Ramallah, West Bank — Palestinians expressed weary indifference on Tuesday as Israelis voted in an election set to produce a hardline government keener to expand Jewish settlements on occupied land than seek peace.
“Regardless of who wins, the result is the same: Israelis want this land but not the people,” said Ahmed Amro, a professor at Al-Quds Open University in Ramallah, the West Bank’s capital.
“The Palestinians should have a plan to face this situation we’re in, and not put much stock in who wins,” he said of the four million people under Israeli occupation or blockade.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since capturing it in the 1967 Middle East War, along with east Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Gaza has remained under tight curbs on movement since Israeli soldiers and settlers withdrew in 2005.
Opinion polls predict that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will return to power at the head of a coalition dominated by hardline religious and nationalist pro-settler parties which give short shrift to U.S.-backed peace efforts.
“We hope this election will lead to peace, to the recognition of the Palestinian state and to the rights of the Palestinian people,” said Gaza physician Hussein Ekelan.
“But all indications say Netanyahu will win, and this will be a big disaster,” he said.
Direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2010 over the building of settlements in the West Bank, which Palestinians say deny them a viable future state.
Palestinians themselves have struggled to elect a national government that present a united front against Israel’s policies and further their decades-long quest for independence.
Parliamentary polls in 2006 gave the Islamist Hamas group a surprise win, shocking Israel and Western countries who consider it a terrorist organisation, and leading to a brief civil war with its secular Fatah rivals in Gaza the following year.