Soon to become the longest-serving Prime Minister in Israeli political history, Benjamin Netanyahu was last week re-elected for a fourth successive term. That the Israeli electorate chose to keep Netanyahu in power should be greeted with despondency by anyone who hopes to witness the recognition of a Palestinian State in the near future. However, perhaps Netanyahu’s prolonged occupation as the head of the Israeli state inadvertently inspires hopeful sentiment, as his reckless politics continue to isolate Israel from the international community.
The victory of Netanyahu’s Likud Party relied heavily, and unashamedly, upon existing anti-Palestinian sentiment. Just days before the election, Netanyahu nonchalantly announced that, if re-elected, “there will be no Palestinian State”. In reaction to polls which suggested that Likud were falling behind the centre-left alliance known as the Zionist Union, Netanyahu mobilised further racialised rhetoric in urging supporters of the Israeli right to vote as “Left-wing organisations are bringing them [Arabs] in buses”.
The tactics adopted by Netanyahu may well have forced a blush from Machiavelli with such callous use of divisive, discriminatory language. More pressing still is that this approach achieved the desired result for the Zionist right. Though his remarks were inherently ignominious, they found an electoral nod of approval amongst the Israeli people. In the discourse of the ‘Middle East Peace Process’, the re-election of Netanyahu thus appears directly antithetical.
But, in spite of these legitimate worries, another consequence has been the increasing instability of US-Israeli relations. Even prior to the election the rifts between the White House and its old ally were widely reported. Obama’s frustration with the diplomatic incompetency of Netanyahu appears to be exponentially rising. Only recently did the Israeli Prime Minister accept a Republican invitation to speak at Congress, an invitation widely-acknowledged as a successful attempt to humiliate the White House.
This, layered upon Netanyahu’s inflammatory treatment of Iran’s status as a nuclear power, appears to have widened the split between the US and Israel. This indeed is a welcome development; for, if the US, as it appears likely, decides to re-think its position regarding Israeli alignment, then the latter will be stripped of its last remaining shield, and left exposed to the anger of the international community. Admittedly far-fetched, this is, however, not beyond the realms of possibility; the question shall only increase in its frequency as the US’s protection of Netanyahu becomes ever-more untenable. Although Netanyahu has since altered his position concerning a two-state solution, now claiming that he will consider it if there arrives a ‘change in circumstances’, his blundering rhetoric continues to have tangible impacts on the ground. Far more than hollow, politically-calculated strategy, his aggressive policy continues to promote communalist tension and violence.
An EU report released on Friday spoke of dangerous levels of ‘polarisation and violence’ in Jerusalem, where the Israeli authorities continue to flagrantly disobey the wishes of the international community, actively supporting the construction of Jewish settlement in volatile areas of the city, including the east, home to a substantial number of Palestinians. While diplomats painstakingly consider their next throw of the dice, the suffering of citizens on the ground shamefully endures.
Any sign that the international community is turning its back on Israel, whilst yet an observation made under the veil of hope, constitutes a positive development in the future of Palestine. Nevertheless, Netanyahu’s ceaseless territorial maximalism, acted upon as well as orated, offers little comfort to those seeking a just, peaceful resolution to this ongoing political catastrophe.