After today, Netanyahu could be out. And even more remarkably, there is a chance that for the first time in Israel’s history, a coalition of Arab political parties could gain significant power.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands with his wife Sara as he speaks to the media, after voting in Israel’s parliamentary elections in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Mar. 17, 2015. Israelis are voting in early parliament elections following a campaign focused on economic issues such as the high cost of living, rather than fears of a nuclear Iran or the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Israelis are voting today in what could be a very significant election. One of two things could happen: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could be elected to a fourth term. Or he could be defeated. The latter could be transformative for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
In pre-election polls Netanyahu’s party trailed by several seats. And so, in an apparent act of desperation on the eve of the election, the prime minister reached for his conservative base, telling an Israeli news site that he doesn’t support the idea of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu is the leader of Israel’s conservative party, Likud. Growing settlement activity, the brutal bombings of Gaza, and mounting tensions in Jerusalem have marked his time in office. So his statement is not that surprising and might very well be what he really believes. But it is a reversal of comments he made in 2009, just after being elected, when he said he supported a two-state solution.
The reversal is important. It means that with Netanyahu in power, peace in the Middle East would be a near impossibility. It’s something many analysts — and US President Barack Obama — have long suspected. Netanyahu has long frustrated Obama, who took office at the same time as the Israeli leader. There is near open hostility between the two of them, not least because Netanyahu continues to expand Israeli settlements.
But after today, Netanyahu could be out. And even more remarkably, there is a chance that for the first time in Israel’s history, a coalition of Arab political parties could gain significant power.