THE man responsible for sabotaging the Oslo peace process is going to be Israel’s prime minister a third time. Tuesday’s elections gave Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu alliance a reduced majority (from 42 seats in the outgoing Knesset to 31), but most observers say he will be able to form a government with the help of the right-wing Jewish Home Party and other hardliners to push forward his hawkish agenda. Despite the reduced margin of his alliance’s victory, it still remains the single largest group in parliament. The Jewish Home Party, which has managed to obtain 12 seats, believes Israel should annex large parts of the West Bank. In his victory speech, Mr Netanyahu made no reference to the Palestinian question and instead referred to Iran. He said that preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons remained his first priority. The other issues he talked about were domestic — stabilising the economy, controlling inflation, a more egalitarian military service and a vague promise to work for “peace in the region”.
With the exception of Yitzhak Rabin, no Israeli prime minister has pursued peace sincerely. In 1996, Mr Netanyahu won the election after he promised to stop the implementation of the Oslo accords and remained true to his word. Since 2009, when he became prime minister again, he has scuttled every attempt by President Barack Obama to revive the peace process. He has defied the UN and continued with settlements, and the new housing he promises will virtually divide the West Bank into two, making it impossible for a Palestinian state to be territorially contiguous. He has refrained from even paying lip service to the two-state solution, to which all previous Israeli governments stood committed. The peace process remains frozen, and it is evident Mr Netanyahu will use the fresh mandate to create more obstacles in the way of a Palestinian state.