Israel has gone to the polls for the second time this year and the results are no more conclusive than before.
Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party have lost 7 seats, despite beginning the campaign with a commanding poll position, whilst the more liberal-centrist Blue and White Party narrowly claimed top sport with 33 seats (25%). Netanyahu is attempting to cling to power by forming a coalition of national unity with his rivals, but Benny Gantz, the leader of Blue and White, has ruled out joining any coalition headed by Bibi due to the latter being tarnished by the possibility of corruption charges.
Bibi campaigned heavily on his close relationship with President Trump, which perhaps says more about the American.
Netanyahu and the ultra-Zionist Likud Party have ruled Israel since 2009, during a period which has seen escalating tensions in the Middle-East and the hastening of illegal settlements on Arab land. There have also been a number of, shall we say, dubious incidents in the context of geopolitics that have had a significant impact on the corrosive presence of western military personnel in Syria and Iraq, and that have served to increase western hostility towards Iran and other non-compliant states.
It appears likely, however, that the reign of Netanyahu is coming to an end. If this possibility becomes a reality, it is possible that the relationship between Europe and Israel will fundamentally change in both direct and indirect terms.
Directly, there will be an improvement in relations between Israel and some of western Europe’s more liberal governments. The latter have taken a dim view of Israeli settlement on Palestinian lands that the United Nations has repeatedly branded illegal, causing many left-of-centre Europeans to advocate the BDS movement in response. Furthermore, Israel’s policy towards minorities would potentially shift to one more akin to that seen in western Europe, which could solve some diplomatic issues.
The indirect relationship, however, is what could potentially change more drastically. The opposition parties in Israel are generally Zionist, but nevertheless they seek a more inclusive Israel that respects the rights of native Arabs more properly. The Blue and White Party is seeking an amendment to the Nation State Law to include national minorities, and we could expect to see a drastic slow-down in illegal settlements. It would also be reasonable to expect Israel’s staunch opposition to peace in Syria to diminish somewhat, making such a settlement more likely and, therefore, the possibility that some refugees may return (from Europe).
This is, of course, mere speculation. We don’t know for sure what the outcome of this electoral stalemate will be, but it is becoming extremely likely that Israeli policy will change in quite a marked way.