Prospects after Netanyahu’s win
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to lead Israel’s next government following elections April 9.
The victory by Netanyahu’s Likud party and its allied right-wing factions was welcomed by the US administration but it fuelled the anguish of the Palestinians. Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said Israeli voters chose to entrench “the status quo of oppression, occupation, annexation and dispossession.”
Palestinian fears stemmed from Netanyahu’s remarks about Palestinian rights and the pledges he made on the eve of the elections to annex large parts of the West Bank.
“I will impose sovereignty but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” Netanyahu told Israel’s Channel 12 television station.
“From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli and we have responsibility as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians,” he added.
Palestinian leaders and international mediators have counted on the dismantling of “isolated settlements” as part of a partition plan that could lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank.
The Israeli agency in charge of settlement construction recently approved plans for more than 3,600 new West Bank homes. More than 400,000 settlers already live in the West Bank in the midst of 2.9 million Palestinians.
Israel’s Peace Now, a non-governmental organisation that advocates a two-state solution, expressed concern over the move, saying: “Netanyahu has decided, officially or unofficially, to annex the West Bank to Israel, otherwise one cannot explain the promotion of thousands of units for Israelis in the occupied territories.”
Continued Israeli construction of settlements and Netanyahu’s claim of sovereignty over all settlement areas could preclude the implementation of a two-state solution to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
An additional concern is the reluctance of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, during congressional testimony last week, to stand up for the two-state solution as basis of a resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Coming after Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and of Israeli “sovereignty” over occupied Golan Heights, uncertainty about the US position on the Palestinian issue can only increase tensions as the region waits to see what the US “Deal of the Century” will look like.