The Israeli Election and the Future of Peace Process

Open seminar - registration required

Fri 24.3.2006
The Finnish Institute of International Affairs
Mannerheimintie 15 A


Mr Yaari presented his views of how the upcoming governmental elections on Tuesday 28th March in Israel will effect the future of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. His major opinion was that the majority of people in power in Israel and Palestine oppose the Oslo Accord of 1993. The new Hamas administration has rejected the Rabin-Arafat agreement. The future Knesset coalition, however it stands, will not be acting in accordance with it either. The Oslo process has reached its end but whether it will be officially buried remains a question. According to Mr Yaari, the Palestinians will have a choice of independence or a runaway from statehood .

Kadima will win the elections but whether it can form a strong government coalition remains an open question. The aim for Kadima’s prime ministerial candidate Ehud Olmert is to return the West Bank to Palestinians, uprooting 60 000 to 70 000 Israeli settlers. For this he needs a strong coalition government based on about one third – around 40 seats – of the Knesset, otherwise the government will be unstable, which causes troubles, says Mr Yaari. As the coalition between Kadima and Labour seems likely there is also a chance for Likud and Labour trying to axe Kadima out of the government coalition. This means that withdrawal from West Bank becomes less likely.

The greatest threat for Israel is the collapse of Palestine, which is happening in Gaza where in parts unemployment has reached 60% and anarchy has stepped in. As Palestine lacks the rule of law, ‘tribes’ – both political (Hamas) and non-political (mafias) - have the power over the communities there. Israel cannot wait too long and the separating fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip will be completed by end of this year. As unilateralism is the remaining trend on both sides, and as the Hamas government does not recognise Israel and prefers separation from it, no peace process can go on. ‘The Road Map’ remains in deep freeze.
According to Mr Yaari the Palestine government faces constitutional stalemate between President Abbas (Fatah-PLO) and Prime Minister Haniyeh. Hamas is the party in power and at the same time it works as an underground terrorist group. Likewise Fatah has both presidential and opposition positions. This confuses Palestinian politics and makes the government ineffective and dysfunctional. Mr Yaari claims that high-ranking Palestinian army/security forces officers do not take notice of Abbas’ views. He also said that Hamas’ underground groupings are turning Gaza’s schools into paramilitary training schools.

Mr Yaari made clear that Israel will not repeat the mistake made in Oslo in 1993 by trusting Palestine leadership. Hence, will the two-state system still be possible someday? And how to prevent all the violence? Will there be an undeclared armistice? These questions remain open.

After the presentation questions were asked, among others, concerning the results of the elections, which Mr Yaari’s found hard to predict precisely as much of the electorate will decide on the day. Concerning the wall and its significance as the possible future border line Mr Yaari said it is not a permanent structure but will stay there to protect against suicide bombers until it is safe to be torn down. By the end of the seminar disagreement about Hamas’ stance on Israel emerged. An enthusiastic member of the audience claimed there is visible change in Hamas and it is likely to recognise Israel. Mr Yaari strongly disagreed.

Artturi Virkkunen