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Israeli right-wing coalition can give hope to the creation of a Palestinian state

As his election campaign drew to an end, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that a Palestinian state would not be established on his watch and promised increased settlement construction. He was re-elected. Netanyahu then formed the new coalition government. The agreement on a new coalition government – made possible after Netanyahu struck a deal with Naftali Bennett's far-right party 'Jewish Home', ushers in one of Israel's most right-wing governments yet.

PLO's chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat responded to the coalition news: "Congratulations Israel. Your new government has ensured that peace is not on their agenda." He accused Netanyahu of "leading the charge to bury the two-state solution". Looking at the components of the coalition, his concerns are warranted, however, this last minute cobbling together of this coalition has set the scene for a period of unstable governance, as well as ensuring Israel faces more difficulties in the international arena.

Most of the five parties in the new government are completely against the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders. Key players include pro- settlement Bennet, who out-rightly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state. In 2013, Bennett declared: "I have killed lots of Arabs in my life—and there is no problem with that" and has also defended his role as company commander in the April 1996 Qana massacre, in which the Israeli military killed over 100 Lebanese civilians. On his insistence Ayelet Shaked took the position of Justice Minister in the new government. She has called for the annexation of parts of the West Bank and has opposed the signing of any peace deal with Palestinians along the 1967 borders, calling it "national suicide". Shaked caused international outrage this year for an online post in which she seemed to advocate for the genocide of Palestinians.

While US President Barack Obama has congratulated Netanyahu on securing his fourth term in office, the pro-settlement, anti-peace stance of many key players in the government has not gone unnoticed. Israel approved construction of 900 settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem shortly after the coalition was formed- US brokered peace talks collapsed in April last year amid Israel's failure to stop settlement construction. In a briefing last Thursday at the US State Department, spokesman Jeff Rathke called the approval of the settlement homes "disappointing" and "damaging".

The following day, the European United Left group of MEPs released a statement which demanded the abolition of partnership agreements with Israel due to its indiscriminate aggression against the Palestinians. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also expressed concern over the settlement plans. Ki-moon, had already said that after the coalition deal, he would investigate whether there are "realistic options" for a return to peace talks.

On Wednesday, a high-profile group of former European political leaders and diplomats sent a strongly worded letter to the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherin, which called for an urgent reassessment of EU policy on the question of a Palestinian state and insisted Israel must be held to account for its actions in the occupied territories. Also on Wednesday, Obama reportedly said in an interview with London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the United States is "taking a hard look" at its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that Palestinians "deserve an end to occupation."

While the right-wing coalition seems the least positive thing to happen for those hoping for the creation of a viable Palestinian state, hope is not lost. Netanyahu's pledge that a Palestinian state would not happen while he is Prime Minister and the disregard of a two state solution by many key players in the new government, can serve the Palestinian cause. It is already beginning to isolate Israel from its closest allies. A government which was not so hard-line right-wing would be given the benefit of the doubt by the international community; states could continue to softly condemn Israeli violations of international law while sharing good bi-lateral relations and Israel could continue to use the promise of peace talks to stave off concrete changes. The new coalition government could render this impossible.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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