The Israeli General Election is over and Benjamin Netanyahu has failed to gain a majority in the 22nd Knesset. This was a slap in the face, and a shameful disappointment for him after weeks of incitement against the Palestinians, including Arab citizens of Israel, in a scaremongering election campaign.
In all the uncertainty, what we know for sure is that whoever eventually leads the next Israeli government will not be aiming to end the ongoing seven-decades of Israel’s colonisation of historic Palestine, nor bringing to a close the ongoing 52 years of military rule in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. The next prime minister will not advocate for peace with oppressed Palestinians who aspire for self-determination and freedom; nor will he — it will almost certainly be a man — apologise for the ethnic cleansing that took place in 1948 and the frequent expulsion and dispossession over many years. He will not dismantle the illegal settlements or outposts across the occupied West Bank, nor will he stop the settlers’ attacks and his country’s awful discrimination and racist policies, laws and practices targeting the Palestinians.
The fate of the Palestinians is tied to developments in Israel, so many of them followed the election campaign and await the outcome with great interest. They all agree, though, that the Israeli candidates and officials are simply different sides of the same coin.
The official Palestinian leadership, of course, also looked on with interest, stressing that the Palestinian Authority is looking for a genuine partner for peace who is willing to end the military occupation and believes in the two-state solution. That, though, is already dead and buried in the eyes of most ordinary Palestinians.
“Israeli elections were about maintaining the status quo or strengthening apartheid,” tweeted Saeb Erekat, the Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. “For peace to prevail, [the] next government has to realise that there will be no peace nor security without ending the occupation: Palestine next to Israel 1967 borders.”The PA had to issue a clarification in response to Netanyahu’s accusation that it was interfering in Israel’s election. “Netanyahu’s accusations & some Likud members of the PA’s interference in the Israeli elections are false,” wrote the Head of the General Authority of Civil Affairs on Twitter. “This justifies the continuation of the rabid campaign against the PA & its leaders. We view these elections to be an internal Israeli affair & this is our consistent & clear position.”
However, conflicting statements surfaced when the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki said that the PA is ready for dialogue with any future Israeli leader. A few hours later President Mahmoud Abbas said that he would be against any new Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.
I think that what was meant here is that the PA is willing to go back to the negotiation table with any PM, even Netanyahu himself if he changes his course of action and polices towards the Palestinians. “Whoever will be able to form a government, we are ready to sit with him or her in order to restart the negotiations,” explained Al-Maliki.
For their part, Palestinian resistance groups all agreed that they expect nothing good from any of the leading candidates, regardless of who heads the next government. Whether it’s Benny Gantz, Avigdor Lieberman or Netanyahu again, all of them want to crush Palestinian morale, resolve, spirit of resistance and national identity. “All Israeli officials are hostile to Palestinians,” pointed out the Deputy Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Mousa Abu Marzook.
Over the years, Israeli politicians and generals have convinced Israeli society systematically that all Palestinians, including the pragmatics, leftists and secularists who believe in peace and non-violent struggle, such as Abbas, will always be an existential threat to Israel’s future. Netanyahu — described by some as “Mr Security” — has always suspected Israeli Arab Muslim and Christian Knesset Members of treason simply because they are neither Jews nor Zionists, or if they do not agree with all of his polices.
#IsraElex19: Israeli Elections 2019
The longest serving Israeli Prime Minister has spared no effort in stirring up anti-Arab fear and sentiments. Nevertheless, the Joint List — made up of four Arab parties and led by Aymen Odeh — is now the third-largest party in the parliament after this election. This new reality is Netanyahu’s nightmare; it’s a game changer, as we now have Arab legislators who might have an effective presence in the Knesset and be catalysts for change.
There is no doubt that this election result is a personal defeat for Netanyahu, “the magician” who has been using tricks and racist, populist rhetoric to stay in power, no matter what it takes. In a final bid to stay on as prime minister he continued to incite against the Joint List, which represents a community of almost two million Arab Israeli citizens. “There are only two options,” he told voters, “a government led by myself, or a dangerous government that relies on Arab parties.”
As long as Israel maintains that it is the “nation-state of the Jewish people only” then it cannot call itself a secular democracy, especially when it imposes Apartheid and discriminates against its non-Jewish citizens. Unless and until equal rights are granted to everyone regardless of religion, race and ethnicity, it cannot be a democracy. However, that change won’t happen without international pressure on Israel to respect international law and be held accountable.
As Israelis wait to see who will lead the next government, the Palestinians, who have been let down by the international community as well as the Arab regimes, have lost hope that peace will ever be attainable. Whoever the next prime minister is, the Palestinians know that it will make no difference to them whatsoever.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.