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
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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.


Egypt bucks trend with vote to extend El-Sisi rule

Updated 20 min 48 sec ago
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Egypt bucks trend with vote to extend El-Sisi rule

  • On April 16, the parliament overwhelmingly approved changes extending presidential terms from four to six years
  • The amendments would prolong El-Sisi’s current term to 2024 and allow him to then run for another six-year term

CAIRO: In a referendum bucking the trend of the region’s mini-Arab Spring, Egyptians are to start voting Saturday on constitutional amendments that extend President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s rule until at least 2024.
The vote running from April 20-22 was officially announced on Wednesday, a day after parliament overwhelmingly approved the changes extending presidential terms from four to six years.
The amendments — widely expected to pass in the face of minimal opposition — would prolong El-Sisi’s current term to 2024 from 2022 and allow him to then run for another six-year term.
They also include giving the military greater influence in political life, granting El-Sisi wide control over the judiciary and broadening the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians.
Egypt has been preparing for the referendum at the same time as parliament debated the amendments since the start of April.
Banners and billboards have gone up across the capital Cairo in the past weeks urging people to take part.
Many carry slogans implicitly urging people to back the amendments by doing “the right thing,” while others sponsored by the pro-government Nation’s Future party call outright for a “Yes” vote.
The referendum comes after two veteran presidents, Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Omar Al-Bashir, were ousted in Algeria and Sudan, respectively, this month following mass street demonstrations.
MP Mohamed Abu-Hamed, who pushed for the constitutional amendments to keep El-Sisi in power, is adamant the changes are needed to allow the president to complete political and economic reforms.
El-Sisi “took important political, economic and security measures... (and) must continue with his reforms,” in the face of the unrest gripping neighboring countries, the deputy told AFP.
The Soufan Center, however, said Thursday that the amendments would “solidify El-Sisi’s grip on the Egyptian political regime.”
“There is little observable public opposition to the constitutional changes, likely a result of the oppressive nature of the Egyptian government,” said the think tank.
Under El-Sisi, “Egypt has become even more autocratic than it was under (long-time ruler Hosni) Mubarak,” it said.
As army chief of staff at the time, El-Sisi led the military’s overthrow of elected president Muhammad Mursi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader’s rule.
He won his first term as president in 2014, three years after the uprising that toppled Mubarak, and was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.
His government has been widely criticized by human rights groups for the repression of political opponents.
But the “recent political upheavals in Algeria and Sudan have little hope of being replicated in Egypt, where the initial murmurings of the Arab Spring have since been silenced,” said the Soufan Center.
Other constitutional amendments include a quota for women’s representation of no less than 25 percent in parliament and forming a second parliamentary chamber.
Activists including Human Rights Watch have blasted the main changes as part of a campaign to cement El-Sisi’s “authoritarian rule.”
Amnesty International said that by approving the amendments, parliamentarians had shown a “complete disregard for human rights.”
The haste with which the referendum has been pushed through prompted Egyptian and international human rights groups to call the electoral process “unfree and unfair.”
“The current national climate in Egypt is devoid of any space in which a... referendum can occur with... guarantees of partiality and fairness,” rights groups said in a joint statement.
Parliament’s small opposition “25-30 Alliance” is urging Egypt’s electorate to reject the amendments.
With the overwhelming majority of the media in the El-Sisi camp, dissenting voices have been largely restricted to social networks.