Mudalal, Netanyahu has lost huge support due to his “extremely pro-settler” policies, which have "turned the Likud Party from a right-wing party into a far-right ultra-orthodox party.”
“Many in Likud did not agree with Netanyahu’s policies, which resulted in isolating Israel at the international level and put it in a troubled relationship with the United States. This made it clear to many inside Israel that Likud by itself cannot lead Israel in the international arena.”
The results of the Israeli elections have divided the Israeli public into two, according to al-Mudalal. There is the right and the far-right, and then the center and the left. Nonetheless, he added, this classification — which many seem to agree is based on the respective parties’ position with regard to internal Israeli politics — does not apply to the occupation and the question of the Palestinians.
“Although [Yair] Lapid, who is the true winner in this election, is considered to be of the center-left camp, he and Benjamin Netanyahu have more in common than not. Where they stand regarding internal issues such as the exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews from compulsory military service and other economic issues is what differentiates them. There is, however, no huge difference between them when the issue at hand is related to the Palestinians.”
Whoever wins Israel’s elections, the results remain the same for the Palestinians.
Mohammed Suliman, 23, is a Gaza-based writer and human rights worker. Mohammed has recently obtained a master’s degree in human rights from the London School of Economics. His writings appeared on different online publications including Al Jazeera English, openDemocracy, the Electronic Intifada and Mondoweiss.