Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur)

Bibi will go, his policy will remain, fear Palestinia­ns

- Reuters


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.

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