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Palestinians see no prospects for peace after Isaeli elections

Sep 25,2019 - Last updated at Sep 25,2019

Palestinian citizens of Israel participate in that country's parliamentary elections but get little or no benefit from their vote.  The Joint Arab List representing the Palestinian constituency 20 per cent of the population came in third in the September 17 election, winning 13 seats, and took the decision to support the bid by the Blue and White party headed by Benny Gantz to form a new government.  

However, the List split with the Balad faction rejecting this offer, reducing the number of "mandates" to 10 and giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 55 votes to 54 for Gantz.  Balad explained its stance by saying Gantz is a former army commander and chief-of-staff who waged war on the Palestinians. Balad was right, of course, but its refusal divided Palestinians who are forever in a lose-lose situation when dealing with Israeli politicians. 

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin announced he wants to see a "stable coalition" formed by the two largest parties, Likud and Blue and White.  He is a veteran member of the Likud who backs Greater Israel embracing all of Palestine. He has called for a single state, where Palestinians in the occupied areas would have citizenship and equal rights as Palestinian citizens of Israel.  

On Monday, Rivlin invited Netanyahu and Gantz to the presidential mansion to discuss a deal for a coalition. To make matters worse for the Joint Arab List, the co-founder of Blue and White, Moshe Ya'alon, another former Likudnik and army chief, insisted that the coalition must be "Zionist", excluding Palestinians.  

Neither Netanyahu nor Gantz won enough seats in the 120-member Knesset to form a majority government and have not only to forge coalitions to rule but also win the backing of the Yisrael Beiteinu party headed by Avigdor Lieberman. He has extended his support for a broad Likud-Blue and White "unity" government and refuses to join ranks with the Arab List — the only chance for Blue and White to form a small coalition. Secular Leiberman equally rejects cooperation with the ultra-Orthodox religious parties which have served in Netanyahu's current coalition. Netanyahu, whose party has 31 seats, and Gantz, with 33 seats, have not, so far, agreed on who should head a unity government, although Gantz should be the first Rivlin asks as his party won the most seats. Lieberman says he will not block either Netanyahu or Gantz although he had earlier insisted that Netanyahu must step down.

While Netanyahu and Gantz agree on many issues, they disagree on the composition of a unity government. Gantz has called for a "liberal" cabinet which would exclude Natanyahu's ultra-Orthodox allies but Netanyahu continues to stick by them. They are rivals for the leadership of a new government.  He insists he must have the top job as he faces indictment for corruption in coming weeks and believes he would be protected if he remains premier.  His Knesset backers have promised to seek parliamentary immunity for him so he can avoid prosecution. 

Gantz, who had pledged to form a government without Netanyahu, may have to capitulate. Their two parties would have a majority of 64 if they had joined forces and, if Lieberman agrees to take part, they would have a comfortable majority of 72 seats.

Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank continue to argue that Netanyahu must go. "Anyone but Netanyahu", stated Raji Sourani, head of the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights. "The situation will be less worse without Netanyahu. For him, we don't exist, especially the people of Gaza.  In the last few weeks, he spoke about an attack on Gaza, but the military objected." 

West Bank former minister, pollster and academic Ghassan Khatib stated: "Although there are no significant differences between him and his opponent, Netanyahu is more dangerous as he has joined forces with the most extreme factions in Israel, such as the radical Kahane movement.  Netanyahu is also very well connected on the international level with Trump and Putin."

The last time Palestinian parties endorsed an Israeli party during government formation ended in tears.  This took place in 1992 when Yitzak Rabin, another former military man, won the election on a "peace" platform.  Rabin's Labour party took 44 seats, left-wing Meretz 12, the two Palestinian "Arab" parties five, and the oriental Orthodox party Shas six.  Shas deserted in September 1993 when the Oslo Accords were signed, transforming the government into a narrow government with 61 seats, five of them provided externally by the two Palestinian parties which blocked efforts by right-wingers to topple it. This arrangement continued until Rabin's assassination by an Israeli Jewish extremist in November 1995. 

Then as now, the “Arab” parties believed they could make a difference by providing stability for a “liberal” government.  Unfortunately, Rabin was a loyal Zionist rather than a brave peacemaker.  He fought in Israel's war of establishment, was army chief during the 1967 war, joined governments with Likud, and ordered the army to break arms and legs of Palestinian protesters during the First Intifada (1987-93). 

Israel's then minister of foreign affairs Shimon Peres designated his deputy Yossi Beilin to pursue a peace deal with the Palestinians. This led to the Oslo process, which did not result in the emergence of a Palestinian state because Rabin did not halt Israeli colonisation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, the land grab plotted by the Zionists at the end of the 19th century.  His refusal to take this existential action doomed the Oslo process from the moment the first accord was signed 26 years ago on the White House lawn.  Palestinians believed in Oslo; Israel used this belief as cover for colonisation to the point of no return, blocking the "two-state solution" Palestinians still dream of and the international community continues to endorse without any hope of realisation. 

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