The worst news of the week so far – a development that will trouble the world, if not Israel – is the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu for a fifth term as president.
He will have to form a coalition in order to govern, the election result having been far from clear-cut (more people voted against him than for him) but he can count on the support of enough right-wing, racist fanatics in the Knesset to enable this to be done without too much fuss. Netanyahu is one of them. Urged on by religious fundamentalists and property speculators, he will continue to expand Israel’s borders. This will be done in the name of national security, but it amounts to nothing more than a blatant land-grab.
Netanyahu sees no virtue in seeking to negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinian leadership, of which he is openly contemptuous and often mocks. Adding insult to injury, he is probably corrupt, although he has yet to be charged with anything. That he might be before his term expires is a cause for hope, although it is a thin straw.
His ability to win an election even with corruption charges hanging over him says something of his political durability and something unsavory about the collective state of mind of Israel’s conservative electors – Israel’s equivalent of the America’s ‘forgotten’ rust-belt voters. Needless to say, his pal Donald Trump wasted little time welcoming Netanyahu’s election victory. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was slightly less effusive, but during a press conference failed to answer a question about what the United States would do in the event Israel continued to annex land for settlements, which it almost certainly will under Netanyahu. Pompeo was hardly hiding America’s light under a bushel; this American administration will do nothing, as Trump privately applauds.
The political coalition that will form the new, Netanyahu government has yet to be formed, but no prizes will be awarded for guessing what its policies will be. Israel will continue to expand its borders and lose more of its moral authority.
Bad news indeed – for Israel, for Palestine, and for any chance of a ‘peace process’.