Besieged From the Inside?


In mid-September, during the dying days of his leadership, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert boldly stated that the idea of "greater Israel is over. There is no such thing. Anyone who talks that way is deluding themselves…I arrived at the conclusion that we must share with those we live with, if we don’t want to be a bi-national state."

It was a brave comment, albeit one by a discredited man. Israeli newspaper Haaretz editorialised on his departure that, "it is doubtful whether it [Israel] has ever known a worse [leadership]than that of Ehud Olmert…Its balance sheet, after two years and nine months, comes very close to zero."

Although Olmert’s failures were massive — not least the futile 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah — he at least acknowledged the reality of the Jewish state’s precariousness in relation to the Palestinians. In late November 2007, Olmert admitted — for arguably cynical reasons — that "if the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African style struggle for equal voting rights (also for the Palestinians in the territories), then, as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

The tragic reality, however, is that the Jewish state is already on the path to self-inflicted destruction. Olmert sometimes said the right things, but his government’s actions merely entrenched the ever-expanding occupation and indulged the radical settler movement.

There will be little that incoming Prime Minister Tzipi Livni will do to eradicate this internal existential threat. As the famous Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery wrote last weekend: "Israeli fascism is alive and kicking." The evidence for that is everywhere. And yet the international community only expresses concern over Palestinian "terrorism."

The New York Times last week revealed the depth of the problem in a rare exposé: "There have been bouts of settler violence for years, notably during the transfer of Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005. Now, though, the militants seem to have spawned a broader, more defined strategy of resistance designed to intimidate the state…Hard-core right-wing settlers have responded to limited army operations in recent weeks by blocking roads, rioting spontaneously, throwing stones at Palestinian vehicles and burning Palestinian orchards and fields all over the West Bank, a territory that Israel has occupied since 1967. They have also vandalised Israeli Army positions, equipment and cars."

The aim of these extremists is to establish a Taliban-style, rabbinical state to replace the current "secular" Israel. It may seem like a pipedream to most — not least the vast majority of Israelis who oppose the occupation project — but the attempt to uproot any major settlement blocs will incur a vicious response. A civil war between the state and radical Zionists is not unlikely in the years to come. And Israel will only have itself to blame.

On the political front, a group of leading NGOs last week released a report accusing global powers of failing to gain any tangible benefits for the Palestinians. Roadblocks, checkpoints, expanding colonies, settler violence and strangulation of Gaza are just some of the issues raised in the report. No wonder then, as Haaretz noted, that "the motivation to carry out terrorist attacks is increasing." Arab radicalisation is guaranteed unless the lives of citizens drastically improve.

The answer is not co-opting the weakened Fatah-led Palestinian Authority into policing the occupation in a town such as Jenin (a strategy which was praised in a recent New York Times story). President Mahmoud Abbas is already perceived by many Palestinians, like his predecessor Yasser Arafat, as engaging for years with the Israelis and having nothing to show for it.

Abbas recently told Haaretz, in an interview clearly designed to please his Israeli and American backers, that his forces were "restoring order to the West Bank cities [and]taking steps against anyone who tries to undermine security and stability."

Fine sentiments, except that the relationship remains one of colonial dependency. The Palestinians have to "prove" their seriousness to the Israelis and then one day, years down the track, the Jewish state may talk about withdrawing its forces and settlers from occupied territories. I’ve long argued that the facts on the ground in Palestine now make a full Israeli withdrawal a virtual impossibility. Therefore, the two-state "dream" is long dead and buried.

The future is one nation, well articulated by Ghada Karmi in The Guardian last week, amid the growing international calls for its implementation. Uncertainty in Israel is likely to continue long after a new Prime Minister is elected and the Americans select Barack Obama or John McCain in November.

The Zionist state appears paralysed and either unwilling or unable to carry out its obligation to decide its borders. It will therefore require a great deal of pressure to oblige it to do so. A good first step would be the complete cessation of military and financial aid to the Jewish state. Such a move would clarify the stakes in the minds of Israel’s corrupt political elite.

Of course, any analysis of Israel’s precarious position in the Middle East must include a discussion about Iran. News last week that Israel requested permission from the Bush administration in May to strike Iran’s suspected nuclear facilities, and Bush’s refusal, suggests that any attack is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

However, the fact that Washington and Israel have increased their secret war against Iran in the last years proves that Israel’s regional hegemony is being profoundly challenged, not least thanks to the Iraq war. "Should Israel accept that its era of nuclear monopoly in the Middle East has ended, asks Yossi Melman in Haaretz, "and assume a new role as a passive witness to a regional nuclear arms race?"

Despite the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed El-Baradei, claiming in a German newspaper last week that Iran appears to be on a path towards some kind of nuclear know-how, he admitted the wider context of the current tussle. "The Iranian issue at its heart is really a question of security," he said. "The nuclear [part]is a symptom of an underlying sense of insecurity or a desire to be recognized as a major, regional power."

Only direct talks between America and Iran can bring this about, something Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama hinted he would consider during his term in office in last week’s debate with John McCain. The Jewish state and its Diaspora courtiers fear such a normalisation of relations between the powers because it would threaten Israel’s long-held dominance of the region.

In a rare win for the forces opposed to the Zionist lobby in Washington, a long-pending (though non-binding) resolution that called for President George Bush to launch a blockade against Iran was shelved last week. The Australian Jewish News, meanwhile, must have missed reports of reduced tensions, saying in a September editorial, "with the rocky political climate in Israel, the logic appears to imply [military strikes]sooner rather than later. All we are waiting for [is]the time and date."

How many more wars does the Zionist community believe Israel should launch?

While Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is notorious in the West for making often outrageous comments towards Jews and Israel, and denying the Holocaust, his interview with Democracy Now! during his recent visit to New York, suggested a softer tone. Despite a bigoted attitude towards homosexuals, Ahmadinejad claimed that Iran would support a two-state solution if the Palestinian people supported it. "This Zionist regime does not have a chance of remaining in the region," he said, "because it has not established roots with the region. It’s like an alien creature that’s come into your body." It may not be pretty language, but he’s sadly right. Israel’s major friends in the Middle East, namely Egypt and Jordan, are paid billions of dollars every year by Washington to maintain an alliance with the Jewish state.

Throughout all these debates, the mainstream Jewish Diaspora remains mired in delusion. Dr Ron Weiser, the former President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, highlighted this recently with an essay that talked about the importance of re-defining Zionism in the 21st century. With no mention of either the occupation or the Palestinians, it was as if this ideology operated in a vacuum.

In the comments section below Weiser’s essay, one reader perfectly expressed the mindset that I’ve spent years trying to challenge: "I believe God is with Israel and He has a strong hand in the continuing establishment of Israel."

God has His work cut out for him.

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.