By William Pfaff
Of the political combinations able to form a government following Israel’s parliamentary elections this week, the one composed of Benjamin Netanyahu and the parties of the right is ideologically the most consistent and at the same time the most futile.
Avigdor Lieberman, the intransigent rightist who wants a loyalty oath from Israeli-Arab citizens, and envisages an eventual Greater Israel free of all Arabs, is not a promising coalition partner for a government that would expect the support of Barack Hussein Obama. Netanyahu opposes an autonomous Palestinian state but proposes unspecified economic incentives to the Palestinians to accept whatever status he has in mind for them, in a state under his leadership, which is not a formula for peace or progress either.
The old solution would be a coalition or alternation of rivals, made up of Netanyahu’s Likud and Tzipi Livni’s Kadima. But that was tried out last fall, and failed because the ultra-Orthodox would not accept it.
A supposedly centrist coalition of Kadima, Likud and Ehud Barak’s Labor Party also contains too many internal contradictions to be expected to work.
Any government would, for the Palestinians, undoubtedly seem a worse condition than they now suffer, when Washington and the European Union cling to the two-state solution in which no one in the Middle East now believes. The continuing reality will be that the Palestinians remain the segregated military prisoners of the now-militarized state of Israel, which has no basis in international law to hold them prisoners.
The latter are the technically free residents of a territory under a four-decade-long military occupation. This followed the 1967 War, which began as a pre-emptive Israeli attack upon Egypt and Syria, responding to Egyptian threats to Israel’s use of international waterways and Egypt’s blockade of Israeli ports.
Israel’s brilliant success in the war left it in occupation of the West Bank Palestinian Territories and East Jerusalem. As David Ben-Gurion said at the time, these were kept as hostages, or bargaining counters—but to bargain for what? That has been the problem ever since.
The U.N. Security Council called for withdrawal from occupied lands, the security of all states within fixed frontiers, freedom of navigation and settlement of the refugee problem. The Arab states (other than Syria) replied that they would admit no peace with Israel, no negotiations, no recognition of it.
This was a senseless and irresponsible response that amounted to an abandonment of the Palestinians. They eventually found their revenge in suicidal airliner hijackings, terrorism, bombings, two intifadas inviting steadily increasing oppression and, since the evacuation of Gaza by Ariel Sharon, homemade pipe bombs falling on Israel. The Israeli army’s most recent response was pulverization of a sizable part of Gaza, killing more than a thousand of its residents.
The Israelis have done pretty much what they pleased with the Palestinians, taking their land for their own, and for immigrant American religious fanatics; annexing Palestinian farms and destroying their crops; seizing control of the water resources of the West Bank; building “separation walls”; and sequestering Islamic and Christian places of worship. These actions have shamed millions of their American supporters, and inspired others to form vigilante bands to silence Israel’s critics and persecute Arab professors at American universities.
This has won Israel nothing but hatred. What actually is happening is that the Palestinian occupation is driving numbers of Israelis and their supporters toward moral and political suicide, so that one may ask if in a hundred years, or a thousand years, there will any longer be an Israel where Jewish worshipers will recall the psalm “God is a Righteous Judge, strong and patient; and God is provoked every day.”
Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.
© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.