Adrenaline is at its peak in Israel with just a week left before the country heads to the polls for the fourth time in two years and opinion polls leaving all in doubt over which parties will form the next government.
But Palestinians in the coastal enclave of Gaza are showing little interest in the election because they believe that any possible new government will reflect a continuation of the same ideology.
A poll published by Israel’s Channel 13 on Sunday predicted that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Likud party will garner 28 seats in the 120-member legislature, while the Yesh Atid party will win 20 seats, the Yamina party will take 11 seats, the New Hope party nine seats, the mostly Arab Joint List eight seats, and the United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beitenu parties seven seats each.
The Shas, Labor and Religious Zionism parties came in at six seats each in the survey, while the Meretz, Blue and White, and Islamist Ra’am parties were each forecast to capture four mandates.
Nasser Haniya, a Gaza Strip resident, ruled out the possibility of any alteration in Israel’s attitude toward the Palestinians.
The Palestinian reality “will not be changed by changing the Israeli government, because the Zionist entity adopts specific policies that seek to oppress Palestinians and expand at the expense of the Palestinian territories,” he said.
“Any coming elections will not change that attitude of occupation, not toward the Palestinian cause, nor toward any other Arab or Islamic ones.”
Abu Mohammad al-Balawi, 42, said: “I don’t care who wins because they are all the same to me. Even if they were from outer space, I would only care if the winners would lift the blockade imposed on the strip more than 14 years ago!”
Abdellatif al-Qanou, the spokesman for Hamas in Gaza said: “The Israeli elections mean nothing to us. All the Zionist parties competing to lead the extremist government are the same and do not differ in their policies toward us.”
“They are all competing to conquer our people, kill them and steal our resources, but we [in Hamas] affirm that our struggle against the occupation will continue until the liberation of the entire Palestinian land,” Qanou added.
Analysts, too, say that, regardless of who leads the next government, Israel will maintain its positions and attitudes regarding issues important to Palestinians.
Adnan Abu Amer, a Gaza-based political analyst and expert in Israeli affairs, said: “For Israel, principal issues such as Jerusalem, refugees and settlements are considered non-negotiable and beyond discussion because they have become an integral part of the recognized Israeli political worldview.”
Given the increasing shift toward the right in the Israeli population, any deviation by candidates from these policies would mean losing the election, he said.
“The Israeli candidates well know that there is a massive and public drift to the right, and therefore try to gain right-wing votes even if it is contrary to their political beliefs. A vivid example of this was seen when some candidates campaigned in West Bank settlements, hoping to garner votes,” Abu Amer said.
Netanyahu pledged on Sunday, during a visit to the Givat Harel outpost in the West Bank’s Binyamin region, that “I swear to you: If I create a strong right-wing government without a rotation [in the position of prime minister], I will take care of the settlements and the authorization of the young settlements,” or outposts.
The electoral dominance of the right-wing movements will have serious consequences for the Palestinian political scene, according to Abu Amer.
“Most of the contestant parties are either right-wing or far-right ones, as the center camp and the left have completely scattered and vanished, so the competition now is among the most extreme of Israelis,” he said.
“That’s why we can see even more racist positions demonstrated in the calls for expelling Palestinians from the West Bank, annexation plans, blocking the establishment of the Palestinian state, burying the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees, and gradually eliminating the Palestinian Authority and reducing its powers to the lowest level,” he added.
Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip in particular is tightly ruled by the security approach.
“The security and the military levels in Israel are convinced that the best way to deal with the coastal enclave is to allow matters to continue to stagnate, in a state of ‘no war-no peace.’ This policy governs the entire political and military establishment in Israel, whether it is led by Netanyahu, Gideon Sa’ar or Benny Gantz…, yet each of them and each party would bring with it their own effects and direction,” Abu Amer said, naming the heads of some of the right-wing parties.
As to whether will there be significant changes to the political reality in Gaza Strip during the coming period, Abu Amer said: “Of course there will be change if Netanyahu is succeeded by rulers who are even more right-wing, but no one knows the nature of that change as long as the military establishment is in control regarding the relationship with Gaza.”
“Nor should we forget other fundamental factors related to the results of the coming Palestinian elections and to the future of the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Palestinian legislative elections currently are scheduled for May and presidential elections for July. It will be the first Palestinian elections in 16 years.
Written by Sanaa Alswerky, reprinted with permission from The Media Line.