Netanyahu’s Hollow Promises

On Wednesday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the next prime minister of Israel, said that he would be a “partner for peace” in the Middle East.  “This means I will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority” he added.

 

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Eraket responded to Netanyahu’s comments by saying “Any Israeli government that accepts the two-state solution, negotiates with us on all core issues without exception and agrees to stop settlement activity will be a partner.”

 

Netanyahu’s promises are likely to prove hollow.  He has never agreed with the concept a two-state solution which is a prerequisite for any serious peace negotiation.  He has long been a hawk and his Likud party has been a strong promoter of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, an area where the Palestinians are the majority and which will almost certainly be part of any future Palestinian state.

 

The prime minister-designate is also influenced by other right-wing parties such as the ultra-Orthodox Shas and the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu, both of which are part of his governing coalition.  Many conservatives in Israel, especially religious ones, think that all of Palestine should belong to Israel in accordance with what they believe to be a mandate from God, a concept of territorial consolidation often referred to as “Greater Israel” or “Land of Israel.”  It would be difficult for a rightist politician to overcome their opposition to a two-state solution and its implications even if Netanyahu were inclined to make such a concession. 

 

Further complicating the peace process is the fact that it is unclear if the Palestinian Authority is in a position to negotiate an acceptable peace agreement with the Israelis.  The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is led by the Fatah party, which is relatively moderate in Palestinian politics, but Gaza, the other major Palestinian territory, is governed by Hamas, an extremist group that refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.  It is difficult to know if Hamas would abide by a Fatah-negotiated agreement.  In recent years, Hamas has been more popular than Fatah, so if Hamas is opposed to a peace treaty that is subject to a public referendum the Palestinian people might vote against it.

 

The most likely scenario that would lead to a lasting peace is if there were a liberal government in Israel and moderate ones in both territories of Palestine at a time when conservative forces in those areas were politically weak.  The current situation clearly does not meet that criteria, which makes the prospects of peace in the foreseeable future seem bleak.

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One Response to “Netanyahu’s Hollow Promises”

  1. Conway Says:

    I think that the best chance for peace isn’t going to be two moderate Palestinian governments, it is going to have to be one unified government. There have been some talks at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, but as long as the US classifies Hamas as a terrorist organization, this will be difficult. I still like the idea of pressing for peace between Israel and Syria because (a) it gets momentum going (b) its easier and (c) it might make Hamas (and Hezbollah) feel like it has fewer friends in resistance out there. In the meantime, maybe the Palestinians can get there act together, and we can see what the Israeli government is really going to look like. I think I heard something about Labour joining the government, so maybe it won’t be as right-wing as people feared.

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