A year into Netanyahu’s new term, Israel, Palestinians further apart over peace

By Keren Setton Source:Xinhua Published: 2016-5-5 23:23:01

In mid-May, the current Israeli government led by hard-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will mark its first anniversary. A recent poll by Israeli Channel 2 showed that Netanyahu's government would not be re-elected should elections be held now.

Yet the Netanyahu government is here to stay, for now, but Israel and Palestinians are further apart over the long-stalled peace process.

In September 2015, a few months after the government was sworn in, Israelis and Palestinians witnessed an upsurge in violence. Since then, approximately 200 Palestinians have been killed along with dozens of Israelis. Israel says most of the Palestinian victims were assailants who were killed while attacking or attempting to attack Israelis.

In his fourth term as prime minister, Netanyahu leads a narrow coalition. A year ago, many were pessimistic about the governments' survival prospects. The challenge of violence has proven that even a rocky sense of security is not enough to topple or even threaten his razor-thin majority in Israel's parliament.

As international pressure to solve the conflict mounts and Israel finds itself more isolated, it seems the current Israeli government is still stable.

Moshe Elad, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, believes there has been no actual change in the last year. The violence is "a periodical release of air through a valve," that occurs every once in a while, according to Elad.

"The security coordination (between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank) is fantastic and nothing less than extraordinary," he said, adding that such cooperation is favorable to both sides.

It grants Israel access to critical intelligence but helps keep the flames at a controllable, acceptable level, while it also helps Abbas curb opposition to his rein, Elad explains.

According to Haitham Hamad, a Palestinian analyst and journalist, however, Abbas and the Palestinian people are at a loss. "The Palestinians are convinced that there can be no progress with the presence of Netanyahu and his government, they are convinced that no one can put pressure on him, they believe that Netanyahu is not interested in making peace with the Palestinians," Hamad explains. Netanyahu and Abbas' political prospects would be threatened should the violence boil over.

So although a year ago when Netanyahu formed a government that is largely opposed to any settlement with the Palestinians, its fragility guarantees continued cooperation between the two arch rivals.

Throughout the current wave of violence, several international players have made futile attempts to influence the situation.

A few days ago, the Israeli prime minister released a statement against a French attempt to initiate a peace conference between the two sides.

"Abbas believes that he will avoid the main problem - the problem of no negotiations - by applying massive international pressure," explains Elad.

"The question is not who the broker is but what issues are being discussed. The gap between the two sides is huge on core issues," he says.

But for now Israel, as Netanyahu sees it, is safe. Although relations between him and US President Barack Obama can be characterized as rocky at best, the US is what stands between Israel and major international isolation.

"Without the American veto, Israel would not be so calm. Abbas wants to bring the Americans to a point where they do not grant an automatic veto," Elad says, referring to the US veto votes against resolutions at the UN which favor the Palestinian cause.

It is ironic that while lives are being lost on nearly a daily basis, Elad describes both governments as satisfied with the situation.

The author is a writer with the Xinhua News Agency. The article first appeared on Xinhua. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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