gantz netanyahu campaign poster israel election
© Associated Press/Oded Balilty
Campaign posters for Netanyahu and Gantz in the third Israeli election
Quiet has been restored in Israel's southern communities after another round of tensions with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad who launched more than a hundred rockets into Israel following a Sunday incident on the Gaza-Israel border where the IDF used a bulldozer to drag the body of a terrorist that came there in an attempt to plant an explosive.

Responding to the recent indiscriminate rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened Hamas, who controls the enclave, with the surprise of their lives if a spate of attacks launched from their territory didn't come to an end.

"I am telling you as a prime minister, I don't rush to war... but we are preparing for Hamas the surprise of their lives. I won't say what it is, but it will be different from anything that came before", he told Channel 20.

Hoping for a Change

Mkhaimer Abu Seada, a political analyst from Gaza, is hopeful that that will be Netanyahu's last threat as the prime minister of Israel.

"Palestinians would very much like to see somebody else taking that office", he said referring to the upcoming Israeli elections set to take place in early March. "He has been around for more than a decade creating a stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and carrying on with his blockade policies".

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2007 following a violent takeover of the Strip by Hamas that ended in the ouster of the enclave's former government, officials from Fatah.

During his time in office, Netanyahu has led a fierce policy against Gaza that included two large military campaigns - Pillar of Defence in 2012 and Protective Edge in 2014, considered the deadliest in the decades-long confrontation between Israel and the Islamic group.

That's why, a change of the premier, believes Abu Saeda, might bring a breath of fresh air to the Palestinians.
"Gantz is definitely a better person than Netanyahu, and if elected, he might be a better partner that would open a direct channel to the Palestinians and initiate a peace process".
Although Blue and White's political platform does mention direct talks with the Palestinians and backs a two-state solution to the conflict, it also supports the disarmament of Gaza, rejects the right of return of Palestinian refugees, emphasises Israel's control over Jerusalem, and objects to the idea that the Jewish state will ever go back to its pre-1967 borders.

Gantz's embrace of the peace plan that was introduced by US President Donald Trump at the end of January and that offered to extend Israeli sovereignty over big swathes of Palestinian land hasn't helped to bolster the ex-chief of staff's image as a fighter for peace either, says Abu Seada.
"Before Washington rolled out its plan, we were hopeful that Gantz would be different. But when he embraced it, it sent a bad signal to the Palestinians. After all, it seems that Gantz is not much different than the current premier".
No Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Another Palestinian expert Hani Al Masri who is based in Ramallah agreed.
"Palestinians do not expect any positive outcome from the upcoming polls simply because Israel doesn't have a real alternative. Their peace camp is dead and apart from Meretz [a left-wing party - ed.], nobody is really working towards a solution. Definitely not Gantz".
According to recent polls, Meretz who merged with two centrist parties in order to pass the 3.25 percent threshold, is projected to get nine seats in the upcoming elections.

Together with Blue and White, who is one seat behind Likud gaining 34 seats in the 120 seat parliament, they'll only have 43 seats, which means they will need the support of the Joint Arab List and Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu to get the 61 seats needed to be able to form a government.

Given the long-time spat between Lieberman and the Arab parties, a scenario where both parties sit in the same centrist left-wing government is unlikely, especially given the former defence minister's hawkish views on the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"This is why Palestinians should not count on Israeli politicians to bring about the change. We need to take matters into our own hands and fight Israel with other means available at our disposal. Although we have the right to use military resistance, I find it less effective because of Israel's superiority. What we truly need is a popular resistance and that includes boycotting Israel and putting pressure on the international community to do the same".
Elizabeth Blade is a Sputnik correspondent