Two-state solution a Palestinian 'pipe dream'

Yasser Seddiq , Sunday 19 Apr 2015

Following the advance of the far-right Likud Party in Israel's elections in March, prospects for a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict appear dimmer than ever

Abbas , Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: Reuters)

Binjamin Netanyahu is expected to ask Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday for a 14-day extension of the period allotted him to form his fourth government, according to the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.

Netanyahu has been in deep negotiations and consultations for around one month with Israeli parties to reach a coalition government.

The big win for the rightwing Likud Party of Netanyahu over the centre-left Zionist Union in Israel's 17 March general election has shocked the Palestinian community in the light of remarks made by Netanyahu before the start of the voting process.

Netanyahu declared his total rejection of the idea of the two-state solution and vowed to complete the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu's victory will make it easy for him to form a right-wing government after his far right-wing Likud Party secured 30 seats in the 120-member Israeli parliament.

Israelis have increasingly leaned toward right-wing parties in recent years, including religious-extremist wings.

Netanyahu's success in forming a coalition government would secure him his third government in a row and fourth in total, leaving him the longest running prime minister in the history of Israel after David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founder.

It is expected that Israeli policy will remains as it was, both with regard to internal issues and foreign policy. Netanyahu will continue his hard-line stance against Iran that rejects any possible agreement between Tehran and Western powers, especially the United States.

With regard to the Palestinian cause, a few hours before the start of the election, Netanyahu announced explicitly that there will be no Palestinian state if he won the polls. "I think anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state and to evacuate territory is giving radical Islam a staging ground against the State of Israel. The left is doing this, burying its head in the sand time after time," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu also vowed to intensify settlement building in East Jerusalem to prevent any concessions to the Palestinians in the future. "We will continue to build in Jerusalem, and we will add thousands of housing units and in the face of all international pressure will continue to develop our eternal capital."

However, he backtracked on his remarks on rejecting the two-state solution. Netanyahu's statements drew rebuke from the Obama administration as well as from Arabs and Palestinians.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told Jewish Americans in a gathering last month that an occupation that has lasted for almost 50 years must end, and that Palestinian people must have the right to live and govern themselves in their own sovereign state.

"In the end, we know what a peace agreement should look like. The borders of Israel and an independent Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps," McDonough said.

"We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made," he added.

Saeed Okasha, an expert at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told Ahram Online that the current confused situation in the Arab region prevents any progress in the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Arab support for the Palestinian cause is one of the arms of negotiations with the Israelis. This support is barely ample at this time, as the majority of Arab countries are wrapped up in domestic or nearby fierce waves of terrorism — in particular the bloody wars in Libya, Yemen and Syria that dramatically weakened the collective Arab stance.

"Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not be able to promote negotiations ... without Israel halting the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and without setting negotiation conditions that are acceptable to both the Palestinian and Arab street alike," Okasha said.

Thus the prospects of resuming peace talks are low despite Netanyahu's backtracking on some of his statements.

For Okasha, Netanyahu is now stronger after his party won 30 seats in the Israeli parliament, compared to 20 in the previous parliament. US President Barack Obama and his Democratic Party, meanwhile, put their weight recently on forging a final nuclear deal with Iran as well as preparing for upcoming US presidential elections in 2016.

Relations between Obama and Netanyahu soured after the nuclear deal was announced with Tehran. So, Okasha argues, the Obama administration could hardly push for the resumption of talks, leaving Palestinians no choice but to go to the UN to pursue their national rights.

For Palestinians, there is only deadlock. While Netanyahu may have stepped back from his earlier remarks, nothing tangible has changed — or can be expected to change — on the ground.

Ongoing internal Palestinian division is also a stumbling block to any kind of settlement. The best case scenario is that Netanyahu moderates his language and avoids inciting hatred or pursuing another war, according to Okasha.

Hanna Swaid, an Arab-Israeli Knesset member, said in media remarks that the advance of the far-right Likud Party in the Israeli elections was sudden and unexpected. Swaid said the next coalition in Israel will be headed by Netanyahu, and that the two-state solution is now a pipe dream, adding to frustration within the Palestinian community.

Many analysts agree that neither the United States nor any country can change Netanyahu's attitude towards Arabs and Palestinians.

The continued intransigence of Israeli authorities in dealing with the peace process and constant efforts exerted by the extremist Israeli right to Judaicise Jerusalem risks igniting the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the coming period.

At best, Israel's insistence on imposing its conception of a just peace — one rejected by Arabs and a number of international players — will render peace negotiations between the two sides fruitless and a waste of time.

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