Likud’s victory raises many questions - GulfToday

Likud’s victory raises many questions


Benjamin Netanyahu

The victory of Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud in the Sunday election raises many questions about Israel, about Palestine, and about Middle East in general. Netanyahu is a complex and controversial Israeli politician who seems to come back time and again and given Israel’s mind-boggling coalition politics he seems to manage different kinds of alliance to keep himself in power. He has also been in cases of corruption, and this is the main reason that many of the right-wing parties in Israel turned against him in 2021.

Netanyahu sat out in the opposition and he was confident that he will come back to power once again. He predicted his own comeback in his autobiography and described his time out of power as a ‘hiatus’.  This time round Netanyahu is joining hands with Religious Zionism party, a far right political formation, and its co-leader Gvir is rabidly anti-Palestinian with his policies. Gvir is for expelling Palestinians. Though Netanyahu himself is unwilling to negotiate any peace deal with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, it has to be seen how much of the inimical stance of Religious Zionism he will adopt to run the coalition government. 

Netanyahu observers also point out that it was Netanyahu who has entered into the United States-mediated Abraham Accords with the desire to normalise Israel’s relations with the Gulf Arab states and integrate Israel into the regional political setup. But if he has to strengthen the Abraham Accords, then he cannot pursue the policies of Religious Zionism towards the Palestinians. He will have to rein in the extremist tendencies of Religious Zionism.   Israel’s all-weather ally, the United States has a troubled relationship with Netanyahu. Even former American president Donald Trump was set on mediating a solution between Israel and Palestine, though it was Trump who moved the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem. And Netanyahu had a problem with Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, for the comprehensive treaty with Iran over its nuclear programme. Netanyahu had vehemently opposed the deal. With another Democrat president in the White House, Joe Biden, who is again negotiating with Iran, Netanyahu has a problematic relation with Israel’s benefactor.

Though the American Jewish lobby is unwavering in its support for Israel, it is mostly in favour of the Democrats and liberal values. There is then a conflict of values between Netanyahu and the American Jewish lobby. Victory in Israeli elections is fragile because no government can form a government without complicated coalition arrangements which can break down any moment. There have been four elections in the last four years in Israel, and the latest electoral outcome, though convincing, cannot be termed a stable one. The emergence of parties of Israeli Arabs, the moderates and the compromise section, have crossed the threshold of 3.5 per cent of the national vote, and they are now legitimate political players in the Israeli system. So, there will be strong opposition from the Labour Party and the Israeli Arab parties if Netanyahu were to cross the red lines. 

There is the argument that Netanyahu believes in free market economics and that he has delivered growth and prosperity to Israel. But economic well being cannot co-exist with the ghettoisation of Palestinians, and the growing desperation of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and in Gaza. And Netanyahu cannot allow the increasing violence of illegal Jewish settlers in the West Bank. There cannot be a prosperous Israel with an impoverished and radicalised Palestine as a neighbour. If Netanyahu refuses to make a peace deal with Palestine, then Israel will be in trouble. 

What remains to be seen is whether Netanyahu would pursue far right wing, anti-Palestinian policy or he would become a mellow 73-year-old Israeli politician who understands the value and meaning of peace. Will he use his latest electoral victory to ensure peace and prosperity for Israel and Palestine?

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