From the TUC

After the Israeli election

18 Mar 2015, by in International

We now know that despite the polls, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right wing Likud party has won the largest number of seats in the Knesset. As is the way in Israeli politics fragmented by proportional representation, he now has to put together a workable coalition. Given the political complexion of the new Knesset, whilst it is not certain he will be able to do this it seems highly likely. So we are faced with another Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu. What should the rest of the world’s reaction be, just to shrug its shoulders and say the Israeli electorate has spoken!

If the election purely turned on what the respective parties intended to do about Israel’s cost of living crisis, then such a position of benign disengagement would be understandable. But inevitably given that we are talking about Israeli elections, the issue of the Palestinians’ arises. What is the respective party’s position on the peace process?

The main opposition, the Zionist Union, remained committed to a two state solution and said it would seek to repair the Israeli government’s relations with the Palestinians. In a last minute lurch to the right, Netanyahu made it clear he would not allow the creation of a Palestinian state! He went on to say thousands of new homes would be built for settlers in the occupied territories. The fact that Likud have won on a programme which includes the opposition to a two state solution, is being meet by a reaction which mixes despair with anger.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has called the result ‘depressing’. Senior Swedish diplomat, Carl Bildt, said that it could lead to a ,”profound crisis on the Palestinian issue”. Most importantly it sets-up the incoming Israeli government for a clash with the White House which we are told is dismayed by Netanyahu’s triumph. Following Mr Netanyahu’s intervention in the President’s negotiations with the Iranians over the nuclear issue, they would have been much happier if he had been voted out of office .Given what he has now said on the two state solution they will see his triumph at the ballot box as a political disaster. A New York Times editorial has summed up the position thus:

‘Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s outright rejection of a Palestinian state and his racist rant against Israeli Arab voters on Tuesday showed that he has forfeited any claim to representing all Israelis.

His behaviour in the past six years – aggressively building Israeli homes on land that likely would be within the bounds of a Palestinian state and never engaging seriously in negotiations – has long convinced many people that he has no interest in a peace agreement. But his statement this week laid bare his duplicity, confirmed Palestian suspicions and will make it even harder for him to repair his poisoned relations with President Obama, who has invested heavily in pushing a two-state solution.’

Indeed during the John Kerry led initiative on Palestine/Israel ,it should have been evident to anyone who did not want to deceive them shelves, that the Israeli government was not interested in a two state solution. For example, while the talks were still taking place the Israelis’ announced that more settlers’ houses would be built on the Occupied Territories. Could they have been more provocative!

What then is the way forward? Certainly the situation is grim. It is indeed hard to see any real progress towards peace under what looks like an incoming Netanyahu led Israeli government. It would be extraordinary if attitudes did not begin to harden on both sides. Netanyahu has not only made fools of the Americans’, he has also undermined the position of those Palestinian leaders who have urged patience and progress towards an independent Palestine through peaceful negotiations. Anything which detracts from a peaceful resolution to such a long and bitter dispute should be deplored – Netanyahu’s actions are indeed deplorable.

If there is anything positive in this political mess, it is that in his desperation to avoid defeat at the ballot box, Netanyahu has allowed his mask to slip! An American President who does not have to face the electorate again will now have to decide how he is going to respond. It may be a forlorn hope but it might be the only hope for a two state solution.