As the dust begins to settle, we’d like to offer some initial thoughts and analysis on the elections’ results, in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the two-state solution.
The political outcome
This election did not bring about dramatic change in the ideological and political makeup of the 120 members of the 21st Knesset. As with the previous Knesset, it remains true that the 21st Knesset will not have a majority supporting the two-state solution or, at least, supporting any activity or steps towards the two-state solution.
That being said, the numbers indicate an increase in the number of seats for the center-left bloc and a drop in the number of seats for the right-wing bloc, as compared with the 2015 elections:
The right-wing bloc (Likud, The United Right, Kulanu and Yisrael Beiteinu) dropped by 4 Knesset seats (due to two right-wing parties – Zehut and New Right - that did not cross the threshold), from 54 to 50. The Orthodox parties went from 13 to 15 seats. Therefore, in total, the right-wing + Orthodox bloc went from 67 to 65 seats, a drop of 2 seats.
The center-left bloc (Blue and White, Labor and Meretz) increased from 40 to 45 seats, an increase of 5 seats. The Arab parties dropped by 3 seats (due to significantly low turnout by Arab-Israeli voters) . Therefore, in total, the center-left + Arab parties bloc grew by 2 seats, from 53 to 55.
So, the center-left bloc went up while the right-wing bloc went down, in terms of support. We also note that the political camp to Likud’s right (the settlers lobby) dropped from 8 seats to 5. This means that there will be less representation for the settlement movement in the next government, including fewer ministers in significantly less senior and prominent ministries.
The new government and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
The issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was regrettably missing from the elections period, and definitely did not receive the centrality it warrants. The above results do not reflect public opinion on this issue. However, the issue is likely to come up soon and create political ripples, if and when the Trump Plan will be published.
If the Trump Plan is published, all eyes will turn to the extreme right wing faction in the government to see if they intend to remain part of a government that does not outright reject the plan (and Netanyahu is not likely to reject a plan by President Trump).
The right-wing bloc of the government will examine the plan in search of what it includes and ask itself if it can live with it. The left bloc of the government will scrutinize the plan for what it’s missing, asking itself whether its shortcomings make it less of a peace plan and more of a path towards dangerous deterioration.
In the likely scenario where Netanyahu forms a narrow government (right-wing + Orthodox parties), he could say to his partners that this plan will not be accepted as is, but that a plan by Trump cannot be rejected outright. When the Palestinians reject the plan, as they are expected to do, Israel could examine and advance the option of annexation or applying Israeli law to settlements - such moves now possibly legitimized by the American Administration after its plan was denied by the Palestinians.
The role of the international community
It is incumbent upon the international peace-seeking community to remain steadfast in its commitment to the two-state solution and keep it as part of the discussion. The two-state solutions remains the only viable solution and it is crucial to serve as a counterbalance to the government – if not to get it to take steps to advance a solution, then to prevent at all costs steps that will make a solution impossible, such as annexation and settlement expansion.
We also note that this new government could continue its efforts to legislate against and delegitimize Israeli civil society, the peace camp and left-leaning NGOs. This trend and the threat of annexation should put the international community on high alert and conscious of the importance of its voice. The international community was successful in preventing damaging measures in the past (Khan al-Ahmar, E1). The next couple of years are likely to present more tests, with more long-lasting consequences. The international community should be prepared to remain active in its objections and resistance, even if the bulk of its efforts in the time to come are holding the line and preventing deterioration and less actual promotion of useful initiatives.
The Israeli peace camp
In the aftermath of the election, the Israeli peace camp needs to reflect on its strategy during this election cycle and how to move forward.
The first approach of the Israeli peace camp and the Israeli left is that the Israeli public has shifted to the right, and therefore we need to adjust accordingly – ideological vagueness and less talk about the conflict, permanent agreement, peace and the two-state solution. This approach was adopted by the Labor Party for the majority of its time in the opposition, by Blue and White who refused to say two-states or object to annexation due to tactical considerations and even by some actors in civil society.
The second approach advocates that the Israeli peace camp must vocally and clearly speak about the two-state solution and about the price we pay in not advancing it. This approach was demonstrated by Meretz and some civil society organizations, as well as by the Geneva Initiative.
When we refuse to talk about two-states and peace we play into the delegitimization of these concepts in public discourse and contribute to the public’s shift to the right. The first approach has failed politically and ideologically. We don’t know if the second approach will be successful politically, but we can say with confidence that it will not fuel a right-leaning public discourse any further. It is ideologically beneficial and therefore our strategy will be driven by the second approach – speaking clearly and unabashedly about peace and the need for the two-state solution.
We will share more thoughts and analysis as things develop and a new government is formed. Until then, happy spring!
Director of Foreign Relations, Geneva Initiative
Tel: +972 (3) 6938780
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