On April 10th, when it became clear that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would win a fifth parliamentary election with his Likud party, his principal opponent Benny Gantz accepted defeat. Netanyahu’s popularity amongst religious and right-wing parties left him poised to form a 65-seat majority coalition in a parliament of 120 seats. Before his victory, Netanyahu appealed to potential right-wing supporters by claiming he would annex Israeli settlements in the West Bank territory, an action that would have major implications for the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict. Before Netanyahu can begin what would be the longest term of any Israeli Prime Minister, President Reuven Rivlin will determine who will lead a majority coalition in parliament. Though it is predicted that Netanyahu will organize a majority, the recent allegations against him for bribery and fraud pose a potential problem in choosing allies in parliament. Even though he might be able to pass laws to prevent his indictment with the correct coalition members, those, presumably right-wing, groups would require favors in return for their assistance.
According to an article published by Al Jazeera, while speaking to supporters on Wednesday, Netanyahu stated, “I was very moved that the nation of Israel once again entrusted me for the fifth time, and with even greater trust.” His victory was a cause for celebration for Donald Trump, a supporter of Netanyahu. According to the same article, Trump called Netanyahu on the phone to congratulate him after the win, stating, “He’s been a great ally and he’s a friend. I’d like to congratulate him on a well-thought-out race.” This relationship between the leaders has important implications for the future of the Israel-Palestine conflict. In an article from NPR, David Makovsky from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says that Netanyahu will most likely not annex the territory until Trump’s peace deal is introduced. However, he maintains that Netanyahu might use the annexation as a reaction if the Palestinians don’t respond well to the peace deal. According to Al Jazeera, in response to the threat of annexation, executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Hanan Ashwari states, “They have nullified the two-state solution. They have totally negated the requirements of peace. They have totally violated international law. Now we need a whole new strategy to deal with this.” However, at least temporarily, Netanyahu will likely concentrate on the accusations against him. In an article published by the Washington Post, Gadi Wolfsfeld, a political science professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, stated, “Immunity is his number one priority.”
A fifth term for Netanyahu, especially considering his intention to annex the West Bank settlements, is unlikely to encourage a peaceful agreement to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. During his time in office thus far, a peaceful resolution appears to have had a low place on Netanyahu’s priority list. His exclusionary and sometimes violent treatment of Palestinians places any hope for cooperation between the countries in the distant future. The annexation of West Bank would effectively stifle the already bleak chance of a “two-state solution” to the conflict which holds the most promise for a compromise between countries. Such an agreement would be a significant step toward ending a conflict which has led to the displacement and suffering of many people since the mid- 20th century.
Netanyahu’s win prolongs a prevalence of right-wing leadership in Israel. During his term, he has been praised for developing the economy in Israel and for focusing on national security. During his campaign, Netanyahu claimed that his opponent’s left-wing government wouldn’t be as effective in promoting security and that Gantz’s term would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state. The West Bank territory that Netanyahu has threatened to annex, which is currently the site of illegally constructed Israeli settlements, would make up a crucial portion of the future Palestinian state. Before the election, discussions of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine were consistently failing. If the annexation takes place, there is little hope of a “two-state solution,” a compromise that would likely have Israelis and Palestinians living within the boundaries of territory set before 1967.
Once President Rivlin identifies the majority coalition in parliament, the span of Netanyahu’s influence over its decision-making ability will become clear. It also remains to be seen whether the Prime Minister will be indicted or whether the peace deal to be proposed by Trump will be effective. Especially as it relates to the peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, Netanyahu’s continuing term and his decision on whether or not to move forward with the annexation of West Bank will have important implications for the longevity of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict.
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