Netanyahu victory alarms local groups

AP Photo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony in Jerusalem on March 25. Netanyahu promised to continue violence against Palestine.

AP Photo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a ceremony in Jerusalem on March 25. Netanyahu promised to continue violence against Palestine.

By Carolyn Conte | The Duquesne Duke

Pittsburgh groups with ties to the Middle East expressed their concerns about the re-election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the impact it will have on Israel’s relationship with Palestine and the United States.

Israelis voted March 17 for their representatives in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. Voters chose from 10 political parties, and after the election, the Knesset’s 120 seats were divided proportionally based on how many votes each party had received.

Netanyahu’s right-leaning party Likud emerged as the most popular and received 30 seats, staying ahead of its biggest competition, the left-leaning Zionist Union, which won 24 seats. As leader of the most successful party, Netanyahu will serve a fourth term as prime minister.

This worries Kate Daher of the Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee. Daher said she thinks Netanyahu’s policies against Israel’s neighbor, Palestine, are too harsh. Predominantly Jewish Israel and chiefly Islamic Palestine have fought over Middle Eastern territory since the early 20th century. Palestinians want to be recognized as a country, while Israel wants to deny Palestine its statehood and absorb all Palestinian lands, according to several New York Times articles.

Daher said she worries Netanyahu will “continue his war against the Palestinians.”

“He will continue to maintain and support prison-like conditions for the people living in Gaza,” Daher said. “But I am hopeful that the international community will continue to fight for the recognition of Palestinian human rights, and that activists the world over will continue to support the Palestinian people.”

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Netanyahu’s stance against Palestine is significant in American politics, according to Colin Clarke, associate political scientist at the global think-tank the RAND Corporation. The United States has been a long-time Israeli ally, having been the first country to recognize Israel’s statehood and having supported it financially to keep an ally in the Middle East. For these reasons, U.S. politicians have often been lenient about Israeli violence.

However, Clarke explained that U.S. President Barack Obama stands against Israel’s treatment of Palestine more strongly than past presidents.

“Generally he sees it as an injustice,” Clarke said. “It’s an issue that’s been going on for decades, and I think he realizes that U.S. priorities and Israel priorities are not one in the same.”

Clarke also said that since Obama is on his last term, the president will not worry about losing the Jewish vote by siding against the predominantly Jewish Israel. However, it is still unclear what, if any, direct action the President will take against Israeli violence toward Palestine.

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