TEL AVIV, Israel — Wednesday’s shocking upset victory of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his rival, Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog, has cast doubt over the viability of the future of a Palestinian state.
With pre-election polls showing a four-seat lead for Herzog, Netanyahu ended up five seats ahead in the final count of March 17 polls. After spending the final days of his campaign frantically shoring up support from his right-wing base, Netanyahu is headed for his fourth term as Israel’s prime minister, with his Likud Party commanding 28 seats in the next government.
Netanyahu’s victory effectively rendered null and void a 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University, where he endorsed the notion of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.
“I think that anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state today and evacuate lands is giving attack grounds to the radical Islam against the state of Israel … there is a real threat here that a left-wing government will join the international community and follow its orders,” Netanyahu rationalized to undecided voters on the eve of Tuesday’s election.
He is expected to form a right-wing government consisting of the National Religious Bayit Yehudi and Ultra-Orthodox parties, and the more centrist Kulanu party led by former-Likud member Moshe Khalon — all of whom are reluctant to support a Palestinian state should talks resume once a new government is formed.
The timetable for this new government is elusive, with negotiations between party members expected to last from one to two months after Netanyahu makes his recommendations to President Rueven Rivlin.
US President Barack Obama refrained from congratulating Netanyahu on his victory until that new government takes shape.
Read More:Netanyahu’s Win Imperils Two-State Peace.