By Christine Barkley ’18
On Tuesday March 17, 2015 Benjamin Netanyahu won an election that will see him Prime Minister of Israel for a fourth term.
Immediately prior to being elected, the Prime Minister made two extremely polarizing remarks. Netanyahu stated on Election Day that there were too many Arab voters out in “droves” in order to encourage right wing voters to come to the polls.
A few days before the election, he made the bold statement that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch, contradicting a statement he made in 2009 in which he said that a two state solution was a possibility.
Mr. Netanyahu’s statements have likely worsened his relations with the Obama administration, which have already deteriorated over recent months.
Benjamin Netanyahu likely made his controversial last minute comments to encourage right wing voters. It seems to have worked extremely well. In fact, Mr. Netanyahu was not expected to win last Tuesday.
The result has been international anger, and frantic backpedaling from Israelis and Mr. Netanyahu’s supporters.
After the election, Mr. Netanyahu stated that his comments were not meant to be racist or to dissuade Arab citizens from voting, only to encourage his own supporters to get out to the polls.
In a similar contradictory statement, Benjamin Netanyahu said that his comments about Palestinian statehood had been “misunderstood.” He claims that he still supports the idea of a Palestinian state, just not under current conditions.
He went on to apologize for any offense his comments may have caused.
The White House does not seem to be taking well to the newly re-elected Prime Minister’s attempts at reconciliation. President Obama’s Chief of Staff stated on Monday that Mr. Netanyahu’s statements about Palestinian and Arab citizens were “very concerning,” and that “We cannot simply pretend that these comments were never made.”
The conservative Likud Party, to which Mr. Netanyahu belongs, won 30 seats in the 120-seat Knesset; the most of any political party, meaning the formation of a right wing majority coalition is likely.
In an interview with Huffington Post last weekend, President Obama stated that Mr. Netanyahu’s comments about Arab voters were especially concerning as it, “starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.”
Conversely, supporters of Netanyahu said that the true source of tensions with Washington is Israel’s opposition to a proposed nuclear accord with Iran.
The elections in Israel have acted as a magnifying glass for tensions internationally and within the country, such as racism and divisive politics.
Dore Gold, an advisor to Mr. Netanyahu who spoke to him following the elections, is more optimistic about the continuation of a positive relationship between Israel and the United Sates. In an interview with the New York Times, Mr. Gold stated, “In the past we’ve had similar tensions over aspects of the peace process, and ultimately the region forced us into surmounting our differences and working together as allies”.