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Palestinians see the elections in Israel: "People could make peace … the problem is politicians" World news

As long as she can remember, Mary Giacaman, a Palestinian Christian, has been following the results of the Israeli elections on television. "But not this year," she explained. "It was too depressing and I still knew what would happen."

During Holy Week, as usual, the 56-year-old Catholic will be attending Mass each morning in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, opposite her place with her souvenir shop carved in olive wood. She will spend a festive Easter day with her sons, daughters and six grandchildren. Last but not least, it is a welcome distraction from a "very bad" election result, which meant a decisive victory for Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

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"For a just peace, both sides not only have to take but also give; People could come together in peace, but the problem is politicians, "she said. She no longer believes as "Bibi" Netanyahu. Giacaman expects his new government to be even more right-wing and more media-endowed than the last one.

In Israel, this personality-focused election was seen as a referendum on Netanyahu: Should he continue to govern despite thrice threatening corruption charges and the possibility of a fourth? Or was it time for a change after almost a decade? In contrast, the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are in a unique position: every aspect of their daily lives will be affected by the coalition government that they will now form, and yet they have no voice. And few see a good choice that they can not influence. In Bethlehem, on the desolate northern end of the city, where the eight-meter-high concrete wall cuts off Palestinians from Rachel's grave and the road to Jerusalem – accessible only via one of the West Bank's most recognizable military checkpoints – Hamoud Abdullah, 28, is more open: " Yes, we were hoping for change and even someone who wanted peace, "he said. "Netanyahu makes a lot of shit."

The shopkeeper Abdullah is the only retailer operating in this neighborhood: the sale of Banksy art. Visitors can buy T-shirts with divider motifs and stencils to make copies of the famous images of Bethlehem by the elusive artist who adorns the barrier: a girl who flies to freedom by clasping a row of balloons, an Israeli soldier, Checking the ID of a donkey. This otherwise bleak corner, unlike the bulk of Bethlehem, is in Zone C, the section of the West Bank threatened by Netanyahu in the closing stages of his campaign. Abdullah says, "The Palestinian police must coordinate with the Israeli army if they want to come here."

If Netanyahu's ultra-nationalist coalition partners prevail, Israel will unilaterally take full sovereignty over Zone C and give it the appearance that its government would ever agree on a two-state solution.

Shopkeeper Hamoud Abdullah.



Shopkeeper Hamoud Abdullah. Photo: Quique Kierszenbaum / The Observer

The reaction in Bethlehem to the victory of Netanyahu's Likud party ranges from ferocious indifference to frustration that the country, when elected for the fourth time despite its involvement with the law, must become increasingly nationalist in the country.

"Although every form of leftwing was a no-go, I still hoped that some conscience would be reflected in their decisions," said hotelier Fadi Kattan, who believes the Knesset has been down the drain since the assassination "Yitzhak Rabin in 1995." This was a complete landslide to the right. "

In fact, Netanyahu's only challenger as a potential prime minister, the seemingly centrist former military chief of staff Benny Gantz – whom the prime minister referred to as a leftist with little evidence – won 35 seats over the 36 of Likud. But the opposition bloc of parties garnered only 55 seats compared to 65 for the right wing. The latter group includes the five seats of the most extreme faction in Israeli politics, the Union of Right Parties, thus creating a potential coalition presence that, as Kattan put it, would make Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage look like choirboys. ,

The workforce, which was in power for almost half of Israel's lifetime, has been reduced to only six seats, while Meretz, the only Jewish party that has undoubtedly ended the 52-year occupation, has four and four Arab parties thanks to one strong break took the lead Turnout went from 13 to 10 seats.

Traditionally, the difference between left and right in Israel applies only to attitudes towards the occupied Palestinian territories. However, Kattan pointed to an almost unprecedented lack of Palestinian issues during the election campaign. Even in the economic debate, he said, "There was no mention of the 300,000 Palestinians working in Israel as the cheapest foreign labor force – a fairly large element of the workforce." In the eighties, the Israeli left had united to found Israel peace now. Many of her current colleagues were more concerned about pushing for same-sex marriages and curbing subsidies for ultra-orthodox Jews.

Indeed, the nature of the government that Netanyahu formulated, and thus its implications for the Palestinians, may jeopardize Netanyahu's charges. In the last scenario, he could begin to annex the West Bank in return for a right-wing coalition that provides him with protection against criminal proceedings. If he fails to reach such a deal, he could seek a broader coalition with Gantz in the hope of at least pleasing his close ally, Donald Trump, as the US president prepares to unveil a "peace plan" for the Middle East which could upset both Netanyahu's own right flank and the Palestinians.

Employee of the Palestinian Authority Nasser al Azeh.



Employee of the Palestinian Authority Nasser al Azeh. Photo: Quique Kierszenbaum / The Observer

Either way, the residents of the Bethlehem Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem, where Palestinian volunteer physician Sajed Muzher, 18, was shot dead by Israeli troops during a regular robbery three weeks ago, see little reason for hope. "We do not feel uncomfortable after the election," said Palestinian Authority Nasser Al Azeh, 52, who closely monitors the campaign on the local Maan TV and sees Israel increasingly pursuing a policy he calls "transfer." "By making life difficult, we hope to go," he said, adding, "Maybe Netanyahu will attack Gaza." Certainly Avigdor Lieberman, whose five seats could give him a decisive say in forming the coalition, resigned as Defense Minister from the previous government, protesting what he saw as too gentle a rapprochement with Gaza.

"Israel will only serve the interests of the occupation," said Mawwal al Alaysa, 28. "Abu Mazen [Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas] wants peace and a two-state solution, but this is not the policy of Israel. We have no hope Our only weapon is the steadfastness of staying here and working if we can. "While Alaysa – like many Palestinians – saw no difference between Gantz and Netanyahu, she said that the annexation could aggravate conditions. She has a job at an agricultural relief organization, and part of her job takes her to the nearby village of Wadi Fukin in the C area. [Israeli] Settlers are constantly taking land from the Palestinians. "She cited the weekly excursions of local young men to plant trees and land to demonstrate ownership of the Palestinians.

Mawwal Alaysa in front of her house in the refugee camp Daeishe.



Mawwal Alaysa in front of her house in the refugee camp Daeishe. Photo: Quique Kierszenbaum / The Observer

Inas Mohammed, 42, the impoverished neighbor, is now close to supporting her three children, but has been an unemployed elementary school teacher for 14 years – partly, she says, due to the current funding crisis facing both the Palestinian Authority and the UN. Refugee agency UNRWA, and also because you have to get a job "to know someone". She also saw no difference between the Israeli candidates. Maybe, she said, Yitzhak Rabin was "a little bit better", but "in the end they are all the same." But did not even Yasser Arafat call Rabin a partner? "Yes," she said. "And both are dead."

Donald Macintyre is the author of Gaza: Preparations for the Dawn (OneWorld)

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