What the Israeli election results could mean for Palestinians
The victory of Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing bloc and the rise of a Jewish supremacist party in Tuesday's Israeli elections could lead to an even more hardline Israeli policy toward the Palestinians and a significant increase in settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
State of play: The Palestinian Authority will wait to see the formation and policy of the new Israeli government before deciding how to react, Hussein al-Sheikh, the secretary-general of the PLO executive committee and minister for civilian affairs, told me.
- The vast majority of the members in Netanyahu’s coalition are opposed to a two-state solution, support the annexation of the West Bank, pushed for building more settlements, and called for a stronger response by the Israeli forces against attacks by armed Palestinians.
The big picture: During Netanyahu’s previous terms as prime minister, he systematically tried to weaken the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and embolden Hamas in Gaza. The outgoing Israeli government tried to change that trend with little success.
- This exacerbated the economic crisis in the West Bank and caused the Palestinian Authority to gradually lose control over parts of its territory.
What they're saying: "We don’t get involved in Israeli domestic politics. The Israeli people voted, and it is their right to choose whatever government they want," al-Sheikh said.
- "We want to see how this new government is going to look and its policy toward the occupation, and then we will decide about our policy and reaction," he added.
- Al-Sheikh said when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Yael Lempert, the principal deputy assistant U.S. secretary of state for Near East affairs, yesterday, the issue of the Israeli election barely came up.
- Al-Sheikh acknowledged that the results of Israel's elections saw a rise of extreme right-wing politicians who “don’t see the Palestinians, want to continue the occupation, the settlements and the escalation."
What’s next: Al-Sheikh said the Palestinian Authority wants to see if there is a partner in Israel that is willing to resume peace talks.
- “If there is no such partner, we will enter a new phase," he said without elaborating.
Meanwhile, the Hamas spokesperson in Gaza said in a statement that the results of the elections and the rise of the extreme right are expected to lead to more Israeli aggression against the Palestinians and against the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
- Spokesperson Hazem Qassem stressed this development should lead to more Palestinian resistance in "all the areas" and more unity between the different Palestinian factions.