How Israel’s status quo will self-destruct
The Levy Report, a legal opinion delivered to Netanyahu in June which concluded that there was no Occupation of Palestinian lands, was widely seen as paving the way for annexation of at least 60% of the West Bank if not the whole of it.
The world’s press was peppered with strong words that this would spell the death-knell of the “peace process”. And, some said, it was bound to lead to serious attention to the Single democratic State idea as the only possible “Plan B”.
Adoption of Levy would indeed have signalled a seismic shift in the politics and presentation of Israel’s expansionism. So, canny politician that Netanyahu is, he has now buried the Levy Report, though he clearly agrees with every word of it. Ha’aretz reported that “Netanyahu fears that raising the issue now would generate a major international controversy”. Yossi Beilin, once an architect of the Oslo accords, commented “Why bother and make it an official annexation if de facto, it is annexed?”
By common agreement, the status quo is the most comfortable place for Netanyahu. Three quarters of Jewish Israelis in a recent poll said they were happy with things as they are.
But the status quo is very far from static: physical, bureaucratic and legal acts of violence against Palestinians are accelerating at a dynamic and shocking pace, including:
♦ demolition of half a dozen villages to create a “firing range”;
♦ ethnic cleansing and Judaisation set to uproot tens of thousands;
♦ the daily destruction of crops, roads, houses, workshops, water wells, schools and mosques, and murderous personal attacks: last week six people travelling in a taxi were firebombed and badly burned, and three young men were lynched by a gang of youths in the middle of Jerusalem.
♦ And the wall-building and settlement expansion go marching on.
None of this is random, but driven by the central purpose of reducing the Palestinians in numbers, morale, economic viability and the means to resist the rapid loss of what remains of their country.
The only other seismic event that would shatter the onward march of the status quo would be the winding up of one of its central pillars, the Palestine Authority. The PA is the biggest factor in the “normalisation” of Israel’s military dictatorship over the West Bank and the channeling of international funds to pay for the occupation. Its demise would not be at all welcome, so Israel, the US and EU have it well nailed down by sensitive parts of its anatomy, and few expect a spontaneous implosion of the institution at this time.
It may seem as if Israel has every last detail sewn up and can cruise with total impunity through to its goal of getting the land without having to concede any citizenship rights or votes to “the Arabs”.
But all this is threatened by multiple internal and external tensions and schisms which increasingly spill out onto the international arena and upset the outriders and Zionist shock-troops that Israel relies on for its political, diplomatic and financial well-being and ultimately for its very survival.
Israel, like other potentially extinct species, lives in a delicate eco-system, all parts of which can work either together, or in a downward spiral of destruction.
Increasingly the contradictory pressures will all feed off each other, producing tipping points and eventually landslides. The quiet, largely private heart-searching by millions of Israel’s one-time supporters can break into a clamour, ideas can change overnight, and new forces and leaders spring up, adding further to the cost to Israel in pressure, international isolation and internal division.
Some landscape-changing factors are as yet unknown, but among the known ones are
♦ the mounting list of ever more blatant violations of international law;
♦ the Arab Spring which has unblocked mass solidarity for Palestine in parts of the region;
♦ the generational changes and global internet links that can de-fragment the Palestinian people, and the moves towards new elections for the PLO leadership;
♦ the erosion of rights and freedoms even for Israeli oppositionists;
♦ the growth of Israel’s racist terror gangs, now officially included in the US government’s index of international terrorism;
♦ the growth in power, influence and demography of Israel’s religious fanatics and misogynists, which have sickened some of Israel’s closest allies: Hillary Clinton likened it to the Iranian theocracy;
♦ the increasing expertise and momentum of the BDS and international solidarity movement;
♦ the eventual unequivocal removal of the two state distraction from the agenda – already the taboo surrounding One State discourse is evaporating;
♦ support for a new direction from surprising places, such as some settlers and young Mizrachi Israelis whose families came from an Arab cultural background;
♦ the inspiring struggles of the people of Gaza and the West Bank, and the exemplary solidarity work by those Israeli Jews who stand with them.
Some of these factors will also combine to sweep away the Palestine Authority which never had long-term historical validity, and switch the emphasis from national negotiations, or even struggles, over territory to universalist struggles for human and civil rights and equality under the law.
Changing the dynamics of the struggle can in turn change the dynamics of the goal.
In Israel, it turns out that 28% of Jews polled in June 2012 support the idea that, given the inevitable failure of the Two State solution, “there is a need to begin to think about a solution of one state for two people in which Arabs and Jews enjoy equality”.
This is a quite staggering figure for a proposal that has never since 1947 been advocated by any of Israel’s main parties, thinkers, educators or peace campaigns, and which has been dismissed as an “existential threat” or a utopia for “coffee-house dreamers”.
If this idea were to be adopted and campaigned for by any credible party or senior political figure such as, perhaps, ex-Knesset speaker Avrum Burg, alongside a Palestinian campaign for civil rights, it could move from the far sidelines and into the mainstream with the potential to be picked up and supported by liberal Jews around the world and perhaps finally to turn the “international consensus” from separation and partition.
Within Israel such open campaigning could firm up the 28% and build on it, and if it met with a positive response and partnership from Palestinians and the Arab world, the whole paradigm could be shifted.
Unlike the shameful and dishonest negotiations to carve up the land, the single state is a clarion call to justice and the building of a new society with benefits for all. It could provide an inspirational life-raft for all the lost souls disillusioned by the phony “peace process” of the past 20 years.
The only answer to racism and apartheid is to confront it head-on. In all the comparisons with South Africa, it’s important to recall that the exact goal of the ANC was the simple demand for one person, one vote.
Far from being the hardest thing to advocate in Israel’s climate of fear and intolerance, the single democratic state is the only idea that makes sense, that can point a straight road out of the quagmire and that can, in and of itself, start to repair the wounds and prepare for the necessary regime change from an ethnic to a democratic country.
And if it still seems like a far and distant dream, the Charter for Palestine provides a transitional road to connect it with the current popular struggles.
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