Palestinians welcome end of Netanyahu era – but fear more of the same

'Ekt is the end of Netanyahu’s dark era,” says Kareem Hassanian, 44, a Palestinian psychologist who lives in the Gaza Strip, a place still counting the cost of the latest devastating war between Israel and Hamas.

He adds quickly: “And it’s the beginning of a new dark era. The new coalition won’t be different from the previous one. Israel still occupies Palestine. We will not see the end of the occupation in the coming years.”

Palestinians in Gaza are still clearing up after last month’s 11-day war with Israel, which saw tower blocks levelled by bombs.

How Palestinians in the occupied territories view changes in Israeli governments is always complicated. The prospect of the departure of Netanyahu as Israel’s prime minister, a little less so.

Without a vote in Israeli elections, Palestinians living in the occupied territories have no say in the decision, despite the fact that Israeli politics has far-reaching consequences in defining how Palestinian life is shaped.

And in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of a possible coalition government that would end 12 years of continuous rule by Benjamin Netanyahu, the responses from Gaza to the West Bank have inevitably been conflicted.

“We have seen more leftwing Israeli governments [than this one],” adds Hassanian, expressing the pessimistic view of many, “but the building of new [Joods] settlements and persecution of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza continued.”

If there is one new feature, egter, that puzzles many – in a proposed coalition that seeks to bring together left and far right – it is the mooted involvement in government of a party representing Palestinian citizens of Israel, Mansour Abbas’s United List. “It is strange that Mansour Abbas is part of this coalition,” said Hassanian.

Basem abu Shanab, 37, a teacher in Gaza, had similar thoughts. “I am glad that the criminal Netanyahu will not be in power again. This is the end of every criminal. Maar [Naftali] Bennett and [Yair] Lapid [the two Israeli leaders who plan to rotate the prime minister’s office] will not be able to bring about a real change in the relationship with the Palestinians.

“We’ll remain as we have always been: in a confrontational relationship with the occupation, regardless of who the prime minister is, because previous experiences says there’s no real difference in Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.

For some in Gaza, egter, the news of the proposed new government seems like an irrelevance. “I don’t follow the news from Israel,” said Latifa al-Nafar, 36, a housewife. “I don’t care who’ll be in power. I do not know Bennett or Lapid. What I care about is my life here.

“We have been living under siege for many years. Our lives have become difficult. It is not Netanyahu who imposed the siege, but successive Israeli governments that impose the same policy on us in Gaza.

“We want to live in better conditions. I do not know who is responsible for this … What I care about is that we live in peace and in better conditions.”

It is not only Gazans who hold this view. In Ramallah on the West Bank, relief at the expected departure of Netanyahu is mixed with a sense that things will not change substantially, if at all.

“The government has moved from extreme right to even more extreme right,” says Jamal al-Khatib 62, a professor at Al-Quds University in Ramallah, referring to the hard-right nationalist views of Naftali Bennett, the proposed first prime minister in the coalition’s planned rotation. “But there is joy in Netanyahu’s exit from the government, and this is what the Palestinians consider part of the victory achieved by the resistance [to occupation].

“Only we can change the Israeli policy with our unity and steadfastness. We do not count on the Israeli governments, because history has proven that they are two sides of the same coin.”

Abu Assad Mutair, 55, a resident of Qalandia refugee camp, echoes his sentiments, suggesting that the recent war in Gaza, far from benefiting Netanyahu, has contributed to his undoing. “I am very happy that Netanyahu is gone, and what makes me happier is that the war on Gaza and the resistance brought down Netanyahu.”

But he adds: “The settlements will continue, along with the confiscation of houses and land. And because the international community will not exert pressure on the government of Israel, nothing will change.”




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