Palestinian scholar of Israeli studies, Antoine Shalhat, delivered a lecture to the resident researchers at the ACRPS on Monday, February 9. Shalhat used the opportunity, within a regularly scheduled series of seminars held at the Center's Doha headquarters, to explain the intricacies of Israeli politics to Arab academics.

Antoine Shalhat, a researcher on Israeli Affairs, delivered a lecture on the Israeli elections on Monday, February 9 (link to lecture in Arabic), at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS). Shalhat was invited by the ACRPS to discuss the prospects of the upcoming Israeli elections, and whether these early elections are likely to bring about a new Israeli position on regional issues.

Recent opinion polls, argued Shalhat, indicate that the elections are unlikely to prompt any radical shift in Israeli policy, and that they point to a continuation of the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu – whether the results enable him to form a purely right-wing government, or, force him to form a national unity government comprised of the right, center and the so-called left camps. Shalhat was also skeptical about whether the Joint List of Arab Parties, if successful, is likely to wield influence on Israeli politics, despite polls identifying the newly formed alliance as the third or fourth most powerful list in the Knesset.

He noted that in the current Israeli election campaign, discussions are not focusing on national and regional concerns, but center instead on parochial issues, with the Israeli opposition intent on unseating Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seeking to encumber him with criminal indictments. Netanyahu, however, is adept in countering the opposition with subtle propaganda, drawing upon solid long-term issues such as the continuing failure of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and the recent war on Gaza.

Last month’s Israeli air strike targeting leaders of Hezbollah in the Syrian town of Quneitra, added Shalhat, primarily sought to highlight Netanyahu’s military leadership. Furthermore, in his insistence to address the US Congress on Iran, without coordinating with the White House, the Israeli Prime Minister seeks to challenge a US president generally seen as hostile to Israel. Amid his efforts to placate the extreme right, Netanyahu has also persevered in expanding settlement construction.