Nasser Abu Bakr

The reelection of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has ruled out a Palestinian state on his watch, has only strengthened the resolve of Palestinians to battle Israel on the world stage.

After Netanyahu’s Likud took a comfortable lead over its centre-left rival, the Zionist Union, in Tuesday’s election, the Palestinian leadership slammed Israelis for choosing “occupation and settlements” over peace.

“Israel chose the path of racism, occupation and settlement building, and did not choose the path of negotiations and partnership between us,” senior Palestine Liberation Organisation official Yasser Abed Rabbo told AFP.

The Palestinians, he warned, would intensify efforts to sue Israel for alleged war crimes and other violations on occupied territory through the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Netanyahu on Monday, a day before the vote, vowed there would be no Palestinian state if he were reelected, and pledged to ramp up Jewish settlement building on Palestinian territory to ensure that. “We will continue to build in Jerusalem... and in the face of all the (international) pressure, we will persist and continue to develop our eternal capital,” he said.

For the Palestinians, his victory makes their course of action clear. “Netanyahu has buried the two-state solution,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP. “There is no partner for peace in Israel. “We say clearly that we will go to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and we will speed up, pursue and intensify” all diplomatic efforts, he added.

‘Extremism and violence’

In December, the Palestinians submitted a UN Security Council resolution - which was voted down - calling for an end to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank within two years. In January, they joined the ICC, where they plan to take action as early as next month.

Netanyahu’s government retaliated by freezing hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues due for transfer to the Palestinian Authority (PA), souring already tense relations.

Under Netanyahu, Israel continued to build settlements on Palestinian territory during US-brokered peace talks in 2012-13, ultimately causing their collapse.

The Palestinians say their moves on the international arena are the only chance to force change, doubting after decades of conflict and round upon round of failed talks that direct negotiations can work. “Netanyahu is liable to plunge the whole region into more extremism and violence,” PLO member Hanan Ashrawi said in a statement. Erakat said that under Netanyahu and “the most extremist rightwing government... we don’t have a partner in Israel. “So the international community must stand shoulder to shoulder with us to expedite our efforts toward ... defining our relations with Israel.”

Israel’s chief ally, the United States, has opposed what it calls “unilateral” efforts towards achieving Palestinian statehood. But much of the international community has supported previous Palestinian efforts at the UN - including a successful bid to gain non-member observer status in 2012. The Israelis, including Netanyahu, are aware of this.

Already on Wednesday, a Likud MP and close confidant of the prime minister told public radio that if the PA “changes its attitude,” it would “find the Likud’s outstretched hand for a resumption of dialogue”.

‘No more masks’

It is unclear whether the Palestinians would accept overtures from Netanyahu’s Israel. For now, their position has hardened, and Palestinian officials have suggested there is no going back, saying Netanyahu has showed his true colours.

“No more masks. #Netanyahu kills the two states solution and Israel is officially an #Apartheid state,” Palestinian legislator Mustafa Barghouti said on his Twitter account.

Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab commented: “The Israeli elections forced Netanyahu to reveal his real position.” But on the Palestinian street, there is a feeling that at least they know where they stand with a fourth term for Netanyahu. A Zionist Union win would more likely have meant a resumption of peace talks, which have seemed doomed to fail at almost every turn.–AFP