Palestinians see ‘long and difficult road of struggle’ against Israel as Netanyahu wins fourth term after rejection of two-state solution. Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas (above), and his close advisers may now decide to end security cooperation with Israel. Photograph: Issam Rimawi/AP
By Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem and Sufian Taha in Ramallah, The Guardian, 18 March 2015
In his sports shop in the Palestinian village of Hizme, Mohammad al-Kiswani, aged 52, reflected bleakly on the re-election of Binyamin Netanyahu.
“When Netanyahu won,” he said, “he dried the last drop of water that could quench our thirst for a state. This time he will be more radical. He promised the Israeli public he will not negotiate a two-state solution or negotiate over Jerusalem. He has taken off his mask and it has shown an ugly face.”
Mohammad al-Mahdi, the 35-year-old owner of a publishing press, was no less concerned. “I think things will get worse. The future will be black.
“But you can’t blame the Israelis because they were so clear in this election campaign. I don’t think there will be peace. I don’t think there will be a two-state solution. There will only be a country full of hate and racism and that is so sad because the Israeli public are turning towards the far right.”
If there is a paradox, it is that for Palestinians Binyamin Netanyahu’s decisive win in Tuesday’s Israeli elections has simplified issues for many – including the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and his closest advisers – in their campaign to internationalise support for a Palestinian state.
Ahead of Tuesday’s election, some Palestinian officials close to Abbas had intimated that a Netanyahu victory – not least in terms of his outright rejection of a two-state solution and his vow to continue settlement construction – would mark a clear break in a US-led peace process that has been on ice since it collapsed almost a year ago.
Indeed a common sentiment among Palestinians in recent days is that the election campaign forced Netanyahu to reveal his opposition to a two-state solution.
“The Israeli elections forced Netanyahu to reveal his real position,” said prominent Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab, reflecting the views of many.
Netanyahu surged to victory with the right partly on the back of a clear disavowal of his 2009 Bar-Ilan speech in which he committed to a two-state solution, the basis of US-led negotiations with the Palestinians. He also insisted Israel would continue building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, a policy strongly opposed by Washington and much of the international community.
With the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation due to meet on Thursday, the key issue on the agenda will be the results of Israel’s elections in the context of the decision taken earlier this year by a lower PLO body to call for the ending of security cooperation with Israel.
Although no decision is expected to be taken on Thursday ending security cooperation immediately, the committee may take further practical steps towards ending it.
“There are lots of issues and ideas to be discussed,” a source familiar with the deliberations told the Guardian.
“The message will be to Israel, if you want to strangle the Palestinian government, then it will collapse.”
Palestinian leaders said a fourth term for the Likud party leader meant they must press forward with unilateral steps towards independence, including filing charges against Israel at the international criminal court.
“This makes it more necessary than ever to go to the international community, and to go to the ICC and escalate peaceful resistance and boycott against the occupation,” Wasel Abu Youssef, a PLO leader, added.
Equally pressing will be the expected move by the president to file war crimes complaints against Israel on 1 April, within hours of formally acceding to the ICC.
Pre-empting Palestine joining the international court of last resort, Israel has already suspended the transfer of tax revenue it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf, holding back around $120m (£82m) a month. That has crippled the Palestinian budget and led to deep pay cuts for state workers.
The filing of formal allegations to the court on 1 April is also likely to see the US Congress move to freeze US aid to the Palestinian Authority as well.
Other moves that the Guardian understands are being considered by Abbas and the senior Palestinian leadership – amid frustration over the US failure to move forward the peace process – is whether to seek a second UN security council resolution calling for an end to the occupation after a previous attempt to have a resolution ended in failure in December.
Even before the election results were finalised on Wednesday morning, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator in peace talks with Israel that collapsed in April, was damning about Netanyahu’s record: “Netanyahu has done nothing in his political life but to destroy the two-state solution.”
Erekat has suggested the Palestinians may press on with their pledge to suspend security cooperation with Israel, a move that could have an immediate impact on stability in the West Bank.
His sentiments were echoed by fellow senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo. “Israel chose the path of racism, occupation and settlement building, and did not choose the path of negotiations and partnership between us,” he said.
“We are facing an Israeli society that is sick with racism, and a policy of occupation and settlement building … and ahead of us is a long and difficult road of struggle against Israel,” Rabbo said.
“We must complete our steps to stop security coordination [with Israel] and go to the Hague tribunal to move against settlements and Israel’s crimes in its war on Gaza.”