Opinion: As Israel′s right wing triumphs, Palestine loses | Opinion | DW | 10.04.2019
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Opinion

Opinion: As Israel's right wing triumphs, Palestine loses

Despite being dogged by a corruption scandal, Benjamin Netanyahu is set to remain Israel's prime minister. DW's Rainer Sollich breaks down who stands to gain — and lose — the most from the country's recent elections.

Benjamin Netanyahu will become Israel's prime minister again, if all the indications are right. The result is close, but a majority of Israelis have voted for the coalition of nationalist, religious, ultra-conservative parties favored by the incumbent.

Netanyahu benefited from a string of campaign gifts given by Donald Trump. The US president moved his country's embassy to the "undivided capital" Jerusalem and recognized the Golan Heights — annexed in 1981 — as Israeli territory, even though it clearly belongs to Syria under international law.

As long as Trump backs him, Netanyahu's next step could be to annex Israeli-settled parts of the West Bank. Netanyahu has already announced he would like to and he doesn't have to worry about much resistance in Israel, as the election results have made clear.

In the face of serious threats in the region — in particular Iran and the neighboring Gaza Strip — Israeli citizens favor security over dialogue. The few groups that still believe in a fair compromise with the Palestinians have largely vanished from the political scene.

Could Netanyahu still be finished?

Sollich Rainer

Rainer Sollich heads DW's Arabic department

Should the corruption scandal hanging over Netanyahu cause him to stumble in the coming weeks, the right-wing nationalist camp may nonetheless consider itself victorious in these elections. It might be that, despite his election success, he is "finished," as some commentators have put it.

But it's just as true that neither Netanyahu's biggest rival in these elections, ex-military chief Benny Gantz, or any other leading Israeli politician would be able to adopt a fundamentally different stance towards the Palestinians and neighboring Arab countries. Nor would they dare to give back the election campaign gifts handed to them by Trump. There is no majority for that in Israel right now.

Another big winner in this election is Israeli democracy itself. As disruptive as the break-up of the party landscape and the large number of internal conflicts in Israeli society have been, one thing remains true: Israel is — with the possible exception of Tunisia — the only democracy in the region whose election results are not suspect.

Palestinians the losers

The losers in this election are the Palestinians, as well as Arabs living in Israel, many of whom consider themselves to be Palestinians. They have the right to vote, but this time many of them did not exercise it because of a law enacted by Netanyahu, which virtually relegated the non-Jewish minority to being second-class citizens. The law remains politically scandalous, but even so it is highly unlikely that it will be repealed or amended in the foreseeable future — and certainly not under a Netanyahu government.

It's the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank who will suffer most from this vote. Trump announced he would reveal a comprehensive plan for peace in the Middle East shortly after the elections. Exactly what that will look like and what concessions will be demanded from Israel and others remains to be seen. But it is already clear that the Palestinians will have to accept whatever is given to them.

Unlike the Israelis they hardly have any say over their own future, and when it comes to many Arab states, they cannot really count on any real support. For decades, regimes in the region have played the Palestinian question as a populist card to show off their pan-Arab or pan-Islamic credentials. In reality, however, most Arab states, in particular the leaders of Saudi Arabia, don't care much about Palestine's fate. Their main enemy is exactly the same as Netayanhu's: Iran.

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