The Return of Benjamin Netanyahu

The return of Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party does
not bode well for the prospects for a comprehensive and lasting peace
between Israel and Palestine. Throughout his campaign, the
cornerstone of Netanyahu's policy toward the 'Palestinian Question'
suggests an intention to deepen the conflict rather than solve it.

Netanyahu has stated repeatedly that he does not want to get tangled
up in 'final status issues' -- the boundaries of a future Palestinian
state, the rights of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jerusalem,
Jewish settlements in the West Bank and water rights. These issues
form the core of what must be negotiated between Palestinians and
Israelis. Yet the man most likely to become Israel's next Prime
Minister does not want to discuss them.

Instead, his plan for the 'economic development' of the Palestinian
Territories is a euphemism for intensifying the Apartheid regime that
exists there. Rather than move toward the solution that the majority
of Palestinians, the United States and the international community
embraces -- an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel --
Netanyahu would have the West Bank divided into disconnected
Bantustans. Palestinians would be given "business projects" as
compensation for the self-determination Israel has denied them for
more than four decades.

Netanyahu wants to better accommodate life under occupation, not lift
the occupation itself, in the hopes of pacifying Palestinians' desire
for freedom and our demand for the recognition of our most basic human

This has been tried many times in the past. It has always failed. A
process with no prospects for peace, as was Annapolis under Olmert, is
no different to Palestinians than no process and no prospects for
peace under Netanyahu.

Netanyahu has also clearly stated that the occupation of Palestinian
lands will increase rather than decrease during his tenure. He has
promised not to build any new settlements, but to allow for the
'natural' expansion of existing ones -- so as not to 'choke them'.

According to international law, and a number of Israeli human rights
organizations, there has been nothing 'natural' about settlement
growth from the beginning. The population of settlements over the last
two decades has grown at an average of 4-6% annually in sharp contrast
to Israeli society as a whole at 1.5%. In 2008, during the ongoing
Annapolis 'Peace' Process and amidst condemnation from the United
States, settlement construction in the West Bank increased by 30%.
If settlements continue to grow as 'naturally' as this, they will soon
devour the entirety of the West Bank.

Furthermore, it is not only the settlements which constitute the
occupation. By themselves, the settlers consume only 3% of the West
Bank; however, the public utility and military infrastructures which
unite them to the state of Israel consume over 40%. Total control
of our borders and economy is compounded by 700 checkpoints and
movement restrictions, a race-based regime of roads and tunnels, a
massive cement Wall and barrier which is twice the length of our
internationally recognized border and built almost entirely inside the West
Bank, and on top of this, we play host to nearly half a million
hostile ideologues who consume 80% of our water resources.

Netanyahu seems only too eager to continue 'managing' the conflict
long enough to pass it onto our children and grandchildren. However,
given the make-up of his likely coalition, he may not have a choice in
the matter anyway.

Far-right parties such as Shas and Yisrael Beitenu have gained more
strength proportionally in these elections than Likud and will surely
be part of the new coalition. They call for more than 'management' of
the status quo and a refusal to negotiate a solution; they offer
extreme measures of their own - solutions which would be marginalized
in any modern democracy. These include more disproportionate violence
aimed at 'teaching Palestinians to respect their masters', more
institutionalized racism within the 1948 borders, more settlements and
even full-scale population transfers - a more palatable expression for
ethnic cleansing.

These parties have proven their ability to collapse a government if
any meaningful negotiations with Palestinians are to take place and
will most likely maintain that pledge with an increased mandate in
any new governing coalition.

In sum: meaningful negotiations may not even be feasible on the
Israeli side; and if they are, the 'offer' from Israel will most
certainly be unacceptable to any Palestinian leadership interested in
viable statehood. The status quo of 'occupation with no end in sight'
looks set to continue into the foreseeable future.

The result of this election will not bring us closer to a one or
two-state solution; it will bring us no solution. And if we continue
down this path much longer, 'no solution' will manifest itself in the
death of the two-state dream and continued Apartheid for the
Palestinian people.

Mustafa Barghouthi is the Secretary General of the Palestinian
National Initiative (PNI). The opinions expressed here are his own and
can be found regularly at