How are the Palestinians feeling about Israel's elections?

“There’s a feeling among many Palestinians that the elections won’t bring about real changes in Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian issue.”

Elections in Israel (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Elections in Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Palestinians seem to be far less interested in the Israeli elections this year than in previous years, although many say that they would be happy to see an end to the era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Palestinian apathy toward the Israeli elections is attributed to three factors, Palestinian political analysts said on Sunday.
First, the Palestinian issue is almost completely absent from the election campaigns of most of the Israeli parties.
Second, the Palestinian public appears to be more worried about the economic and health repercussions of COVID-19 as the number of infections and deaths in the West Bank and Gaza Strip continues to rise.
Third, many Palestinian, including their political factions, are preoccupied with the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, scheduled for May 22 and July 31 respectively.
“Only a few people seem to be paying attention to the Israeli elections,” said Palestinian political analyst Nimer Abdel Fattah. “There’s a feeling among many Palestinians that the elections won’t bring about real changes in Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian issue.”
A member of the Fatah Central Committee, the highest decision-making body of the ruling faction headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the indifference was also because many Palestinians do not see a major difference between Netanyahu and the other candidates seeking to replace him.
“It would be nice to see Netanyahu lose the elections,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “But at the end of the day, whoever replaces Netanyahu will continue to endorse the same policies toward the Palestinians. The Palestinians are aware that the elections in Israel are all about Netanyahu and nothing else.”
He added: “It’s time for the Palestinians to stop expecting a fundamental change in the Israeli strategy regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We need to take matters into our own hands and work with the international community to step up the pressure on Israel to abide by international resolutions and stop its policies that are destroying the two-state solution.”
A PLO official told the Post that the absence of the Palestinian issue from the Israeli election campaign shows that the Israeli public is no longer interested in what happens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Similarly, the Palestinian public has lost interest in what’s happening in Israel,” he said. “As far as most Palestinians are concerned, there is no real difference between Netanyahu and [Yesh Atid head Yair] Lapid, [New Hope chairman Gideon] Sa’ar, [Yamina leader Naftali] Bennett and [Blue and White leader Benny] Gantz. They are all working to prevent the Palestinians from achieving their national rights.”
Nihad Abu Ghosh, a member of the Palestinian National Council, the PLO’s legislative body, noted that the Israeli “peace camp” was conspicuously absent from the current election campaign.
“In the absence of the forces of peace and the Left, or their reduction to mere marginal forces with no influence, the Israeli arena is empty for the right-wing forces,” he remarked. “These elections focus on one person, Benjamin Netanyahu. His survival or his ouster is the title of the fierce rivalry between the parties and the camps.”
Palestinian writer Bassem Barhoum argued that the Palestinians should focus on “rearranging our internal situation” rather than paying attention to the Israeli elections. He expressed hope that the Palestinian elections would facilitate the mission of putting the Palestinian house in order.
“The economic situation is very bad because of the coronavirus and lockdowns, and that’s why most Palestinians don’t care about the elections in Israel,” said Ibrahim Rajabi, a businessman from Hebron.
Palestinian political factions and parties, meanwhile, are busy preparing for the parliamentary vote, the first since 2006. The factions and parties have until the end of March to submit their lists to the Palestinian Central Elections Commission.
“Why should any Palestinian care about the elections in Israel when everyone is talking about the crisis in President Abbas’ Fatah faction?” said Mahmoud Mujahed, a veteran Fatah activist.
He was referring to the PA president’s recent decision to expel Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat, from Fatah. Kidwa was dismissed after he announced his intention to run in the election on a separate list from Fatah.
“Unlike the Israeli elections, the elections in Palestine are expected to be dramatic and challenging,” Mujahed said. “Our elections are more important because they are the first in more than 15 years and because of the deep crisis in Fatah.”