Gaza fears the vengeance of Netanyahu

In Gaza, the autonomous but beleaguered Palestinian enclave, officials express deep anxiety about the intentions of the incoming Israeli government. Hassan Asfour, director general of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation team negotiating with Israel, says: "If they do not respect the Oslo accords then they will open the door to violence."

The most optimistic school of thought among Palestinian leaders holds that there is not much difference between a Labour and a Likud government. "Their motto is that a cat is a cat whether it is black or white," says a senior western diplomat. "They mean that Israeli governments behave the same towards Palestinians whatever party they belong to."

But the whole strategy of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, was based on the belief that it matters a lot who holds power in Israel. He did everything he could to get Shimon Peres, the architect of the Oslo accords, re-elected on 29 May. "We used to negotiate with friends and now we must negotiate with enemies," says one of Mr Arafat's senior lieutenants.

A crisis in relations between Mr Arafat and Binyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu could come quickly. Mr Netanyahu won the election because he promised Israeli voters more security for themselves and fewer concessions to Palestinians. No sooner was he elected, however, than Ami Ayalon, the head of the Shin Bet Israeli security agency, told him that "a good part of the Shin Bet's recent accomplishments were based on co-operation with the Palestinian security services."

The meeting between Mr Ayalon and Mr Netanyahu was leaked to Zeev Schiff, columnist for the daily Ha'aretz, presumably by sources in the Shin Bet. It is important because it clearly states the Shin Bet view that Mr Arafat's support is essential to fight Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the Islamic guerrilla movements, and he will not continue co-operation if agreements with Israel "are not fulfilled and are steamrollered by us".

But does Mr Netanyahu dare to carry through the Oslo accords? He has promised that he will make no concessions on Jerusalem, Palestinian statehood or the right of Israelis to settle in the West Bank. He says he does not want to meet Mr Arafat. The strength of the religious right in his coalition gives him little room for manoeuvre. He has little to offer the Palestinians as an incentive to work with Israeli security to prevent another suicide bomb.

The only area where Mr Netanyahu might offer concessions is in allowing Palestinians to work in Israel. Terje Larsen, the special co-ordinator for aid to Gaza and the West Bank, says Mr Arafat "will be able to pay salaries for June but not for July". Every 10,000 Palestinians allowed to work in Israel produces $25m (pounds 16m) in revenue for Mr Arafat's Palestinian Authority. By letting 150,000 Palestinians into Israel, Mr Netanyahu could end the economic crisis in Gaza and the West Bank.

It is doubtful if the new government will do anything so radical. "Some Palestinians believe that Likud will lift the closure of Gaza," says Mr Asfour. "I have no such feeling." There is no evidence that not allowing Palestinian workers legally into Israel deters suicide bombers, none of whom had permission to be in Israel when they blew themselves up. But the closure makes Israelis feel more secure and is therefore likely to stay in place.

Not everybody in Gaza is so gloomy. Mahmoud Zahar, spokesman for Hamas, says that his organisation does not care if Likud or Labour wins the election. He is presumably calculating that Mr Arafat will have to relax his grip on Hamas. Mr Zahar says: "We did not expect Peres to win. He is a man of many failures. He is known as a man who hesitates."

Mr Zahar does not respond directly to the suggestion that it was three Hamas suicide bombers in February and March who ensured Mr Peres' failure at the polls. He does say, however, that when Mr Peres gave his consent to the assassination of Yahyah Ayyash, the chief bomb maker of Hamas, in January he "knew that Ayyash would be avenged".

Is there any way out of Mr Netanyahu's dilemma? He is in no position to provide Israelis with greater personal security without the co-operation of Mr Arafat. But even the marginal contacts between his aides and Palestinian leaders have created anger on the right. For the moment Mr Netanyahu looks confident and in control. He appears to have rejected the idea of a national unity government with the defeated Labour party. But perhaps he and other Israelis should be concerned that the only Palestinians pleased by his victory belong to Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine