Netanyahu: No Palestinian State

When Joint List leader Ayman Odeh entered his campaign headquarters late Tuesday evening, March 17, Election Day in Israel, he was greeted with heavy applause from the many activists present. A rush of energy swept through the crowd, as many of those present had the feeling that the alliance for peace and equality might indeed win an historic 15 seats in the Knesset, as Odeh had predicted.

Caricature: Michel Kichka

Caricature: Michel Kichka

Odeh announced that voter turnout had reached 64 percent, which would be higher than previous years. He told followers it was times to send the fascists in the Knesset home, including Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman and Yahad head Eli Yishai as well as other enemies of peace.

MK Dov Khenin of the Joint List, which in the end won 14 seats, said that “a prime minister who runs an election campaign based on incitement against citizens who vote, is a prime minister who cannot keep his position. The Joint List is the third most powerful force in the Knesset and we intend to use that power.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party took 30 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. On Wednesday, the day after the voting, the Communist Party of Israel (CPI) strongly condemned the results of Israel’s general elections. “The results of the Likud are the natural outcome of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies throughout his previous tenures of generating fear, hostility, and distrust, as well as shifting the whole terrain of the political discourse to the racist extreme,” wrote the CPI in an official statement.

Netanyahu’s policies are liable to plunge the whole region into more “extremism and violence,” said PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi, adding that under such a regime Israel will continue to be a “rogue state” contributing to its own “isolation and de-legitimization.”

Ashrawi continued: “We believe it is the responsibility of the international community and its institutions, including the International Criminal Court, to end Israel’s impunity, to curb Israeli violations, and to prevent Netanyahu from carrying out his dangerous plans.”

The PLO’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said the election results prove the success of a campaign platform based on “settlements, racism, apartheid, and the denial of the fundamental human rights of the Palestinian people.” This being the case “now, more than ever, the international community must act. It must rally behind Palestinian efforts to internationalize our struggle for dignity and freedom through the International Criminal Court and other agencies, and through all other peaceful means,” said Erekat.

A victorious Netanyahu pledged to establish a new government within weeks and said he had already spoken with right-wing and religious party leaders whose support he will need to form a majority coalition. On Monday, in a last-ditch effort to woo right-wing voters on the eve of the election, Netanyahu said there would be no Palestinian state if he were reelected. “We will continue to build, to fortify Jerusalem, so its division will not be possible and it will remain united forever,” he said on a tour of Har Homa, a settlement neighborhood in annexed East Jerusalem.

Throughout his campaign, Netanyahu repeatedly accused Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and former peace negotiator Tzipi Livni of being ready to abandon Israel’s claim to Jerusalem as its indivisible capital. But Netanyahu’s most strident statement came when he was asked by the right-wing NRG website if it was true that there would be no Palestinian state established if he were reelected. “Indeed,” responded Netanyahu, who in 2009 had endorsed the idea of two states living side by side. He later told public radio the two-state solution was now irrelevant, saying the “reality has changed” and “any territory which would be handed over [to the Palestinians] would be taken over by radical Islamists.”

In fact, Netanyahu based his campaign solidly on security issues, notably the “Iranian nuclear threat,” giving little or no attention to questions related to the cost of living and other social issues. This culminated in his appearance before the US Congress just two weeks ago, following an invitation by the leadership of the Republican opposition, as part of a campaign to undermine the Obama administration’s drive to reach a negotiated settlement with the Iranians. With the wind in his sails following his ostensibly come-from-behind victory, might Netanyahu see his renewed power as a mandate to entirely topple the house of cards if such a deal is reached? Only time will tell.