Netanyahu rival concedes defeat in Israeli election

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's governing right-wing Likud Party appeared almost neck and neck with his main centrist rival Benny Gantz in Israel's election. (Reuters)
Updated 10 April 2019

Netanyahu rival concedes defeat in Israeli election

  • Netanyahu, 69, is now the longest-serving prime minister in Israel's history
  • Former military chief Benny Gantz and his party said they will work against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the opposition

JERUSALEM: Israel's Blue and White party leaders are conceding defeat in Israel's election, saying they will work against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from the opposition.

Yair Lapid, the party's No. 2 figure, told a press conference Wednesday that though his party "did not win in this round, I respect the voters." He said his party will "embitter" Netanyahu's life from the opposition.

The Blue and White party, headed by former army chief of staff Benny Gantz, drew even with Netanyahu's Likud party, but the incumbent prime minister is poised to form a government with his larger bloc of religious and nationalist allies.

Netanyahu looked set to be able to stay in power with the support of religious-rightist parties, although both Likud and Blue and White won the same number of seats in the 120-member parliament.

Gantz says his party has "founded a true alternative rule to Netanyahu."

“It is a night of colossal victory,” the 69-year-old Netanyahu told cheering supporters in a late-night speech at Likud headquarters after Tuesday’s vote.

“He’s a magician,” the crowd chanted as fireworks flared and Netanyahu kissed his wife Sara.

Tel Aviv Stock Exchange main indexes opened up 0.5 percent on Wednesday, showing confidence in a prime minister who has overseen a humming economy and restrained security challenges.

His challenger, the new Blue and White party of ex-general Benny Gantz, claimed a more modest victory after winning a 35-seat tie with Likud. Unless he reverses on campaign pledges to shun Netanyahu, and joins him in a future broad coalition, Gantz looked destined to lead a center-left parliamentary opposition.

“The skies may look overcast...but they cannot conceal the sun of hope that we have brought to the Israeli people and society,” Gantz, 59, wrote in an open letter to supporters.

Netanyahu will become the longest-serving Israeli prime minister in July once his coalition is confirmed, overtaking the country’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion. That could be scuppered if criminal charges are filed and force his removal.


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 21 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”