Friday, 11 January 2013

Is Israel about to turn sharp right?

How would you feel if I told you that the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu, will soon be the most moderate member of his own government?

He's a man regarded by officials in the capital of Israel's most important ally, the United States, as impossibly difficult to deal with -- and he made no secret of the fact that he very much hoped President Obama would be defeated in last November's elections.

Yet when Israelis go to the polls in 11 days' time, they're likely to elect a Knesset (parliament) in which MPs to the right of Mr Netanyahu will be substantially more numerous than they are now. And that means his next Cabinet will be more right-wing too.

According to the canny Israeli analyst David Horovitz of the Times of Israel: "The right has become the far-right." And if that's how it turns out, it almost certainly spells the end of any prospect of progress towards a settlement of Israel's dispute with the Palestinians.

Two-state solution? Forget it -- even if President Obama really tries to push for a settlement (and let's be honest, there's been no sign so far that he intends to), Mr Netanyahu will simply say sorry, no can do, the Knesset won't wear it.

Here's the situation: Israelis have discovered they can live with the status quo. With the exception of those periods when Palestinian fighters fire rockets into Israel from Gaza, spreading real fear but causing mercifully few casualties, the vast majority of Israelis can get on with their daily lives without thinking about Palestinians at all.

So why even talk to them? Most Israelis still say they believe in a two-state solution, but it's the sort of thing you can say without having to think too much about it. After all, anyone who looks at a map of where the Israelis have already built in the West Bank, which they've occupied now for more than 45 years -- and where they intend to build -- can see the reality: there's no room left for anything that would remotely resemble a viable Palestinian state.

Ariel Sharon, still lying in a coma after suffering a massive stroke seven years ago, understood better than anyone how to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state: he talked of creating "irreversible facts on the ground" -- and that's exactly what he and his successors have done.

Back in 1980, Sharon took two senior American reporters, William Claiborne and Ed Cody of the Washington Post, on a tour of the West Bank. At that time, there were no more than 14,000 Israeli settlers living there (now the number is more than 350,000, plus another 300,000 in east Jerusalem, also occupied by Israel since 1967).

This is what he told them then: "We are going to leave an entirely different map of the country that it will be impossible to ignore … I believe in things that are done, in facts that are created."

It's true that some Israelis do see a way round Sharon's "irreversible facts" -- by proposing that Israel hangs on to much of the land in the West Bank that it has built on, and swaps it for bits of the Negev desert and Galilee region which have been in Israel since 1948 but which are inhabited overwhelmingly by Palestinians.

If there were any real political will to negotiate such a deal -- on both sides -- then maybe, just maybe, there'd be a chance. But on the Palestinian side, the pro-negotiations Fatah party led by Mahmoud Abbas is a broken reed -- and the Islamist Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, is still a very long way from talking the language of compromise.

So, to many Israelis, it may look as if what they have now is sustainable, that somehow the Palestinians in the West Bank will eventually forget that they ever wanted a state of their own or the opportunity to decide their own futures -- and that Palestinians in Gaza will no longer mind living in what they have long called the world's biggest open-air prison.

In my view, this is a profound, and potentially disastrous, mistake. Israelis need only look to their neighbours in Egypt and Syria to see what happens when prolonged injustice is allowed to fester. But for now, what many Israelis see is a region mired in uncertainty and instability, and growing Islamist power which looks deeply alarming.

That, I suspect, is why they're turning to leaders who speak the language of strength and resistance to compromise. What matters to them is not whether they're liked, or even whether they're approved of. What matters is that they're feared. 


Erik Kowal said...

What are the prospects for an entire region which is so deeply divided in every way -- by wealth (or the lack of it); by access to natural resources, agricultural land and water; by ethnicity; by religion; by arbitrarily drawn political borders; by culture; by internal national rivalries; by transnational rivalries; by type of governance system; by military strength...?

A shift in any of these elements will generate knock-on effects in the region as a whole, some of which are somewhat predictable and some are not. But in any case, no decision-making structure or universally acceptable arbiter exists that is capable of making any significant contribution to preventing or resolving these potential or actual sources of conflict.

In general, I try to find reasons for optimism in difficult situations, but most of the problems confronting the countries of the Middle East seem uniquely complex and intractable.

I suspect that any solution (or at least partial solution) will only be possible after the region's general economic conditions improve enough to significantly weaken the motivation of various groups in that region to resort to violence. But that will be a very long-term development, and there is plenty of scope for things to go badly awry in the meantime.

Gaye Berry said...

Israel reacts in crazed fury when anyone likens its oppression of Palestinians to South Africa’s apartheid, but the comparison is growing harder and harder to ignore because Israel has slipped from South African standards to "the great Palestinian apartheid" = Get Palestinians out of Holy Land - all of it from the Nile River to the Euphrates.
Does the world care?
International opposition to ongoing apartheid — Israeli subjugation of Palestinians — is practically non-existent.

50 years: Israel launched, seized the West Bank and other Arab territory. Meanwhile, Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition have a weakening stranglehold on Israeli politics; I say weakening because the politics are becoming even more right-wing. Related to this, is the charge that anti-Semitism is quickly injected into any discussion that even attempts to question Israeli policies. "Israel must have the right to defend itself!"

Perhaps if Chuck Hagel is confirmed as Secretary of Defense in the face of ISRAEL LOBBY RESISTENCE, that will INDICATE orthodoxy may be weakening; on the other hand, Hagel may be just the offset to the very orthodox Jack Lew in Treasury.

Two-state solution? This was supposed to make the situation different from South Africa, in which the objective in dismantling apartheid there was always going to involve a one-state solution. But where in the so-called Holy Land is there NOW any room for a two-state solution vs. Bantustans? Netanyahu’s can continue to pretend to seek a two-state solution, treating the situation in the West Bank not as one of permanent subjugation but as only a temporary problem involving “disputed territory”, but this is a lie - demonstrated by the ongoing "facts on the ground".

Israel says, "If the Palestinians will just stop terrorizing, start negotiating they can have a state of their own?" Another lie. There is no hope, no place for a two-state solution. Meanwhile, Israelis can keep bombing on, defending themselves, relying on their armed might, believing genuinely that they can maintain their superior position indefinitely. Meanwhile, Palestinians are cordoned, ghettoized, fenced-in - treated in a manner with which Jews should be very familiar.

The current leadership, moving further right-wing, gives no hope for a Palestinian State - unless Palestinians are far more ready to fight, united Fatah and Hamas, supported by those willing to assist.

quietoaktree said...

Israel will be seen as an unfortunate ´burp´in the thousands of years of Jewish history --I wished otherwise.

When rabid Rabbis--

are praised by some, for conclusions reached
ignoring reality -- something is far form being ´Kosher´

With an ineffective/ unwilling Israeli Supreme Court having or using powers to stop the Apartheid and ethnic cleansing (etc.) behavior of the government --the Courts right to exist is also debatable.

At the International level we have--

"Israeli police have evicted Palestinian and international activists from an area of the West Bank where Israel is planning fresh settlement building.

Israel's Supreme Court had ruled on Friday that the encampment could remain for six days."

-- The Israeli Supreme Court obviously claims jurisdiction in the West Bank and is therefore an active participant in the ignoring of International Law. (Humanitarian inclusive)

-- What is a Rogue State-- if not that ?

Right Wing propaganda and actions have turned the Jewish dream (of some) into a nightmare for all,

"In two weeks millions of Jews will cry out, "Next Year in Jerusalem" and millions more will cry out, "Vote for Obama." And we shall see whose faith will prevail."

-- How many will only cry ?

quietoaktree said...

"Meanwhile, Israel's settlement policy will soon render the idea of a Palestinian state impossible. When Hans-Ulrich Klose, the SPD's top politician on foreign policy issues, recently attended a political congress in Israel, he met hardly any politicians still working for a two-state solution -- the solution Germany considers the only viable path to peace in the Middle East. "It was sobering," Klose stated."

quietoaktree said...

`Is Israel about to turn sharp right?´

Now some are suggesting that the ´right side of Jordan´be given to the Palestinians while Israel keeps ´the left side´(West Bank)

-- Sounds a bit like a one sided ´Polish Solution´

quietoaktree said...

General interest.