GAZA CITY, Palestine
As Israeli parties are now in talks over a potential power-sharing deal in a national unity government, Palestinians in Gaza are closely following the negotiations to gauge future policy towards the blockaded territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to secure a majority in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) in last week’s election.
According to official results, Netanyahu’s Likud party won 32 seats in the 120-member Knesset, trailing behind former army chief Benny Gantz’s White and Blue alliance, which grabbed 33 seats.
The results have left both Netanyahu and Gantz unable to secure the 61 seats needed to form a government.
Observers believe that if Netanyahu manages to form a government, he will maintain his current policy of military deterrence and ignoring true understandings with Palestinian factions in Gaza, while offering some facilities from time to time.
Gantz’s coming to power in Israel, however, would mean adopting an “iron fist” policy with Palestinian group Hamas with a view to eliminating the resistance movement, they believe.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Adnan Abu Amer, a Palestinian researcher in Israeli affairs, opines that both Netanyahu and Gantz have “varying options” regarding the Gaza Strip.
“Netanyahu will maintain the current policy toward Gaza, along with carrying out military operations to weaken the resistance factions, while keeping Hamas as a dominant group in Gaza but without having military capabilities that pose a threat to Israel,” he said.
He said that Gantz, meanwhile, favors a military action with a view to removing Hamas from power and re-installing the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) in its place.
“Hamas does not prefer Gantz to be a prime minister since he favors launching a wide-scale military operation against Gaza and re-installing the PA as a prelude to resuming negotiations with it,” he said.
Abu Amer argues that Gantz’s policies would be “exhausting” to Hamas.
“His government might reconsider the truce understandings between Netanyahu and Palestinian factions, a move which will further worsen the economic situation and livelihood in the strip,” he added.
Israel and Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, reached an informal cease-fire in May after the worst bout of violence since 2014.
Palestinians, however, have decried Israeli failure to abide by the understandings or ease the 12-year blockade on the seaside strip.
Gantz’s Gaza policy unclear
Momen Miqdad, a Palestinian expert on Israeli affairs, sees that Gantz’s policy toward Gaza “remains unclear”.
“Gantz is a former military man and has no political experience, therefore his political vision regarding Gaza remains unclear,” he told Anadolu Agency.
“If Gantz fulfilled his electoral pledges, he would tighten the noose around Gaza, prevent the delivery of Qatari funds and fuel to Gaza and seek to remove Hamas from power,” Miqdad believes.
The Palestinian expert believes that Gantz would seek to undermine the truce understandings between Israel and Hamas.
Miqdad, however, ruled out that the former army chief would seek to launch an all-out war against Gaza after taking power.
“This could cause his newly-formed government to collapse,” he said.
The Palestinian expert thinks that Palestinian factions prefer to see Netanyahu remaining in power in Israel.
“Netanyahu has launched war against Palestinians factions and knows their strength, so he will not risk launching new operations, which is a point of strength for the resistance,” he argued.
Under Netanyahu, Israel launched two wars on the Gaza Strip since 2012, which have killed hundreds of Palestinians and left a vast trail of destruction across the territory.
“Iron fist” policy
Ibrahim Abu Jaber, head of Contemporary Studies Center in the northern Israeli city of Umm al-Fahm, believes that both Netanyahu and Gantz would adopt an “iron fist” policy against Gaza.
“Both sides have vowed to launch a devastating military operation against Gaza during their electoral campaigns and this could be implemented as an attempt to satisfy their voters,” he said.
Abu Jaber said calls were rising inside the Israeli society for taking a firm action to the rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.
“Gantz has pledged his supporters to carry out a military operation against Gaza, which is very likely to happen,” he said.
Abu Jaber, however, said that Netanyahu and Gantz might follow a different policy regarding peace negotiations with the Palestinians.
“While Gantz might open the door to peace talks with the PA, Netanyahu would seek to annex the Jordan Valley and most of Area C in the West Bank,” he said.
In what many observers saw as a last-minute ploy for votes, Netanyahu had pledged to annex the Jordan Valley and other settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank if he wins election, triggering international outcry.
Some 650,000 Israeli Jews currently live in more than 100 settlements built since 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians see these territories, along with the Gaza Strip, as integral for the establishment of a future Palestinian state.
International law views both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as “occupied territories” and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there illegal.
*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara
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