Palestinians say they do not expect significant improvement in their lives or a re-starting of the peace process after Israel’s national election next month.
“The current election is a competition within the right-wing itself,” Nashat Aqtash, a professor of media at Bir Zeit University told The Media Line “All of them are using the same slogans – that Israel goes from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea and that there will never be a Palestinian state. We are losing hope that there are any Israeli leaders who are willing to conduct negotiations toward a peace agreement.”
Aqtash said that past Israeli leaders such as assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, current President Shimon Peres and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert conducted serious negotiations with the Palestinians. However, in the past four years since Benjamin Netanyahu took office, there have been no substantive talks and the number of Israelis living on land Israel acquired in the 1967 war and claimed by the Palestinians has increased substantially.
“There are half a million “settlers” now,” Mahdi Abdul Hadi, the chairman of PASSIA, a Palestinian think tank in east Jerusalem told The Media Line. “Their tone is so provocative and so inhumane. We are very worried because we see Israel moving to the right.”
Abdul Hadi was referring to the 300,000 Israelis who live in the West Bank on post-1967 land, as well as some 200,000 who live in east Jerusalem. Palestinians say Israel must withdraw completely to the pre-1967 borders, and east Jerusalem must become the capital of a future Palestinian state.
He also asserted that attitudes in Israel have become more hardline, a view many argue is supported by Netanyahu’s decision to run on a joint slate with the hardline Israel is our Home party. That party’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, stepped down as foreign minister after being indicted on charges of fraud. If he is convicted he will have to resign as a parliament member as well.
“The joint slate is the end of the two-state solution which we worked for, for so many years,” Abdul-Hadi said. “We were working hard to recognize each other.”
While polls show Netanyahu and Lieberman losing ground during the past few weeks, the lost votes are going to further right-wing candidates, not to the center. Palestinian media have been covering the elections. Despite all of the frustration Abdul Hadi says Palestinians have no choice but to follow events in Israel closely.
“Every Israeli election is an internal Palestinian issue and vice versa,” he said. “The conflict is deep rooted there and it is affecting people’s behavior. The Israeli election concerns everyone because they want to know where Israel is heading.”
Israel is a parliamentary democracy, meaning that voters choose a party instead of a candidate. The party with the most votes then tries to form a coalition. Given the current constellation of Israeli politics, it is impossible for the center or the center-left to form a coalition. That means the only question of the elections is if the coalition will be a rightist coalition of Likud and right-wing and religious parties, or whether some of the centrist parties will participate.