Reading Time: 5 minutes

By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.

It is still most likely for Netanyahu to form a government of members of the Likud and the religious parties, who hold a reasonable majority of seats (64 seats), thus enabling him to rule for the next four years. These are harmonious parties due to their religious and national extremism, and due to having the same views on many political and economic files, particularly Jerusalem, Judaization, settlements and the peace process. The 32 seats (14 for Religious Zionism, 11 Shas and 7 United Torah Judaism) won by the religious parties, which is the same won by Likud (32 seats) means that Netanyahu would have to respond to a number of the former’s requests and conditions, including important government posts, and that the government would be more religiously extremist.

Some US dissatisfaction may have emerged with the entry of Religious Zionism parties into the government, for they are considered steeped in extremism. They are also rushing into radical policies and measures which the US sees “premature,” because they would foil the US endeavor to breathe some life back into the peace process and the normalization plans in the region without embarrassing Arab normalizers before their people.

Should there be no agreement with Religious Zionist parties, Netanyahu might opt for an alliance with the National Unity Party headed by Benny Gantz, as there are significant right-wing components in this party that has won 12 seats.

The Course of Negotiations and Peace Process:

The government will be a manifestation of the Likud school with more religious and national extremism, hence, it will seek to “manage” the peace process rather than pursuing a real and serious one. It would use the process as a cover to link the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to its policies, normalize relations with the Arab and Muslim world and gain international acceptance.

Practically speaking, the Netanyahu government would seek to implement the general ideas of the “Deal of the Century” without announcing it, and it will be a settlement and Judaization government par excellence. It would seek more normalization with the Arab world without paying any prices or concessions, while aiming to isolate the Palestinian file from its vital Arab environment so that it would easily impose its conditions on Palestinians. Facing a Palestinian leadership with no political horizon or alternatives, except to beg for a peaceful solution from the Israelis and the US, the Netanyahu government will not find much to worry about at the official Palestinian and Arab levels.

Jerusalem and al-Aqsa Mosque:

This government will be the most daring to change the status quo, and it would seek to expand the role of “Temple Groups” and strengthen the Jewish-Zionist dominance over al-Aqsa Mosque. It would try to engage more in its direct management; gradually replace the Hashemite guardianship; hypothetically establish the temple; enforce temporal and spatial division; allow settler raids throughout the day, excluding the times of Muslim prayer; and even try to control the entry of Muslims outside prayer times. It will also tolerate the introduction of Jewish religious symbols, the implementation of Jewish rituals such as “epic prostration,” blowing the trumpet (Shofar) and the introduction of menorahs and biblical sacrificial rites.

In Jerusalem, factors exacerbating the living conditions of Jerusalemites would increase, including demolishing homes, revoking residencies of Jerusalemites and impeding their movement. The government would continue at a higher pace to encourage settlement building—including the huge settlement project on the lands of Qalandia Airport—and to attempt to confiscate some Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Procedures and efforts to falsify the historical urban image of Jerusalem would continue through excavations, fake graves and others. The risks due to the change of education and curricula, the attempts to remove the Arab-Islamic identity of Jerusalem and the imposition of the Zionist narrative would increase, and the systematic efforts to corrupt students by spreading drugs and causing high school dropout would also continue.

Resistance in the West Bank:

The policy of the new government would focus on activating settlement building and land confiscation in the West Bank, legitimizing settlement outposts and providing cover for settler gangs to attack the Palestinians. This would make tension escalate with the armed resistance, especially with the failure of the PA leadership to provide any horizon for the Palestinians.

Consequently, this government is expected to be more ruthless against the armed resistance, and harsher on the PA to pursue its security role with greater efficiency and a tighter grip. This may lead to one of two possibilities: First, the Palestinian defiance and resistance would increase leading to the spread of public anger and frustration, reaching a point beyond the control of the Israelis and the PA, hence it would take the form of an uprising.

Second, Israel, in cooperation with the PA, would be able to suppress the resistance, even if for a while. This calls for smart and proper management of this period by the resistance forces, as well as persistence and determination.

1948 Occupied Palestine:

The religious right-wing coalition that will lead the next Israeli government does not hide its desire to impose more laws related to Israel’s Jewish identity, and deal with the Palestinians of the 1948 occupied territories as tenth-class citizens, if citizens at all. The escalation of crime in the Arab community might find unannounced Israeli sponsorship in order to make the conditions precarious for the Palestinians, preoccupying them with their social problems and family feuds. If Ben-Gvir is given the interior ministry (as he demands), he will seek to legitimize the Zionist militias and provide them with official cover to suppress the Palestinian citizens. Also, Mansour ‘Abbas and his team, who made their calculations on the possibility of partnership in the government, will face a dead end and may be forced to reconsider their options.

Palestinian Reconciliation:

The Israeli government will work to thwart any real Palestinian reconciliation and will obstruct any elections in the areas under its control, if the public opinion polls indicate the victory of the resistance forces, especially Hamas. In this case, it would threaten the PA with sanctions if it takes serious steps in this regard.

However, it is most likely for the PA leadership to spare Israel such measures!! For despite the growing sense of danger and the increasing need for national unity against the increasing extremism at the official Israeli level, and despite the “Algiers Declaration,” there are no serious indications that the Fatah leadership (the leadership of the PA and the PLO) would activate reconciliation. For as long as the elections would not reproduce the same group dominating the PA and the PLO, implementing reconciliation is off the table. The prospects are non-existent for this leadership to hand over the PA or the PLO “voluntarily,” out of respect for the election results (if held), or out of respect for the peaceful rotation of power. Therefore, the leadership of the PA/ Fatah will continue with its “supposed” management of the reconciliation file, holding meetings to avoid “embarrassment” and accusations of obstruction, waiting for the time to pass and the interest in the issue to decline.

Accordingly, if there is serious will for reconciliation, the PA leadership should not start its process under the occupation or submit to Israel’s will and dictates. It should start with the PLO and its institutions, and it must hold its meetings and take decisions in places that are not controlled by the occupation, either in the liberated Gaza Strip or abroad.

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 25/11/2022

The opinions expressed in all the publications and studies are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of al-Zaytouna Centre.

Read More: