As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looked to form his next government this week, Palestinians in Gaza are on edge as to what future awaits their besieged strip of territory.
The chatter in the coffeeshops, on buses, and on social media reflects a feeling that Netanyahu’s right-wing victory will bring nothing to Palestinians but more Israeli attacks.
“This taxi driver is so intellectual. He’s speaking about the Israeli elections with the passenger next to him and says democracy in Israel has made it possible for Netanyahu to be prosecuted and then elected,” social media activist Abir Mourad commented dryly.
“Israel elects, and we weep,” said 20-year-old Gawdat Abou Ramadan.
Others showed no interest. Gaza resident Nour, 28, tweeted: “I could care less, because they don’t represent us, whether right, center or left.”
The Islamist authority Hamas is meanwhile continuing as if nothing will change.
In recent weeks, Hamas has deescalated demonstrations at the border with Israel, keeping protesters far from the militarized buffer and curtailing the march that used to mobilize residents from across Gaza every Tuesday. They have also halted the sending of burning kites toward occupied Palestinian lands.
These measures come on the back of diplomatic efforts by Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations – all of whom have sent delegations to Gaza in recent months – to mediate between authorities in Gaza and in Israel. The objective is to reach a sustainable understanding that will soften the siege on the strip, in return for an end to Palestinian protests near the borders.
Writer and political analyst Mostafa Ibrahim tells Asia Times he is hopeful Israel will maintain previous deescalation agreements with the Islamist party Hamas, which governs the strip.
“Israel has marketed its agreement with Hamas in Gaza as an accomplishment,” Ibrahim told Asia Times.
The analyst cited the calm enforced by Gaza’s authorities on the first anniversary of the Great March of Return on March 30. Last year, 171 Palestinian demonstrators were killed by Israeli forces in a single day, while thousands more were shot in the legs and left with life-altering wounds.
This year, demonstrators stayed far from the fence, did not hold night marches, and refrained from sending burning kites.
Ibrahim believes the new Netanyahu government will continue offering concessions to the Gaza Strip so long as it can deal with an isolated Hamas (disunified from the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank).
“It all serves the interest of Israel,” he said.
Confrontations in Gaza do not as a rule yield political gains, the analyst said.
In recent media statements, Netanyahu vowed he would “not give the Gaza Strip to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas,” a position that suggests the Palestinian political divide is not a bad thing for Israel.
Hamas, Ibrahim says, is cautiously satisfied with the current understanding with Israel, because of its trust in the sponsor Egypt, which has assured the party that Israel has agreed to its conditions.
Questionable Israeli commitment
Hamas says it is not concerned by the election results, telling Asia Times that all Israeli leaders have dealt with the Palestinian file in the same manner, and that all of its leaders had “Palestinian blood on their hands.”
“Hamas regards [Israel] and all of its institutions, political parties and figures, as an extremist state founded on killing, crimes, and occupation,” said spokesperson Abdel Latif Al-Qanou.
Essam al-Daalis, the vice president of the Hamas political bureau, took to Twitter to express his views.
“The results of the Israeli elections, in light of the bias of the Trump administration toward the occupation, imposes on us Palestinians a new challenge,” he said.
That challenge, Daalis continued, is “unity behind the Resistance (shorthand for Hamas), in order to confront the ongoing annihilation of the Palestinian cause and the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’.”
The architect of the promised peace deal, Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East consigliere Jared Kushner, recently delayed its unveiling until June.