A month after U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his Middle East plan, Israelis went to the polls for a third time in a year. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to declare victory, not much has shifted the deadlock from the previous two rounds, and no party is able to form a government yet.
For Diana Buttu, Palestinian human rights lawyer, analyst, and former advisor to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the contents of the “Trump-Netanyahu plan,” as she calls it, are cause for alarm.
The arrogance that characterizes the deal, which deliberately excludes Palestinians from the conversation, reflects an Israeli “fantasy” that “somehow Palestinians are going to agree to their own subjugation,” says Buttu.
That exclusion is compounded by the Palestinian Authority’s failure to effectively respond to the plan, she explains. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is “focused on the plan as a means of just continuing the process of doing nothing,” which has “tremendous consequences” for Palestinians, adds Buttu.
The Trump plan has also “showed Netanyahu’s true face,” she says. “It says to Palestinians who are living in the occupied territories, ‘We don’t want you.’ But the plan is also saying to Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, ‘You also don’t belong in the State of Israel, and so we have the right to get rid of you.’”
For Buttu, this was one of the reasons Palestinians in Israel voted in even greater numbers this time around. And the fact that Netanyahu’s rival, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party, supports the Trump deal and echoes many of Likud’s policies, shows “just how far to the right Israeli society is.”
Despite — or perhaps because of — mounting racist attacks, the Palestinian-led Joint List won a record 15 seats, making it the third-largest party once again. But now, its members must decide how to use this political capital.
For some of them, explains Buttu, this is an opportunity to get rid of Netanyahu — a promise the Joint List has campaigned on. Others believe the List should not “go down the path of being the ‘kingmakers’ in Israeli politics,” which is still centered on the oppression of Palestinians.