Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)
Bibi will go, his policy will remain, fear Palestinians
WITH BENNETT HINTING AT CONTINUATION OF STATUS QUO, THE OUSTER OF NETANYAHU WILL BRING LITTLE RELIEF TO WEST BANK AND GAZA
RAMALLAH/GAZA: Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza on Thursday mostly dismissed a change in Israeli government, saying the nationalist leader due to replace Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would likely pursue the same rightwing agenda.
Naftali Bennett, a former head of Israel’s main West Bank settler organisation, would be the country’s new leader under a patchwork coalition. On Thursday, Bennett placed much of the blame for the conflict on the Palestinians.
“The truth must be told: The national struggle between Israel and the Palestinians is not over territory. The Palestinians do not recognise our very existence here, and it would appear that this will be the case for some time,” he said.
Speaking before Bennett’s latest remarks, Bassem Al-salhi, a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, said the prime minister designate was no less extreme than Netanyahu, adding: “He will make sure to express how extreme he is in the government.”
Hamas, the Islamist group which controls the Gaza Strip, said it made no difference who governs Israel. “Palestinians have seen dozens of Israeli governments throughout history, right, left, centre, as they call it. But all of them have been hostile when it comes to the rights of our Palestinian people,” spokesman Hazem Qassem said.
In what would be a first in Israel, a governing coalition would include an Islamist party elected by members of Israel’s 21% Arab minority, who are Palestinian by culture and heritage and Israeli by citizenship.
Its leader, Mansour Abbas, said the coalition agreement would bring more than 53 billion shekels ($16 billion) to improve infrastructure and combat violent crime in Arab towns.
But he has been criticised in the West Bank and Gaza for siding with what they see as the enemy.
“He is a traitor. What will he do when they ask him to vote on launching a new war on Gaza?” said Badri Karam, 21, in Gaza.
Bennett has been a strong advocate of annexing parts of the West Bank that Israel captured and occupied in a 1967 war. But in his first public remarks on the issue in recent days, he appeared to propose a continuation of the status quo, with some easing of conditions for Palestinians.
“My thinking in this context is to shrink the conflict. We will not resolve it. But wherever we can (improve conditions), we will do so,” he said.