Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 August 2019

What Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory means for Palestinians

The next four years could be the worst ever with the Israeli premier further to the right and Trump in power

A Palestinian man reads a local newspaper with news of the Israeli election, in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 10, 2019. Reuters
A Palestinian man reads a local newspaper with news of the Israeli election, in Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank April 10, 2019. Reuters

Benjamin Netanyahu is on course for another term as Israel’s Prime Minister. And that’s worrying for the Palestinians.

In his previous decade in power, peace has become more distant, as have hopes of a sovereign Palestinian state. Settlement building has increased dramatically, the US has recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and two deadly Gaza operations have been waged on his watch.

Now that he is set to regain his seat, despite a raft of corruption allegations, Palestinians can only hope for the worst.

Their rights are set to be further eroded by what is likely to be one of the most nationalist coalitions in Israeli history. To save his political career, Mr Netanyahu has aligned with pro-settlement Jewish supremacists who are openly racist against Arabs.

To win right-wing votes, he pledged to annex the West Bank if he won the vote. It remains unclear if he will follow through on this promise, but with US President Donald Trump by his side, supporting his claims on Jerusalem and the occupied Golan Heights, he can be sure that Washington will back him if he chose to extend Israeli sovereignty to the settlements.

If he does choose to annex the West Bank, it would be a solemn conclusion to two decades of a right-wing Israeli campaign aimed at preventing a Palestinian state becoming a reality.

The rolling back of decades of US foreign policy has only helped Mr Netanyahu, who has portrayed himself as Israel’s ultimate protector. He has promised not to give an inch of territory to the Palestinians, nor negotiate with them under any international framework. He has kicked out international observers from the West Bank city of Hebron, where settlers are trying to increase their control, and he has approved the building of the first new settlement in the West Bank for two decades.

This all means that the peace process is unlikely to be revived at any point under a Netanyahu and Trump combination in power. Mr Trump has promised a deal that could solve the decades-long conflict, but the Palestinians have rejected it outright before its release.

Palestinians have already decried the early election results as another vote for the status quo in the region, entrenching “oppression, occupation, annexation and dispossession in Palestine”, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said in a statement.

So, as celebrations in the Likud camp continue, there will be no parties in East Jerusalem, Gaza or the West Bank. Only a feeling that the next four years could be the worst ever for the Palestinians.

Updated: April 10, 2019 04:15 PM