RAMALLAH – Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu certainly has reason to celebrate. He surprised nearly everyone by securing a decisive electoral victory, winning a third consecutive term in office after his right-wing Likud party gained a five-seat advantage in the Knesset over its main rival, the center-left Zionist Union. But the celebration is likely to be short. The way Netanyahu finagled this outcome – renouncing his commitment to a two-state solution with Palestine and pledging to continue building settlements on occupied land – will almost certainly have serious political and diplomatic consequences for Israel.
In recent years, Netanyahu’s hardline stance has increasingly undermined Israel’s international credibility, while convincing the Palestinians living in the occupied territories that a genuine agreement with Israel is impossible. (Indeed, Palestinians showed little interest in the outcome of this election.)
Now that Netanyahu has intensified his right-wing rhetoric – and been rewarded with another term in power – the international movement to isolate Israel will only gain momentum. After all, support for direct negotiations between Israel and Palestine no longer makes sense, even for Israel’s main ally, the United States, because the assumptions underlying this approach have been demolished.
The first such assumption was that both parties accepted the two-state solution as the general basis for a compromise agreement. And, indeed, at Bar Ilan University in 2009, Netanyahu declared his willingness to accept the creation of a Palestinian state, on the condition that it be demilitarized and that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people. This is no longer the case: two days before the election, Netanyahu explicitly vowed that his government would never allow Palestinian statehood.