Palestinian leaders have reacted with caution to news that right-wing leader Benjamin Netanyahu has accepted a mandate to form Israel’s next government.
He immediately called for a broad, national unity coalition, immune to the sort of pressure from fringe parties that has hamstrung previous Israeli administrations. But there is no sign of his rivals accepting the offer, with Tzipi Livni of the centrist Kadima party saying she is not interested in joining a coalition unless she is offered at least a joint share of the prime ministerial post. Many Palestinians believe a Netanyahu-led government will kill off any hopes of reviving the stalled Middle East peace process. In Gaza, the Hamas administration can see no cause for optimism. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said: “This proves that Israeli politics are moving from bad to worse and from alarming to increasingly dangerous and extremist. This does not indicate that there will be a possibility for security or stability or any kind of peace in the region in the near future.” In the West Bank, where Israel might have hoped for a more positive response from the more moderate Palestinian Authority, there was a muted reaction. But a path to peace is not being ruled out. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said: “We will not be in negotiations for the sake of negotiations. We will not be in negotiations with an Israeli government that continues settlement activities, that refuses a two state solution and that doesn’t accept the agreements signed.” But as Palestinian demonstrators clashed with Israeli security forces over the construction of a separation barrier on the West Bank’s border with Israel, peace seemed as unlikely as a stable, middle-of-the-road Israeli coalition.