Israel’s New Government Will Prevent Peace With Palestine

Elections occurred in Israel on November 1st, 2022 for all 120 seats in the Knesset. After the elections, Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, the Likud, formed a coalition government with the Religious Zionist alliance, Shas, and United Torah Judaism Parties, which will allow Netanyahu to become Prime Minister again. The coalition will have 64 seats in the 25th Knesset. Netanyahu was previously Prime Minister from 1996 to 1999, and from 2009 until 2021, when a coalition of parties opposed to Netanyahu took control of the Knesset. Netanyahu’s government will include far-right parties that oppose a two-state solution and recognizing Palestine as an independent country.
Some of the members of the coalition government who oppose a two-state solution include Itamar Ben-Gavir and Bezalel Smotrich. Ben-Gavir, who will become Security Minister, supports the expulsion of citizens who are not loyal to Israel. Smotrich, who will become Finance Minister, has supported helping Israeli settlers annex land in the West Bank.
In 1947, the United Nations supported dividing Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. Ever since, there have been several wars between and Israel and Palestine, and a number of plans have been made to create peace between the two countries. In 1993, the Oslo Accords supported Israel withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and West Bank, the two Palestinian Territories Israel has occupied since the Six Day War in 1967. Additionally, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzakh Rabin and Palestinian President Yasir Arafat agreed to talks to create a border between Israel and Palestine within five years. However, Rabin was assassinated in 1995 before the talks continued. Netanyahu became Prime Minister soon after, and opposed Israel withdrawing from the West Bank.

In 2002, Saudi Arabia proposed a peace initiative to recognize and establish relations with Israel if Israel withdrew from Gaza and the West Bank, and recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. In 2007, the proposal was supported by all other countries in the Arab League. At the time, the only countries in the Arab League to recognize Israel were Egypt and Jordan, and all other countries opposed recognizing Israel until it supported a two-state solution. After the Arab Peace Initiative was proposed, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas were close to supporting the proposal. However, Abbas opposed the peace plan because he did not know what borders Olmert supported creating to divide the two countries. The negotiations were ended by the Gaza War, and when Netanyahu became Prime Minister again, he opposed resuming negotiations. Since this time, Netanyahu has continued to oppose plans that would make Israel withdraw from the West Bank.

In 2020, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan recognized Israel after signing the Abraham Accords, which were planned by U.S. President Donald Trump. The countries agreed to recognize Israel if it did not annex more areas in the West Bank. However, there were numerous issues with this plan. The Accords allowed Israel to control more than 30% of the West Bank where Israeli settlements had been built, and supported Jerusalem as being the capital of Israel. However, settlements are illegal under international law. Other peace plans have supported Palestine controlling all of the West Bank, and recognizing East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital. Moreover, Palestine was not involved in planning the Accords, and the Accords only received support from Netanyahu.

In addition to Israel agreeing to cease annexation of more of the West Bank, another reason the four countries in the Abraham Accords decided to recognize Israel was due to security concerns about Iran. According to Al Jazeera, Iran has been accused of attacking ships in the Persian Gulf, and launching drones in the airspace of other countries, which caused Bahrain to create a security cooperation agreement with Israel. Despite other Arab countries also having concerns about Iran, no other countries have recognized Israel two years after the signing of the Accords. This includes Saudi Arabia, which Netanyahu has wanted Israel to establish relations with. However, the Middle East Institute reported Saudi Arabia still supports the Arab Peace Initiative, and will not normalize relations with Israel until Israel supports a two-state solution that allows Palestine to control all of the West Bank. This is evidence that the Abraham Accords will not be successful in establishing relations between Israel and most Arab countries, and relations will only occur once Israel supports the Arab Peace Initiative instead of the Abraham Accords.

A two-state solution supported by Palestine and the Arab League will not happen while Netanyahu is Prime Minister, but there is still some support for a two-state solution in Israel. Yair Lapid, who was Prime Minister before the 2022 elections, supported a two-state solution. According to UN News Lapid said, “An agreement with the Palestinians, based on two states for two peoples, is the right thing for Israel’s security, for Israel’s economy and for the future of our children.” After Lapid’s support for a two state solution, President Abbas announced he would support negotiations with Israel, but negotiations did not start before the elections. Additionally, the Jerusalem Post reported 40% of Israelis supported a two state solution. Arab Israelis were more likely to support a two state solution than Jewish Israelis at 69% to 34%. However, polls have shown support for a two state solution increases when peace is considered more likely. If the government of Israel supports a peace agreement in the future, it is possible it would be supported by more than 40% of Israelis.

In the 24th Knesset, which was elected in 2021, the parties of the coalition government all opposed Netanyahu, but not all supported a two-state solution. For the government of Israel to be able to support a two-state solution, the Knesset will need to be controlled by a coalition of parties who all support a two-state solution. Some of the parties in Israel that are more supportive of a two-state solution include the Meretz, Labor, and Yesh Atid Parties. The Meretz Party had seats in the Knesset in the past, but did not receive 3.25% of the vote in the 2022 elections, which is needed to win seats. However, CNN reported that if the Labor and Meretz Parties had created an alliance, they could have won more seats in the Knesset. Additionally, there are three parties that receive most of their support from Arab Israelis: the Ra’am, Hadash, and Balad Parties.  Each party supports a two state solution, and the parties created an alliance called the Joint List. The alliance split due to the Ra’am Party wanting to be in the coalition government in the 24th Knesset, while the Hadash and Balad parties opposed being in the coalition since it included parties supporting the occupation of Palestine. The splitting of the alliance was not good for Arab Israeli voters as the Balad party did not receive 3.25% of vote in the 2022 elections. This decreased the number of seats in the Knesset won by Arab parties to 10, with the Ra’am and Hadash Parties each winning five seats. However, when the parties were in an alliance, they won 15 seats, giving the Arab parties more representation in the Knesset. Arab Israelis are more likely than Jewish Israelis to support a two-state solution, making their representation in the Knesset important for supporting a peace agreement with Palestine.

Although the Arab parties have disagreed on some policies, it is possible for them to work together. In addition to the Arab parties supporting a two-state solution, the parties want to decrease poverty and unemployment for Arab Israelis, which are usually higher compared to Jewish Israelis. In future elections, members of Arab Parties should consider creating an alliance again. This could happen if the Arab parties could all agree on being in a coalition government that does not include parties opposed to a two-state solution. Additionally, the Labor and Meretz Parties should also create an alliance so they can have more seats in the Knesset. Since the Labor and Meretz Parties both support a two-state solution, it is more likely the Arab parties would agree to work with these parties in a coalition government.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict needs to end as there have been wars between the two countries since the U.N. supported the creation of Israel in 1947. Conflicts are most likely to end if Israel supports the Arab Peace Initiative, recognizes Palestine, and withdraws from the Gaza Strip and West Bank. This is very unlikely to happen while Netanyahu is Prime Minister, as he has opposed peace plans with Palestine since he became Prime Minister in 1996. For a two-state solution to occur, parties supporting a two-state solution will have to win a majority of seats in the Knesset, and agree to create a coalition government. If this occurs, there could be peace with Palestine, and other countries in the Arab League will recognize and establish relations with Israel.

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