Possible Return of Netanyahu to Power Worries Palestinians
‘The Israeli people are shifting to the right, so we are not expecting that a new government will revive the peace process or stop its racist policy,’ Palestinian journalist says
A year ago, Palestinians were thrilled to see then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leave office, in the hope that a change in Israel’s government might shake things up.
Most Palestinians detest Netanyahu, describing his 12-year stint as premier (he also held the post for three years in the late 1990s) as “catastrophic” to their cause.
The last time Israelis and Palestinians met for talks was in April 2014. Now direct negotiations are frozen and ties between the two sides are at a historic low.
Israel’s coalition government collapsed on Monday, probably sparking fresh elections, and certainly boosting the chances of current Opposition Leader Netanyahu making a comeback.
Netanyahu’s 12 years in power came to an end last year and as opposition leader, he has fought hard to bring down the current government.
The Israeli parliament on Wednesday passed a preliminary vote to dissolve itself, taking the country a step closer toward an early election in the fall and paving the way for a possible return to power by Netanyahu.
In Ramallah, senior Palestinian officials are doubtful that a comeback by Netanyahu will improve Israel’s ties with them.
“He had ample time when he was in office to make an impact, but he didn’t,” one official told The Media Line.
The Palestinian Authority has been quiet, choosing not to comment on the issue. One official, though, told The Media Line what is taking place is an “internal Israeli affair.”
A spokesperson for PA President Mahmoud Abbas could not be reached for comment.
Ziad AbuZayyad, co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal, told The Media Line a Netanyahu electoral victory isn’t certain.
“Those who think Netanyahu is coming back may be disappointed,” he said. “There’s no guarantee that Netanyahu will return to office. It’s an election, and we always should expect surprises in elections.
AbuZayyad dismissed the idea that a change in government will bring change, saying the political chaos in Israel will not serve the Palestinian cause.
“Israel is moving toward the right. The Israeli people are shifting to the right, so we are not expecting that a new government will revive the peace process or make peace with the Palestinians or stop its racist policy. We don’t have much hope or expectations of the next government,” he said.
Amjad Shihab, a Palestinian political analyst based in east Jerusalem, told The Media Line that if Netanyahu becomes the next prime minister, he is likely to resume where he left off before leaving office last June.
“We should expect the same right-wing agenda from him,” Shihab said. “A government with Netanyahu at the top is worrying for us; any government led by him is incapable of making peace.”
One word seemingly missing from most Israeli politicians’ agendas is “Palestinians.” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett refused to sit with Abbas, instead letting Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid deal with the Palestinian president. However, they were not permitted to discuss political issues with him.
Shihab said a Netanyahu return to power would “kill all hopes of the return of the two-state solution talks,” adding, “He will work toward more normalization deals with the Arab governments.”
On Monday, Bennett and Lapid announced in a joint press conference their decision to dissolve their fragile governing coalition and trigger an election.
Netanyahu hailed the end of “the worst government in Israel’s history,” promising his supporters he would form “a strong and stable government” of right-wingers.
At 72, Netanyahu is facing legal troubles, as he is the defendant in an ongoing corruption trial.
Still, he and his Likud party have consistently come atop recent Israeli opinion polls, but short of being able to form a majority government after the election.