The Roadmap to Nowhere


Thanks to Emo.

Back in 2003, Israel’s then deputy Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, told Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot that he was against the Jewish State retaining the occupied Palestinian territories. He said that if Israel did not withdraw soon, the Palestinian population would outnumber Jews, and Israel would become an apartheid state.

His reasons for wanting to abandon the occupation had nothing to do with human rights, but rather, a desire to maintain a Jewish majority in the State of Israel. This so-called pragmatism is at the heart of current Israeli thinking.

The results of the recent Israeli elections are the clearest indication yet that racism an overwhelming belief that Palestinians should disappear or at least be invisible to Israeli eyes is central to the mainstream political system. Leading commentator for the Israeli newspapaer Haaretz Gideon Levy wrote on 26 March:

Contrary to appearances, the elections this week are important because they will expose the true face of Israeli society and its hidden ambitions. More than 100 elected candidates will be sent to the Knesset [the Israeli parliament]on the basis of one ticket: the racism ticket. If we used to think that every two Israelis have three opinions, now it will be evident that nearly every Israeli has one opinion: racism. Elections 2006 will make this much clearer than ever before. An absolute majority of the MKs in the 17th Knesset will hold a position based on a lie: that Israel does not have a partner for peace. An absolute majority of MKs in the next Knesset do not believe in peace, nor do they even want it. Just like their voters they don’t regard Palestinians as equal human beings. Racism has never had so many open supporters. It’s the real hit of this election campaign.

Ariel Sharon’s Kadima Party won 28 seats, a slender victory, and is currently in negotiation with any number of smaller Parties to form a coalition government. Current leader Ehud Olmert perhaps the first Israeli Prime Minister with strong family and professional ties to Australia was once an uninspiring Mayor of Jerusalem.

Labor, led by former unionist Amir Peretz, polled 19 seats and Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud only 12. The three Arab Parties won 11 seats. The surprise result, however, was that of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, which won 12 seats, with a support base of mainly Russian immigrants.

Lieberman was born in Moldova in 1958 but moved to Israel in 1978. Israel’s law of return meant he automatically received benefits denied to Palestinians who had lived there for generations. He is against the non-Jewish population in Israel and formed his political Party in 1999 to campaign on a platform of ethnically cleansing the Palestinians. Lieberman proposes that Israel’s borders be drawn so that Jews are placed on one side and as many Arabs as possible on the other. He wants ethnic purity. Although mainstream Israeli politicians denounce him as racist, they are in fact committed towards the same goal.

Saree Makdisi, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCLA, recently wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle:

The difference [between Lieberman and mainstream politicians]is one of degree. Mainstream Israeli politicians agree that a line of concrete and steel ought to be drawn with Jews on one side and as many Arabs as possible on the other. But they argue that it is OK to have a few Arabs on the inside, as long as they behave themselves and don’t contribute too heavily to what Israelis refer to ominously as ‘the demographic problem.’ Contenting themselves with the platitude that Israel is a democracy, mainstream Israeli politicians ignore the fact that, in matters of access to land, questions of marriage and family unification, and many of other normal rights and duties associated with citizenship, Israel’s Palestinian minority faces forms of discrimination not faced by Jewish citizens of the State.

Olmert has pledged to draw Israel’s final borders by 2010. ‘Convergence’ is the new catch-phrase, replacing ‘disengagement’ as a supposedly benign form of political progress. He says he would like to negotiate with the Palestinians if at all possible but this is nothing more than lip-service. Kadima intends to keep the Jordan Valley as a ‘security strip’, large settlement blocs across the West Bank, and the military occupation across the territories.

This is not an end to the occupation. If anything, it is refined oppression without international approval. The US has already indicated it may support further unilateral Israeli moves but since when did Israel not lead the US into regional chaos? The new Palestinian HAMAS Government will not, and should not, accept this agenda.

HAMAS Leader and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has warned the world, in an article published in The Guardian on 31 March:

We are sick and tired of the West’s racist approach to the conflict, in which the Palestinians are regarded as inferior. Though we are the victims, we offer our hands in peace, but only a peace that is based on justice. However, if the Israelis continue to attack and kill our people and destroy their homes, impose sanctions, collectively punish us, and imprison men and women for exercising the right to self-defence, we have every right to respond with all available means.

HAMAS rightly demands a total withdrawal from all lands seized by Israel in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem. Furthermore, they want the release of all Palestinian prisoners, the removal of all settlers from West Bank settlements and, crucially, the recognition of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to land stolen in 1948.

Israel seems to believe it can ignore the will of the Palestinians and ‘impose’ a Palestinian State upon a helpless population. Such moves will only lead to further international pressure against the Jewish State. It will only have itself to blame.

The Israeli election should be a wake-up call to anyone still entertaining the idea that the Middle East’s ‘only democracy’ is keen to resolve the conflict. US largesse cannot continue in its current form.

Kadima may believe it can convince the world that the Palestinians are ‘terrorists’ and incapable of negotiations, but few people now believe them. Unilateralism will hopefully remain as popular as George W Bush.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.