On March 18th, Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Party surged to an unexpected victory in the Israeli elections. During the two weeks preceding the elections, many would squeak by with victory to form a new government. However, the consequences of Netanyahu’s media blitz were far-reaching, and the Prime Minister roused anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab sentiment to secure a victory for Likud and endanger Israeli international relations and the future of the peace process.
Prime Minister Netanyahu made strikingly brash statements revealing his true intentions about the sustainment of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the future of the Palestinian people. When visiting a major Israel settlement in the West Bank, Netanyahu announced no plans to evacuate the current settlements and promised to continue building on occupied lands to expand Israeli control in Palestinian territory. His remarks demonstrate insincerity to abide by international law by curbing settlement expansion in the Palestinian territories and Area A; restricted to Palestinians only. Additionally, in an interview with a prominent Israeli right-wing political blog, Netanyahu affirmed that as long as he was Prime Minister of Israel, the Palestinians would “not get the independent state they seek” in East Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, and Gaza. The betray any future intentions of Israeli peace talks. Netanyahu also isolated the Arab-Israeli population by posting a racially charged post on his Facebook on election day; warning right wing voters that “Arab voters are going en masse to the polls…Left-wing NGOs are bringing them on buses”. The post sparked outrage amongst the Arab population and with politicians who head the Arab lists in Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments reveal Likud’s true intentions; to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state at all costs and to maintain a state with “Jewish” character through Arab exclusion.
Netanyahu should have foreseen the international backlash. Netanyahu and Obama already have a tense relationship, and these comments have pushed the limits of Obama’s tolerance of Netanyahu’s extreme rhetoric. President Obama delayed the customary congratulatory phone call and noted in a press conference that his administration would “take him at his word” regarding future peace talks about a Palestinian state. Additionally Obama addressed Netanyahu’s Facebook post about Arab voters; although “Israel was founded on the basis of a Jewish homeland…Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated fairly and equally”. President Obama also warned that he would “reassess” the approach to the Israeli-Palestinian situation moving forward. Many states in the European Union have condemned Netanyahu’s rhetoric as well and indicate a growing sympathy towards Despite his attempts to backtrack in interviews with MSNBC and other prominent news organizations (in which he endorsed a two state solution should “circumstances” change), Netanyahu has seemingly done irreversible damage to Israeli standing across the world.
Although Netanyahu’s comments unearth disturbing views about Arab-Israelis, Palestinians, and the peace process they may be the catalyst for international action. Jibril Rajoub, Secretary General of Fatah, stated that Netanyahu’s statements will prove that “we have no one to speak to on the Israeli side” about a peace agreement. Coupling Netanyahu’s statement with the formal ICC complaint lodged by the Palestinian Authority and the ensuing legal battle, other countries will have no choice but to acknowledge that Likud’s Israel will not seek peace. While the United States has always used its veto to aid Israel in UN Security Council resolutions concerning Palestinian statehood, the firm stance taken by Netanyahu may change American commitment. Netanyahu has put Israel in a precarious position; isolated from the support desperately needed to continue Palestinian occupation.