Hope-less peace

israeli-elections3

Just an hour and a half separated Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from a political nightmare. His joy, pride and confidence in quick and short coalition negotiations were on the line and proved to be as erroneous as those speculations which could not see him sweeping the Israeli elections. Netanyahu’s victory met lukewarm reception, especially in those capitals that have had experience with him throughout the peace process. Yet, in a chaotic region hemmed in by conflicts, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is widely seen as central to regional stability, but does peace have any prospective in light of the recent Israeli elections and new government?

The last 90 minutes that brought Benjamin Netanyahu’s fourth government and right before the legal deadline summarize the crux of this issue. According to Ben Caspit, Israel former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman planned this as one would plan a political assassination. Liberman waited only few hours to announce his resignation and that he would not join the coalition in order to prevent Netanyahu from seeking other alliances, namely with Herzog.[1]

Netanyahu’s political fate became in the hands of HaBayit HaYehudi leader Naftali Bennett who saved him and accepted to join the coalition in the last 90 minutes. A rightwing nationalist religious government was formed, consisting of Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Kulanu and the Jewish Home parties. Until the Likud is able to broaden the coalition in order to have enough seats and push the Jewish home out, the current government is widely seen as a diplomatic hell and a political nightmare that may put Israel on a collision course with the US and other allies.[2]

The gloomy speculations reflected in many Western newspapers were just a case in point. German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitun expected Netanyahu to reconcile himself to walking the walk of the religious parties who would impose their agendas on the government and put peace with the Palestinians at the bottom of their list. Die Suddeutsche Zeitung hinted that the new Israeli government may lead Israel to live in solitude and push the country toward further International isolation. Things are not much different inside Israel; many Israelis find that Netanyahu’s victory turned into a defeat or as Herzog calls it “national failure”.

Alon Ben Meir undermined any chances for a peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis under Netanyahu’s reign. He notes that President Obama, who spent time, resources, and political capital in the peace process felt misled and lied to by Netanyahu and may support the Palestinians bid at the UN to seek resolution that calls for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders.[3]

Thus, the newly-fledged “very” narrow government is under international constrains and domestic challenges. One of which is Furious Liberman himself, who has a long list of reasons to seek bringing Netanyahu down and forestall any possibilities for this government to survive. Internationally, it is also outspoken that any hopes in the current hardline religious government to ease some of the international fears on the fate of the peace process is outlandish.

In better conditions, when the Israeli society was more ready for peace with the Palestinians, the Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin was shot dead as he approached the “red cows or lines”. In other words, when it comes to specific final status issues in any peace settlement with the Palestinians, e.g. Jerusalem, any political leader in Israel would surely think of the severe repercussions that may follow.

On the Palestinian side, despite known friction between Hamas and Fatah, Hamas entrusted the PLO, represented by President Mahmoud Abbas, to negotiate with Israel in a document signed in 2005. However, Hamas doesn’t spare any occasion to criticize Abbas for his talks with Israel and this comes as part of their political skirmish at the aim of diverting the attention of their masses away from their internal crunch.

Since he took office as PA president in 2005, Mahmoud Abbas has announced repeatedly his vision: a peaceful resolution of the conflict that would eventually lead to an independent Palestinian state.[4] The Palestinian leadership recognized Netanyahu’s duplicity when he changed his position concerning a Palestinian state in two days (before and after the elections). On the eve of the elections, Netanyahu stated that there will be no Palestinian state under his watch at the aim of seeking popularity and for the sake of public consumption. After the elections, Netanyahu declared that he wants a two-state solution in an attempt to relief some of the international dismay in his policies rebuffing peace with the Palestinians. However, this recognition of Netanyahu’s duplicity clearly reflects how far Netanyahu has lost every grain of credibility in the eyes of the Palestinian leadership and many of his allies.

Peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis have been ongoing since 1991, during which period Israeli settlement activities have quadrupled within the occupied Palestinian territory including east Jerusalem. This being the case and in parallel with Israel’s continuous rejection of the international calls to freeze settlement constructions and expansions, the Palestinians started seeking a new approach.

A clear time frame for negotiations, which can’t last forever while Israel runs about changing facts on the ground, has become an adopted Palestinian strategy. This new approach started to gain momentum and has been widely supported by Arabs who repeatedly stressed the importance of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as cornerstone for regional stability. The prominence of making a breakthrough in the peace process was also sensed in many European capitals that started to recognize the state of Palestine, either governments or parliaments.

To sum up, in light of the composition of the new Israeli government and the existing distrust in Netanyahu personally, peace odds are at the minimum. However, Netanyahu may seek to resume peace talks, without accepting any clear timeframe, as a tactical move in order to release some of the international pressure and not to disappoint the religious parties at the meantime. On the other hand, the Palestinian leadership is circumspect of this tactic and Netanyahu’s phony peace. Thus, without freezing Israeli settlement activities and setting a clear timeframe for negotiations, the Palestinians will continue their approach towards extracting further recognition of the Palestinian state and perhaps a UNSC resolution demanding an end the Israeli occupation.

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[1] Source: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2015/05/israel-new-government-liberman-revenge-netanyahu-bennett.html#ixzz3ZarfjVPV

[2] Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/06/binyamin-netanyahu-deal-form-israel-government

[3] Source: http://www.alonben-meir.com/article/likuds-victory-is-israels-defeat/?utm_source=Subscribers&utm_campaign=b94f0336df-UA-5963141-2&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_6e846e6217-b94f0336df-309956249

[4] Source : http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/01/palestinians-israel-abbas-refugees-idUSL5E8M1GO120121101

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About Fadi Elhusseini

Fadi Elhusseini is a Political and Media Advisor and he is a senior fellow at the Centre on Governance- University of Ottawa. Elhusseini is an associate research fellow (ESRC) at the Institute for Middle East Studies-Canada and he holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of Sunderland in Britain. He contributed in a number of books and his articles have appeared in scores of newspapers, magazines and websites.

Posted on June 29, 2015, in Articles, Articles and Papers. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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