Two days ahead of Israel’s parliamentary elections, Palestinian public opinion is consumed with what it regards as an inevitable sharp right turn in Israeli politics come January 22.
Nabil Shaath, a Fatah official and former member of the Palestinian negotiation team, asserted Saturday that a right-wing government will emerge from the Israeli elections. In an interview with the Italian news agency Saturday, Shaath called on the Unites States and the European Union to increase pressure on Israel to freeze settlement building and resume negotiations leading to a Palestinian state within six months, or face international sanctions. The Palestinian Authority has said it would not return to the negotiating table without an Israeli settlement construction freeze.
The Palestinians too are awaiting national elections, but PA President Mahmoud Abbas claims that Hamas is preventing them by disallowing the registry of hundreds of thousands of voters in the Gaza Strip.
Adel Abdul Rahman, in an op-ed published Sunday in PA mouthpiece Al-Hayat Al-Jadida titled “Israel is a new crusader campaign,” claimed that no Israeli party can be regarded as left-wing.
“Those who have followed and continue to follow the election campaign… realize that the Israeli arena has no political vision for a solution, and continues to subscribe to the fascist tendencies of the right-wing parties,” wrote Abdul Rahman.
“Even factions belonging to the so-called left, such as [Tzipi Livni's] Hatnua which supports a two-state solution, continue to cling to the anti-peace goals of Zionism. Firstly, they reject the return of refugees [to Israel] and secondly they insist that the Palestinians recognize the state’s ‘Jewishness.’”
Hassan Al-Batal, writing for PA daily Al-Ayyam on Sunday, was less pessimistic about the prospects of a centrist coalition, or even a left-leaning one. Batal claimed that the makeup of Israel’s new coalition may even affect reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas.
“Netanyahu’s two allies, Bennett and Liberman, oppose any negotiations with Abu-Mazen [Abbas's nom de guerre], contrary to the centrist parties,” wrote Batal.
“We don’t see much chance for change, unless an unexpected surprise occurs,” Sameeh Hamoudah, a political scientist at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah, told The Times of Israel.
Hamoudah admitted, however, that the average Palestinian was more troubled by the PA’s difficult financial state than by the Israeli elections.
In contrast to the gloomy mood emanating from the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza preferred to gloat at Israel’s expected international isolation following the elections.
“Observers of the Israeli political scene predict that Israel will suffer international isolation and political problems if the right wins the elections,” wrote Muhammd Balwar in the Hamas newspaper Al-Resalah on Sunday. “No one knows if the right and the extreme right still see with one eye or whether they have been inflicted with complete blindness.”