Netanyahu victory torpedoes two-state solution, say analysts

PLO Secretary Saeb Erekat speaks during a press conference in Ramallah on Wednesday, following the Israeli elections. (AFP)
Updated 11 April 2019

Netanyahu victory torpedoes two-state solution, say analysts

  • Election result reflects ‘hawkish’ Israeli behavior
  • Many countries deem settlements illegal

AMMAN: Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory in Israeli elections have caused irreparable damage to a two-state solution, analysts have told Arab News.

Saeb Erekat, secretary of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) Executive Committee, said the election results reflected the hawkish behavior of Israelis who were not interested in peace.

“It’s obvious that the Israeli voting behavior is for the continuation of the status quo and the occupation,” he told Arab News.

Palestinians were angry after Netanyahu pledged on the campaign trail to annex illegal settlements in the West Bank.

The Palestinians and many countries deem settlements to be illegal under the Geneva conventions that bar settling on land captured in war.

Israel disputes this, citing security needs and biblical, historical and political connections to the land.

Palestinian activists believe Netanyahu has been emboldened by support from US President Donald Trump, who said the US would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Annexing settlements would all but end any final chances for a two-state solution with the Palestinians and potentially push the sides toward a single, binational state.

Anees Sweidan, head of the PLO’s International Affairs Department, said the election results were unsurprising and that the “radicalization” of Israel would not have happened without public support from the US.

“This is why we have to expect more radical American and Israeli decisions which will move our entire region toward the abyss,” he told Arab News.

Trump caused international outrage when he said the US would recognize Jerusalem as the official capital of Israel. Palestinians see East Jerusalem as the capital of their own future state.

The US leader was slammed by Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee.

She said Netanyahu had been “emboldened by the Trump administration’s reckless policies and blind support.”

Hanna Issa, from the Christian-Muslim Council for Jerusalem, said that Netanyahu had succeeded in getting a record number of seats in the Israeli Knesset since 1948 without having a political or social or security program.

“He did what Palestinians didn’t expect, namely get support from the world’s superpowers,” Issa told Arab News.

Two Arab parties ran in the election: Hadash-Ta’al and the United Arab List-Balad. In the previous poll, they ran together as the Joint List. The split in the Joint List led to the establishment of the two parties — and calls for a boycott.

The Jerusalem Post reported that by 3 p.m. on voting day just 20 percent of Arab voters had cast their ballots, prompting candidates and Arab-Israeli leaders to urge people to take part in the electoral process.

Botrus Mansour, a lawyer from Nazareth, said there were many reasons for the low Arab turnout.

“In addition to anger at the current nominees who couldn’t keep a Joint List intact, there has been a general feeling that Arab Knesset members are not given a chance to have an effect,” he told Arab News.

Mansour, who heads the Baptist School in Nazareth, also said many intellectuals felt there was no need to legitimize Israel.

“Most of the intellectuals were disappointed with the general shift to the right in Israel and decided to stay away.”

Naser Laham, editor-in-chief of Maan News and an analyst, said the election result would have an impact on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

It would push him to one of two options, he said. “More waiting for a miracle to happen, or adopting the strategy of the Joint Arab List inside the Green Line (that separates Israel from the West Bank) which focuses on Palestinians calling for equality in political rights throughout the area between the river and the sea,” he told Arab News.

Trump says war with Iran 'would not last very long'

Updated 32 min 55 sec ago

Trump says war with Iran 'would not last very long'

  • The comments come just days after Trump cancelled air strikes minutes before impact


WASHINGTON/GENEVA: US President Donald Trump said Wednesday he was "not talking boots on the ground" should military action be necessary against Iran, and said any conflict would not last long.
Asked if a war was brewing, Trump told Fox Business Network: "I hope we don't but we're in a very strong position if something should happen."
"I'm not talking boots on the ground," Trump said. "I'm just saying if something would happen, it wouldn't last very long."
The comments come just days after Trump cancelled air strikes minutes before impact, with allies warning that the increase in tensions since the United States pulled out of a nuclear pact with Iran last year could accidentally lead to war.
Iran suggested it was just one day from breaching a threshold in the agreement that limited its stockpile of uranium, a move that would put pressure on European countries that have tried to remain neutral to pick sides.
The fate of the 2015 nuclear deal, under which Iran agreed to curbs on its nuclear programme in return for access to international trade, has been at the heart of the dispute which has escalated and taken on a military dimension in recent weeks.
Washington sharply tightened sanctions last month, aiming to bar all international sales of Iranian oil. It accuses Iran of being behind bomb attacks on ships in the Gulf, which it denies.
Last week, Iran shot down a US drone it said was in its air space, which Washington denied. Trump ordered retaliatory air strikes but called them off at the last minute, later saying too many people would have died.
Although the United States and Iran both say they do not want war, last week's aborted US strikes have been followed by menacing rhetoric on both sides. On Tuesday Trump threatened the "obliteration" of parts of Iran if it struck US interests. President Hassan Rouhani, who normally presents Tehran's mild-mannered face, called White House policy "mentally retarded".
The standoff creates a challenge for Washington which, after quitting the nuclear deal against the advice of European allies, is now seeking their support to force Iran to comply with it.
Over the past few weeks Iran has set a number of deadlines for European countries to protect its economy from the impact of US sanctions or see Tehran reduce compliance with the deal.
A spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said on Wednesday that one of those deadlines would expire the following day, with Iran potentially exceeding a limit imposed under the deal to keep its stockpile of enriched uranium below 300kg.
"The deadline of the Atomic Energy Organization for passing the production of enriched uranium from the 300 kg limit will end tomorrow," the IRIB news agency quoted spokesman Behrouz Kamalvindi as saying. He added that after the deadline Iran would speed up its rate of producing the material.
Another threshold bars Iran from enriching uranium to a purity beyond 3.67 percent fissile material. It has set a deadline of July 7 after which it could also breach that.
Any such moves would put European countries that oppose Trump's tactics under pressure to take action. They have tried to salvage the nuclear deal by promising to provide Tehran with economic benefits to offset the harm from U.S. sanctions. But so far they have failed, with Iran largely shut from oil markets and all major European companies cancelling plans to invest.
Iran says it would be Washington's fault if it exceeds the 300 kg stockpile threshold. The 2015 deal allows Iran to sell excess uranium abroad to keep its stockpile below the limit, but such sales have been blocked by U.S. sanctions.
The Trump administration says the deal reached under his predecessor Barack Obama was too weak because it is not permanent and does not cover issues outside of the nuclear area, such as Iran's missile programme and its regional behaviour.