“Israel will not be a better place to live following these elections.”
Disaster. That is the sense of a large number of Israelis whose voices I will try to represent here this morning. Netanyahu’s and his right-wing partners’ knock-out victory puts the final nail in the coffin of a possible negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinian people.
Israel is now firmly on the road to almost total international isolation. Israel is now going to find itself in deep conflict with 21 percent of its citizens – the Palestinian Arab minority who despite their own victory in the polls will face the most racist, anti-Arab government Israel has ever had. Israel is on a collision course with the US government and with President Barack Obama and his administration.
Israel will now face a European Union that will go directly against its policies of settlement and non-negotiation with the Palestinians with greater vigor than ever before. Israel will now face the Arab masses in Jordan and Egypt which will take to the streets and call for their governments to cancel the peace treaties they have with Israel. Israel will also face the increasing likelihood of the next round of violence, not only in Gaza but from the West Bank and east Jerusalem as well.
The new government of Israel led by Netanyahu and the Right will offer no hope to Israel. Minor adjustments to the economy and bureaucratic manipulations may bring down the price of housing, but poverty will increase, the healthcare system will continue to flounder, the educational system will be even more underfunded and unsuccessful and the costs of security and defense will increase as Netanyahu’s threats become prophecies that fulfill themselves. Israel’s economic woes can only be dealt with in a real way through economic growth which is entirely dependent on Israel ending the conflict with the Palestinians – but now Israel will be moving even further away from that possibility.
On Monday I was in Ramallah and had a very serious discussion with one of the top leaders there about the possible outcome of the elections. When discussing the scenario which has unfolded he said that their first objective will be to continue, with even greater resolve and at a faster pace, the international diplomatic strategy that the PLO has advanced since the complete collapse of negotiations in the end of April 2014. The strategy is aimed at advancing recognition of existence of the State of Palestine which is occupied by Israel, a member state of the United Nations.
The strategy is also aimed at pushing the international community to confront what they call Israel’s culture of impunity regarding its Teflon-like ability to disregard international law and the determination of the international community to end Israel’s occupation over the Palestinian people and their state. The State of Palestine, recognized by some 153 countries and by the United Nations, will continue to join every international forum and convention possible and will continue to place its claims against Israel in those forums, especially in the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Palestine will make the case that the occupation of the lands conquered by Israel after 1967 is illegal and that the international community must use its diplomatic and legal tools to force Israel to withdraw from their state.
The Palestinian strategy, more than ever, will encourage and advance boycotts, sanctions and divestments. But unlike the original BDS campaign which has largely been based on the delegitimation of Israel and its right to exist, the BDS campaign officially supported by the State of Palestine will focus on the illegitimacy of occupation, not Israel’s existence, making it clear that its attack on occupation refers to 1967 and not 1948. Their campaign will become increasingly successful, and Israelis will feel it.
While most Israelis will view the Palestinian strategy as being anti-Israel, the Palestinians will try to make the point that they are not calling for Israel’s destruction and are not opposed to Israel’s existence, but only to Israel’s refusal to recognize the right of existence of the Palestinian people in a state of their own on lands occupied by Israel in 1967.
The Government of Palestine led by President Mahmoud Abbas will also continue to work very hard to prevent the outbreak of the next round of violence and where they have control, they will be quite effective. The areas under their control are, however, very limited and there will be violence against Israelis in those areas and from those areas where Israel holds complete security responsibility.
If the Palestinian strategy fails, the leadership of President Abbas will come to an end and a leadership struggle will emerge in Palestine. The contest over the next period of Palestinian governance will not be between competing individuals on the basis of moderation and the call to make peace with Israel. With the eventual end of the era of Abbas will end the era of the two-state solution. The next generation of Palestinian leaders is much more likely to adopt a call for “one person one vote” for all of the people living between the river and the sea. When that happens, the international community will also drop its own support for a two-state solution and will adopt the Palestinian demand for democracy.
Good morning, Israel. Israel will not be a better place to live following these elections. But this is what the majority of Israelis voted for and this is what they will get.
Gershon is an advisor to Israeli, Palestinian and International Prime Ministers on the Middle East Peace Process and the founder and director of IPCRI, the Israeli-Palestinian Public Policy Institute. He was the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel between Israel and Hamas for the release of 1,027 prisoners – mainly Palestinians and Arab-Israelis of which 280 were sentenced to life in prison for planning and perpetrating various attacks against Jewish targets that resulted in the killing of 569 Israelis in exchange for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Schalit. Gershon is actively involved in research and advocacy concerning topics such as social policy, environmental security, political strategy, peace education, economics, culture and in the development of affordable solar projects with the goal of providing clean electricity for 50 million people by 2020.