Israel Vote Draws Yawns From Middle East Neighbors

Hardline or Harder Line? It Hardly Matters to Arabs.

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By Reuters

Published January 21, 2013.
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A hardline Israeli government or a very hardline one.

With those widely viewed as the likeliest outcomes Of Tuesday’s election in Israel, the ballot has aroused minimal interest from Middle Eastern states who once scrutinised such votes for clues about the fate of the so-called peace process.

Whether they endorsed U.S.-backed negotiations with the Palestinians or were out to sabotage them, regional powers would see Israeli polls at least as significant straws in the wind.

Not this time, when the only questions appear to be the size of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election victory and whether he will rely for coalition partners on sworn foes of any territorial compromise with the Palestinians, or seek to include “centrist” parties still formally committed to the quest for an increasingly implausible two-state solution.

Mustapha Kamal Al-Sayyid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said Arabs were paying little attention to an election destined only to shift Israel further to the right.

“The chances of a peaceful settlement are already thin under Netanyahu, but they would be even more remote under a new Israeli government dominated by rightist parties,” he said.

In the United States, Israel’s indispensable ally, President Barack Obama may be reluctant to embark on a new drive to break the Middle East deadlock in his second term after U.S.-brokered talks in the first term collapsed almost immediately.

Netanyahu has shifted the whole political terrain to the right, imposing “the language of security, violence and control rather than a language of peace, reconciliation or compromise”, argued senior PLO official Hanan Ashrawi.

“Unfortunately that has dominated the whole election campaign,” she told Reuters.


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