Palestinians must stick to their aims

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired two senior cabinet ministers and said he would call early elections.  Gali Tibbon / AP
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired two senior cabinet ministers and said he would call early elections. Gali Tibbon / AP

When French MPs voted overwhelmingly to recognise Palestine as a state earlier this week, they delivered another symbolic victory for the Palestinian cause. The French parliamentary vote is non-binding and follows similar votes elsewhere in Europe. By itself Tuesday’s decision means nothing, but when presented as part of a broader picture, it is clear that pressure is mounting on Israel and support for Palestinians grows ever stronger.

A symbolic action in Paris is unlikely to overly stress Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, but it may have added a little to the pressure that he finds himself under. World public opinion is increasingly turning away from Israel while the country itself shifts further right on the political spectrum.

Mr Netanyahu has made a series of calculated gambles in recent days: introducing his controversial nation-state bill, before shifting aside two moderate members of his cabinet and coalition (both of whom had the temerity to raise objections to his proposed legislation) and, finally, going to parliament to secure an early dissolution and force an election in March next year.

His calculation is a purely political one. He believes he will be returned to government with a greater share of the parliament and will find himself less bound by the strictures of a multi-faced coalition. He also understands that he does not need to react to a vote in Europe, because domestically few Israelis regard making peace with Palestinians as a priority – for the most part voters are more concerned with the cost of living and rates of unemployment.

But Mr Netanyahu’s posturing must not divert Palestinians from their ambitions. As this newspaper has long argued, their most potent weapon is global public opinion and bills such as the nation-state legislation – which would leave the Arab minority with fewer rights – will only ultimately strengthen the Palestinians’ case internationally.

Published: December 3, 2014 04:00 AM

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