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Israel is shooting itself
in its foot - and its back



Jonathan Power
TFF Associate since 1991

Comments directly to

May 22, 2010

Too many of the Jews of Israel don't want a settlement with the Palestinians. At every turn, whatever the compromising rhetoric of those at the top of the pyramid of power, there are enough hard liners with enormous influence that are determined to undermine such a deal. This came abundantly clear when in 1995 Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in the process of reaching out to the Palestinians, was murdered by an extreme Jewish militant. Although there was an outpouring of grief there were a good 30 to 40% who thought and even said "good riddance".

When Prime Minister Ehud Barak went to the Wye plantation outside Washington DC and negotiated face to face with Yasser Arafat and President Bill Clinton the media hailed an agreement as nearly done and then tore into Arafat for scuppering it. But the fact is Barak could not have won Knesset (the parliament of Israel) approval for what he conceded and, indeed, he raised the bar on Arafat so high that he must have known that Arafat would not make the great final leap. Maybe it was all just a masterful piece of public relations meant to get America off Israel's back and to undermine Arafat's standing.

The latest "U" turn on accepting negotiations by the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, could well be more of the same. Just a ploy to quieten Washington.

But aren't the Jews shooting themselves in the foot? As Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, spelt out so clearly, an unwillingness to compromise together with the high rate of Arab population growth both inside Israel and in Palestine means that it is inevitable that in the foreseeable future the Jews will be outnumbered in the land they control. The Jews will never give the Palestinian West Bank the vote in greater Israel. Palestine will be a "Bantustan". Israel will become a precarious "apartheid state". It will, like South Africa, eventually be undermined from within, even if it takes decades.

The second self-defeating mistake the Israelis have made is their long game with the militant Islamist political movement, Hamas, now de facto rulers of the Gaza strip.

In the late 1960s Israel began its policy of building up Islamist strength in Palestine in a gravely mistaken effort to undermine the secular Palestinian leadership. In 1973 Shin Bet, the Israeli domestic intelligence agency, helped Ahmed Yassin, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, to lay the foundations for the creation of Hamas. Not everyone in Israel was happy with this, but the far right pushed it forward - Menachim Begin, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Defence Secretary Ariel Sharon who all wanted to hold on to the West Bank for eternity. Yassin's organisation bothered little about Israel and spent most of its energy fighting the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), as the Israelis wanted it to.

But when Hamas was formerly established in 1986-1987 it changed direction and supported the first Intifada against Israel. Yet whenever the PLO and the Israeli Labour Party moved towards an accord Hamas upped its anti-PLO stance. It would violently disrupt the talks, pleasing Likud and the Israeli right.

But as time went on Hamas increasingly turned against its original backer, losing no opportunity to attack Israel. But the Israeli right was not too displeased. A panicked Israel in 1996 elected Benjamin Netanyahu of the rightist Likud party for the first time.

Likud leaders learnt how to go on playing the fear card- In September, 2000, Sharon provocatively went on a walk about on the Haram al-Sharif holy site, one of Islam's most sacred places. The result was the second Intifada scaring Israelis and precipitating Sharon's election as prime minister, ending all chance of a deal with the Palestinians. Hamas cadres were at the heart of the second Intifada.

Sharon in power continued his ultra provocative policies. When the next year the PLO secured a Hamas pledge to halt its terrorist attacks Sharon ordered the assassination of a top Hamas leader. In 2004 Israel assassinated Yassin.

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Today as the PLO, encouraged by the US, tries to negotiate a peace deal, Hamas continues to fight Israel tooth and nail from its redoubt in the Gaza strip, although its use of rockets that so terrified Israelis last year has subsided for the present.

Israel has created a Frankenstein. The right in Israel don't want peace but the left cannot pursue it as long as Hamas is on the warpath.

The right don't think they have shot themselves in the foot but one thing is clear- by the two policies of building up Hamas and ignoring the population dynamics of their Arab subjects they have probably shot their country and its Jewish people right in the back.



Copyright © 2010 Jonathan Power


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Jonathan Power 2007 Book
Conundrums of Humanity
The Quest for Global Justice

“Conundrums of Humanity” poses eleven questions for our future progress, ranging from “Can we diminish War?” to “How far and fast can we push forward the frontiers of Human Rights?” to “Will China dominate the century?”
The answers to these questions, the author believes, growing out of his long experience as a foreign correspondent and columnist for the International Herald Tribune, are largely positive ones, despite the hurdles yet to be overcome. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, London, 2007.

William Pfaff, September 17, 2007
Jonathan Power's book "Conundrums" - A Review
"His is a powerful and comprehensive statement of ways to make the world better.
Is that worth the Nobel Prize?
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Jonathan Power's 2001 book

Like Water on Stone
The Story of Amnesty International

Follow this link to read about - and order - Jonathan Power's book written for the 40th Anniversary of Amnesty International



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