Palestinians have low expectations for Israeli election

Poll shows most believe results will have no or negative impact

September 15, 2019 18:10
3 minute read.
Palestinians have low expectations for Israeli election

An Israeli Arab stands behind a voting booth before casting her ballot at a polling station in the northern town of Umm el-Fahm March 17, 2015. Millions of Israelis turned out to vote on Tuesday in a tightly-fought election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu facing an uphill battle to defeat a . (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

Palestinians are worried about the outcome of Tuesday’s Israeli parliament (Knesset) election.

Many say they believe the results will have a direct and major impact on their daily lives and future aspirations.

Honaida Ghanim, general director of The Palestinian Forum for Israeli Studies (MADAR), told The Media Line that "Palestinians are following with great concern the election because many decisions concerning... the future of the dream of a Palestinian state will be taken in this election. There is a real fear that this government," he continued, "especially under [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu's leadership, is ready to go to the extreme in order to remain in power.”

With the peace process frozen, and Netanyahu making a campaign promise to annex the West Bank's Jordan Valley, many Palestinians have little hope the election’s outcome will improve their predicament.

Esmat Mansour, a Palestinian writer specializing in Israeli affairs, told The Media Line that only if Netanyahu is defeated might things change.

“If Netanyahu goes away, it will have a direct impact on the region and the Palestinian issue in particular, not a radical one, but at least it will change the course and way of dealing,” he said.

Waleed Omri, a Palestinian journalist, told The Media Line that whoever wins the election, it will have major consequences for the region. “The Israeli election may have very serious repercussions, especially if right-wing forces in Israel dominate and try to overlook the Palestinian issue and a peaceful resolution.”

Palestinians want to establish their own state in territories captured by Israel in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital. But many say that Israeli politicians on both the left and right, as well as the Israeli public, don’t seem to have the issue on their agenda.

That, Omri said, “has forced the Palestinian Authority to look for ways to influence Israeli society and the election.” He noted that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has created a “Committee to Communicate with Israeli Society.”

Despite some Palestinians disapproving of the effort, calling it a step toward normalization, the committee has brought current and former Israeli politicians, academics and activists to meet with Abbas in Ramallah. Concurrently, Palestinian officials have held meetings with Israeli citizens of different backgrounds in an attempt to change Israeli perceptions of the Palestinians, and thus influence the election.

Mansour said “it’s an important committee, but it needs to be retooled to redefine its role. It’s difficult to influence the Israeli public this way. Its influence will not be felt immediately, but these bridges are beneficial.”

MADAR's Ghanim disagrees, saying she sees “no reason for it to exist. I think the chances of it influencing the election are less than zero. The chances are non-existent for a very simple reason, namely that Israeli society is moving to the right.”

Ghanim believes only the Arab political parties in Israel are offering a real agenda. “In practice, the Arab lists are the only ones presenting a program to end the occupation, dismantle settlements and stop Israeli arrogance. They are the only ones that present a clear and ethical political agenda,” she said.

A recent poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center found that more than 40 percent of Palestinians believe the Israeli election will have a negative impact, with another 25 percent saying it would have no impact at all. The poll surveyed 1,200 people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Hamza Khalaf, who owns a vegetable stall in a Ramallah produce market, told The Media Line that it doesn’t matter who comes out on top.

“I honestly don’t care. They are all the same. All they care about is winning and advancing the Israeli Jewish agenda,” he said.

Khalaf added that most Palestinians feel that US President Donald Trump’s strong support of Israel makes it almost impossible for peace negotiations to gain any traction.

“Israeli society has shifted to the right since Netanyahu took office years ago, and all Israelis, left and right, are happy with the status quo. So what can change?”

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