Israel's election offers bleak horizon for Palestinians

The decades-old conflict has barely featured in the campaign, leaving Palestinians with little hope.

FILE: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Picture: AFP

GAZA - As Israelis prepare to elect a new government next week, the view from the Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza is not one of hope.

The decades-old conflict has barely featured in the campaign, leaving Palestinians with the sense that whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secures a fourth term in office or the centre-left opposition pulls off a victory, as the latest polls suggest, little is likely to change.

Peace talks broke down in April 2014, after nine months of negotiations led by the United States, with the long-standing goal of a two-state solution, Israel and an independent Palestine side-by-side, no closer.

"The two-state solution is no longer on the table," said Gaza-based political analyst Talal Okal.

"Israel is moving towards isolating and confiscating all of Jerusalem," he said, while Gaza, a 40km-long strip of land on the Mediterranean coast, remains blockaded by Israel and Egypt, the movement of people and goods closely monitored.

In the West Bank, which Israel has occupied along with East Jerusalem since the 1967 Middle East war, Okal said the military was tightening its grip, citing recent exercises in which 13,000 Israeli troops were mobilised.

With economic and social issues dominant ahead of the March 17 vote, the chances of Netanyahu or his chief rival, Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog, shifting focus to peace and the Palestinians is slim.

What's more, the policy of building Jewish settlements on occupied land is unlikely to change after the election, with Netanyahu and his allies advocating further expansion and the Zionist Union in favour of building more homes in existing settlement blocs, despite strong U.S. and European criticism.

"A white wolf is like a black wolf, each is a treacherous hunter," said Hussein Abdallah, 85, as he rode on a donkey cart in Gaza, surrounded by five of his grandchildren.

Abdallah has seen every election in Israel's 67-year history and said he saw no real difference between the left and the right in that time, despite repeated talk of peace.

"There is no dove, no sheep in that herd," he said.