Talking about the Israeli elections, the results and its meaning for the Peace Process, let start first with figures. The result is that Netanyahu got 57 seats all together with the right and religious parties’ bloc, and the left-center bloc parties got 53. In the middle there is a centrist party – Kulanu which is quiet moderate according to their declarations made before the elections, got 10 seats. But since this party descent from Likud, the assumption here is that Netanyahu with his 57 seats in the Parliament can form a coalition together with it – so they’ll form the coalition uniting 67 members of Parliament. In the previous elections the right religious bloc all-together had 61 seats. And actually what happened in the current elections is that the right wing parties and the religious forces have lost 3 seats in the Parliament, as Netanyahu took the seats from the ultra-orthodox parties, from the right-radical parties, and became bigger (30 seats), than the second party in the Parliament, which is the Zionist Camp (the former Labor party with 24). And so he gains the right to be the first to form the coalition. So, from my point of view, he made a big victory, but this victory was due to his expanse on the right wing radical parties. And mostly he has done it in the last three days before the elections, because most of the polls predicted him gaining 20-21 sits in the Parliament and he gained 30. So it was a big failure for the pollsters and for the media in Israel, because all of them had been assuming, that the Labor party and the Zionist Camp would win the elections and it appeared to be a disinformation. The real change was between parties but not between the two blocs of the political arena.
There were also two very bad declarations of Netanyahu, as he stepped out of the Two-State solution and he incited the Arab population in Israel. And by this kind of announcement he gained the popularity among those who are ultra-right and ultra-orthodox. Many voters from the radical nationalist party ‘The Jewish home’, ruled by Nafrali Bennet moved to Netanyahu’s camp. Bennet had 12 seats in the Parliament previously. Now he has only 8. And all the seats he lost, he lost because of Netanyahu’s announcement that he is not in favor of the two-State solution anymore. That was a game changer in the last three days before the elections.
We should understand also, that there is a big discord inside Israel, inside the Jewish population. We can even say that there are two states in Israel, as the society is divided to 2 blocs. One part of the Israeli society supports the Zionist Camp and the Labor party,’Yesh Atid’ party and ‘Meretz’.It is characterized by a very high gross national product, liberal values of cooperation with the Arab minority, diplomatic moderation, pragmatic security viewpoint. The other bloc is formed by ‘Likud’ party, The ‘Jewish home’, The Ultra-religious parties and Liberman party ‘Israel Beitenu’ . Most of that part is haunted by archaic fears it is prickly, isolationist and conservative and suspicious of the Arab neighbors .with small-income salaries. And however, they suffered a lot from the last years of Netanyahu’s internal social and economic policy, they’ve voted for him.
The result is that it is easier for Netanyahu to form a coalition, than for Labor Party and the Zionist Camp headed by Isaac Herzog.
As far as the future of the Peace Process is concerned, it should be reminded that in the end of the month the gathering of the Arab League will take place in Egypt. And I think that the Arab League will stay with the Arab Peace Initiative declaration. And I think, there is a possibility that Netanyahu would be set to say that he is for collaboration with moderate Arab states, as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt. He understand that main topic that interest Arab leaders is the fight against ISIS and stemming the expansion of Iran. The problem is that he wants to bring this ME collaboration without the Palestinians and in this case there will be no kind of diplomatic solution, and this would even paralyze the negotiations on the matter. Personally, as well as my organization, NISPED-AJEEC and the Peace camp in Israel, we strongly support the API and we see it as a right base for negotiation for peace together with the Palestinians. But the future for us, at least the nearest future, looks very gloomy. I must admit we don’t see any advancement in the Peace Process. One good thing is that the masks of Netanyahu and his government supporting the Peace Process and declaring the Two-State Solution do not exist anymore.
One good thing is that the masks of Netanyahu and his government supporting the Peace Process and declaring the Two-State Solution do not exist anymore.
The first announcement of the US administration was saying «Ok. So everything is clear now».
That means that the US is not going to stop the Palestinians, with their attempts to settle the conflict through the UN institutions. And this would probably have good consequences for the situation, compared to what we witnessed in the past, when the US had been automatically supporting everything Israel had been doing. And it was not helping Israel at all. I must admit that I didn’t like the way Obama was reacting to the Netanyahu’s speech to the Congress. He publicly hazed the president and got home safe and sound without paying any prize. The people of Israel saw no act of the US administration when Netanyahu behave like this and they understood that he defeated Obama. It was a big mistake of Obama.
I don’t believe that Netanyahu will be in practice more flexible on the two-state solution after the elections. In the past Netanyahu had been speaking more politely but had no intention to build it. He has been opposing this idea from the first minute. He had been declaring that he supports the conflict settlement on the basis of the two state solution on the international arena, while inside the country, for the home audience, he had been saying, that he don’t believe in it.
But of course it was a populist move to gain votes, but the question is what he is going to do after the elections. There is an important question if he is willing to enter the real negotiations on the two state solution or no. The Kerry initiative has failed, as Netanyahu didn’t want to draw the lines of the borders. He just wanted to stay in power. He is not willing to step into real negotiations and find a solution. He is a Mr. Security, declaring that he will secure the Israelis against Iran, against ISIS, against the Palestinians not believing in the two-state solution.
There is a big question whether this strategy and this policy can exist in the Middle East and in the modern world now. I don’t believe in this. But people actually vote for this policy. This policy will be of becoming isolated, conservative, to prefer any religious values over the democratic and liberal ones, to be a state that is suspicious of its neighbors.