Locals in Gaza City React to Israeli Election Results
“The rightist government of Netanyahu has two main choices: either to relieve the Gaza blockade in return for complete calm by the resistance factions in Gaza or to go for war.”
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip seem to have low expectations with respect to the improvement of the Palestinian cause. On Tuesday their future hung in the balance as Israel went to the polls to vote on its next government, and incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made aggressive statements recently regarding the expansion of Israeli sovereignty.
Gaza City Locals Respond
Citizen Truth spoke to locals in one of the busiest streets of Gaza City called Alnasser Street where locals gave a mixed response towards the Israeli election results.
“He will seek an economic peace and will be more open to Hamas. Also, he will end up the Palestinian Authority,” Dr. Yehya Fares, owner of a small pharmacy, told Citizen Truth in reaction to the Israeli right-wing Likud party likely forming a coalition government as a result of the parliamentary elections.
Gaza Strip, which is located on the Mediterranean and is adjacent to Israel, was captured by Israel back in 1967. The majority of its two million residents are refugees whose ancestors were displaced by Israel during the Arab-Israel war of 1948 when Israel was created.
Other residents of Gaza, like taxi driver Ashraf Alneder, had different views to express to Citizen Truth.
“With respect to Israeli PM, Netanyahu’s current easing of the economic situation, this will not last long. The truce understandings, underway, are fragile At any moment, we could see an escalation or war. This truce is so fragile,” said Alneder.
Over the past several weeks, efforts by international and regional players have been underway to preserve a fragile truce understanding between Palestinians in Gaza and Israel after an exchange of fire between the Islamist ruling Hamas party and Israel.
Since March 30, 2018, large Palestinian crowds in coastal territories have traveled each week to border areas in protest of a 12-year-old Israeli blockade on the territory and to assert their internationally-recognized right of return to villages and towns from which Israel expelled them in 1948.
Over the same time period, the Israeli army has attacked Gaza in response to rocket fire from the territory into nearby Israeli areas. During recent mediated peace talks, Israel requested a halt to the border protests and offered in return to ease the blockade and allow entry of more goods and commodities, as well as the expansion of a fishing zone.
Ola Abdel Elaal, who is a student of social and family development at a local university in Gaza, told Citizen Truth that she hopes that the situation will remain calm, following the Israeli elections.
“I believe that for the time being, neither Israel nor Palestinians are interested in an escalation or wars. I believe we will continue to observe calm.”
Yesterday, Israeli voters went to the polls to choose their representatives in parliament, known as the Knesset. The rightist Likud party of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been marred by corruption charges, won 37 seats while the rival White and Blue party, headed by Banny Gantz, won 36.
Despite the apparent tie, Israeli media sources said that Netanyahu will form a right-wing coalition government in a period of one month – left-wing parties did not win enough seats to form a coalition government. His expected government will be the fifth that Netanyahu has formed and 100 days into his term he will bypass David Ben Gurion to become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister.
PLO Calls Israeli Election a Vote For Apartheid Israel
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had signed peace accords with Israel back in 1993, is summoning an urgent meeting in response to the Israeli election. In a statement, the PLO said it considered the vote an Israeli public choice for an apartheid Israel, not for a long-envisioned two-state solution.
Palestinians, through negotiations with Israel, have sought a two-state solution, based on United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the Arab States initiative for peace, offered in 2002. The resolutions regard West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem as occupied Palestinian lands, from which Israel is obliged to withdraw.
“The rightist government of Netanyahu has two main choices; either to relieve the Gaza blockade, in return for complete calm by the resistance factions in Gaza, or to go for war, whose outcome is uncontrollable and could lead to a wide-range chaos that may not only harm Israel’s security, but also the security of the entire region,” Hassan Abdo, a political writer in Gaza, told Citizen Truth in reference to the elections results.
Palestinian Options Are Limited
With the firm support that the administration of U.S. president Donald Trump has offered to Israel recently, including moving the Israeli embassy and declaring the Golan Heights Israeli land, Palestinians are concerned that Israel will take further bold steps.
The biggest concern is that Israel may attempt to lay a claim of sovereignty to the West Bank and expand settlements there and in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu himself said last Saturday that he would extend Israeli sovereignty.
Citizen Truth asked the Gaza-based political analyst, Hussam Aldajany, whether the upcoming coalition national government of Israel would take those bold steps.
“A national coalition government would likely annex West Bank areas to Israel and subject them to Israeli exclusive control. Even Banny Gantz, himself, had hinted at his willingness to annex areas that are classified C, which contain major settlement blocs, to Israel. But Gantz does not want the Palestinian Authority (PA) to completely collapse,” Aldajany noted.
Choices for the Palestinian Authority seem to be limited in a time when the PA has severed ties with the United States over the Trump administration’s declaration of East Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the U.S.’ withholding of funds previously earmarked for the PA. The administration has also cut off funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, known as UNRWA.
The Gaza-based political analyst Talal Aukal told Citizen Truth that the PA might resort to an escalation of peaceful resistance in the West Bank to counter and possibly delay any potential unilateral Israeli moves.
“Israel will make sure to annex the West Bank, excluding the residential areas. Netanyahu had earlier said it frankly several times that it is in the interest of Israel that current political split between Gaza and the West Bank should remain in place. And that he will deal with the West Bank in a way that would grossly undermine the Palestinian Authority. In order to undermine it, Netanyahu will wrest security control over the whole West Bank, resort to iron fist policies, as well as intensifying settlement activities in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem”.
Palestinian estimates suggest that currently there are 650,000 Israeli settlers living in hundreds of settlements blocs throughout the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Settlements have been on the rise by orders of consecutive Israeli governments since the Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993. Previous U.S.’s administrations have dubbed those settlements an obstacle to peace. Yet no administration ever ostensibly demanded Israel to stop construction of settlements.
Palestinians Say Unity is Needed
In the Gaza Strip, the ruling Islamist Hamas party, which continues to be at odds with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, said in a statement that the Israeli election results are of no interest to them. The statement called for unity and called on President Mahmoud Abbas of the Fatah party to renounce what the party called a futile peace process with Israel.
After Hamas ousted the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority from Gaza by force in 2007, Hamas and Fatah have been split. Hamas honors armed resistance against Israel while Fatah has opted for peace talks with the Israeli state.
Since then, several unity deals have been reached, the last of which was signed in Cairo in 2017 under Egyptian auspices. Yet, none of the deals have been implemented.
Results of the recent Egyptian mediation effort to establish peace in the Gaza Strip in return for easing the Israeli blockade remain unclear – at least until an Israeli coalition government is formed.