For decades, Palestinians and Arabs have watched and waited as elections take place in Israel, speculating on the scenarios that might unfold if either “the left” or “the right” takes office.
Some analysts in this part of the world are fond of saying that Israel’s politics never change, but the simple fact is that yes, politics in Israel do undergo changes – but not when it comes to relations with the Palestinians.
Alternatively, one could say that Israel has experienced genuine change, but always in the direction of extremism. Successive governments have become more and more hard-line, in a development recognized by most observers.
As Benjamin Netanyahu “celebrates” his pyrrhic victory – a third term, but with reduced number of seats in the Knesset, the public will hear statements from various countries about the need to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Even if Israeli politicians, in the wake of Wednesday’s elections, make such pronouncements, they should be considered propaganda, pure and simple.
Israeli politicians have had no compunction about stressing the need to make peace, while pursuing a relentless campaign of creating “facts on the ground” through settlement and occupation. The world continues to digest this rhetoric, sometimes in direct collusion with Israeli politicians.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians are guilty of the same practice of empty rhetoric. They talk about their genuine desire for peace, but fail do to the hard work that is needed to back up their words. They continue to suffer from political division, despite recent steps to conclude a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. They should imitate the Israelis various parties, whose considerable divisions do not prevent them from toeing the same line when it comes to the Palestinians.
Politicians in the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere should settle on a concrete set of demands that withstand any developments in terms of the political fortunes of Hamas, Fatah, or any other group.
If they had done so in the past, they would not find themselves today struggling to survive on an ever-shrinking territory, thanks to Israeli settlement.
The Palestinians now find themselves at a crossroads, as time is running out for their battle to negotiate the best possible deal with the Israelis; they must take into consideration the fact that the world is busy with other matters, particularly in a region undergoing momentous political change.
In Israel’s just-concluded election campaign, the Palestinians were a mere afterthought, as Netanyahu focused on Iran, while much of the public appeared to be thinking about the economy and other purely domestic matters.
The new Israeli government that eventually emerges will have little to offer the Palestinians, who shouldn’t be discouraged, but rather motivated to break with their decades-long legacy of turning in a disappointing performance when it comes to confronting the Jewish state.