“deeply buried and dispersed smart cruise missiles surround israel”

As the Strategic Balance Inverts, Israel is Politically and Militarily Paralysed
Alastair Crooke, Strategic Culture, Jun 14 2021

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abd’ul-Latif Al Zayani and UAE Foreign Minister Abd’ullah bin Zayed
with Netanyahu and Trump on the balcony of the White House, Sep 15 2020.
Photo: Tom Brenner/Reuters

Many Israeli commentators are bracketing Trump with Netanyahu. Veteran correspondent Ben Caspit, for instance, asks: Is Netanyahu a Middle Eastern clone of former US President Donald Trump? He concludes:

The worst could still be ahead. Barring a last-minute change, the Knesset is scheduled to swear in the new government on Jun 13. Will Netanyahu in a last-ditch effort engineer a Capitol-style invasion in Jerusalem? Will he call on his followers to march on the Knesset to prevent being unseated? Going by historic precedent and Netanyahu’s own record, the answer is “no.” He will pull himself up short at the last minute. Nonetheless, today’s Netanyahu could surprise even himself. This morning, his Likud party issued statements in English informing the world that deposing Netanyahu means turning Israel into a dictatorship and comparing his designated successor Yamina leader Naftali Bennett to the leaders of North Korea.

To be fair, Caspit answers his question with a ‘both yes and no.’ But actually, the asking of this question is a pure ‘red herring.’ Superficially, some parallels might have merit, but to frame the issue in this way is disingenuous and misses the key point, that Israel’s situation is far graver than widely understood. Israel has painted itself into a tight corner. Trump certainly helped Netanyahu with this, but the dynamic was as much a child of Clinton-Obama myopia, as that of Trump. Netanyahuism has been a phenomenon many years in the making; although undoubtedly was accelerated, and put on steroids, during the Trump era, when the power and platform of the US government became the echo chamber of the Israeli Right. So, what precisely, is the smokescreen of ‘is Netanyahu channelling Trump’ obscuring? It obscures the reality that Israel has turned decisively Right, across the political spectrum. This may be described as Bibi’s personal ‘doing’, but it is no longer a matter of Netanyahu’s personal charisma. Israel has become structurally right-wing. It has become culturally right-wing, too. No longer the secular, ‘socialist’ Kibbutzim of yore (long since marginalised): Israel’s military and political leadership rather, is now predominantly Religious-Nationalist and Settler. This represents a ‘cultural revolution’ largely unnoticed in Europe. Chen Artzi Sror, writing in Yediot Ahoronot, observes that whilst formerly, the biggest fear gripping religious Zionists had been that of surrendering territory. The fallout from the 2005 evacuation of the Gaza settlements pushed the settler community to expand inside Israel. Thus began the move of young religious Zionists to embed themselves into policy-making, communication and government. The early cultural components of hanging on to territory have undergone a revolutionary shift: Settling the land of Israel is no longer the main issue occupying religious Zionism. Sror writes:

Most of the Israeli public holds right-wing positions when it comes to issues of security and politics, and the West Bank is positively brimming with settlements that will most likely never be evacuated. These once solitary localities even became somewhat bourgeois, a testament to the influence of the outside world. It is the tenets of “Torah of Israel” and “people of Israel” that now taken center stage. The schools of the ultra-Orthodox nationalists, who form part of the religious Zionist community but with a greater inclination toward Haredi ideology, have over the years created an entire worldview that strictly opposes what they call “post-modernism.” Anything that seeks to change the perception of family life and advance gender equality and equal treatment of non-Jews is perceived as an existential threat to the very foundations on which the Jewish state was built. This very narrow-minded new interpretation of the “Torah of Israel” dictates that the “People of Israel” must be saved from foreign influence. It is a fight fought on countless fronts: in the battle to prevent the draft of religious girls into the military, the war on privatization of rabbinical services, and the ludicrous fight against the program to distribute free children’s books in schools. These struggles serve to promote the conspiracy that the Education Ministry and the IDF are controlled by a shadowy and progressive deep state cabal, whose members use Christian money to control and alter people’s consciousness in order to undermine and erase Israel’s Jewish identity. And while it may sound somewhat apocalyptic, it is the actual belief of some of the most prominent rabbinical figures in the religious sector today. They believe that the main culprits are the left-wingers. Not those who want to evacuate settlements in order for a Palestinian state to arise, but those who march in the Gay Pride Parade and believe in equality for men and women. And while the Har Hamor Yeshiva in Jerusalem is the most extreme in its views on these issues, there are others who follow the same teachings and seek to introduce these ideas into the national education and political systems. The vast majority of religious Zionists are much more liberal than this and as such send their children to pre-military yeshivas and youth movements. But it is in these very places that such extremely conservative worldviews are often introduced.

The tensions here, with a Leftist, Biden Admin embracing BLM and LBGTQ, hardly need emphasis. The incitement amongst the Israeli Right has become very, very aggressive. Though Netanyahu loyalists are attacking Bennett and his Yamina party MPs, they largely believe in the same causes: settlement building, annexation of much of the West Bank, and Jewish supremacy over Palestinian citizens of Israel. “Yet they now feel galaxies apart.” Netanyahu promotes a clear message that his new rivals are “traitors” who have betrayed the “people of Israel.” He has called Bennett a “habitual liar.” He described the March election as the “biggest election fraud in the history of the country,” and he lambasted the so-called “deep state” in Israel for pushing to form a “dangerous left-wing government” backed by “terror supporters.”

Israeli analyst Meron Rapoport notes that whilst Netanyahu built his political base on extreme polarisation, the discourse of hatred now is eating alive the Israeli Right. And, because Netanyahu believes his only way to maintain power is to call Bennett a traitor, as his supporters threaten to kill Knesset members, the atmospherics are being compared to the days prior to Nov 1995, when Israeli Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated in Tel Aviv. Paradoxically, since these leaders hail from the same right-wing camp and were close to each other, the anger and sense of betrayal are even stronger. What is the point here? Even long-serving US ‘peace process’ negotiator Dennis Ross writes:

Direct talks on the permanent status issues will go nowhere. The politics on each side, the real gaps on the substance, and the disbelief of their publics guarantee nothing would be achieved.

In other words, talks between Palestinians and Israel are pointless. The Israeli polity effectively is self-locked into entropy. There is no political way out from this very tight corner. Ross suggests that Biden should cynically ‘park’ the Palestinian issue, treating it as a PR exercise, without investing into it much political capital. The strategic shift rightwards in Israeli politics, which marks a tectonic change, is understood in Washington to have foreclosed on the two-state solution and on the one-state solution too, as a one-state solution is clearly incompatible with Religious Zionism’s ‘post-modern’ shift and contradicts the very essence of Religious Zionism. And so we have gridlock.

Ross’s comments reflect another entropy: that which is arising within the US. For while US state apparatus is locked onto the old mantras of ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’ and Hamas is the ‘threat,’ and Congressional élites remain lock-solid, America is experiencing its own tectonic shift. Two surprising polls were released recently: Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP) commissioned the Barna Group to survey evangelical Christians about their views on Israel/Palestine. The poll suggests support for Israel has dropped considerably: only 33.6% of young evangelicals (between the ages of 18 and 29) said they support Israel; 24.3% said they support Palestine; 42.2% said they support neither side in the conflict. Compare this survey to one carried out in 2018, then a staggering 69% of young evangelicals said they supported Israel.

And it is the same story amongst young Americans more generally: A recent Harvard-Harris poll of registered voters asked: “Who is more responsible for the violence in the Mideast – Israel or Hamas?” It produced the following results: (18-34 year olds): Israel: 60%, Hamas: 40%; (35-49 year olds): Israel: 51% Hamas: 49%. Note that the poll specified Hamas, rather than Palestinians, and Hamas is labelled terrorist in US mainstream media, which makes the outcome even more significant. The Democrats are already freezing solid, committed to old mantra, whilst young progressives such as AOC are snapping at Biden’s heels, asking about Palestinian rights. Western politicians can ‘talk the talk’ of two-states, but it is ‘empty talk.’ They have no idea what to do next, and Israel’s success in weaponising ‘anti-Semitism’ (Corbyn being its prize scalp) effectively has Europe self-paralysed with fear for their careers.

What happened last month, in wake of Hamas’ defence of Jerusalem, has done two highly significant things: It succeeded in mobilising the 1948 Palestinians (citizens of Israel) to resistance alongside their fellow Gazan and West Bank Palestinians. And it set the trap by which any provocation on the al-Aqsa compound, or any further Jerusalem ethnic clearances, could trigger a multi-front war. The Hizbullah leader, Seyed Nasrallah, spelled this out. It is on this last point that there is denial all around. Israel’s ‘military edge’ has gone. It is the axis of Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Ansar Allah (the Houthis) which now has the military and politically strategic edge. The strategic balance is inverted: Israel’s control of airspace is unrestricted, over Gaza only. Deeply buried and dispersed smart cruise missiles surround Israel, and radar blocking drone swarms, together with EWS, have altered the military calculus.

The reason the Israeli crisis is graver than many suppose is that no one wants to admit that Israel effectively has wasted its window to any political solution, chasing hegemony and its ‘victory narrative.’ It has succumbed to Netanyahu’s narrative of ‘mission accomplished,’ the Palestinian issue supposedly made irrelevant, only to find the window of politics closed shut, at the same time that Israel’s military situation has reversed itself decisively. The old certainty of Israeli military domination ultimately securing Palestinian acquiescence now looks decidedly frayed. Israeli and western leaders have become so fatigued and numbed by their own rhetoric that they will not think or say that Israel has run out of options. And so western policy continues on auto-pilot. Inevitably there will be further right-wing provocations at al-Aqsa. The IOF will default to its policy of ‘mowing the lawn’ in Gaza, and Israel will find itself in a multi-front war, maybe quite soon. Are they certain America will spend its blood to extract Israel from its self-made quagmire? Are they convinced Gulf States will be there too, shoulder-to-shoulder?

The fraud of Israel’s new “government of change”
Jean Shaoul, WSWS, Jun 15 2021

Israel’s new coalition government was sworn in on Sunday, with far-right leader and settler advocate Naftali Bennett replacing Benjamin Netanyahu, the country’s longest serving prime minister. It required a razor-thin confidence vote of 60 to 59 in the 120-seat Knesset, with one legislator from the United Arab List abstaining, to install the “government of change,” a motley crew assembled by opposition leader, Yair Lapid, a former TV news anchor, who heads the second largest party Yesh Atid. Under a power-sharing agreement, Lapid will take over as premier in two years’ time, in the event the highly unstable eight-party coalition lasts that long. In the meantime, he will serve as foreign minister. Lapid was tasked with forming a government after Netanyahu failed to do so who despite heading the largest party in the Mar 23 elections, the fourth in two years. Two key small parties, Bennett’s Yamina Party and Mansour Abbas’ conservative Islamic Movement-affiliated United Arab List, or Ra’am, with seven and four seats, agreed to join forces with Lapid.

While Bennett had indicated his willingness to join a coalition with Netanyahu, this was not enough to secure a majority in the Knesset, leading Bennett to switch sides to prevent a fifth election that was expected to cost him votes. The two-year long deadlock has left Israel without a budget, amid a soaring social and economic crisis exacerbated by the pandemic, and ethnic strife in the country’s mixed population cities, whipped up by far-right vigilantes from the settlements in the occupied West Bank with the backing of Netanyahu and the security establishment. Several thousand Israelis, many of whom have demonstrated for months against Netanyahu under the vacuous anti-corruption slogan of “Anyone but Bibi” (Netanyahu’s nickname), took to the streets of Tel Aviv to celebrate the end of his 12 years as head of government. This ignores the reality that Bennett, a 49-year-old millionaire businessman, is an ideologue further to the right than Netanyahu, a fervent annexationist and implacable opponent of Palestinian statehood, who has admitted he has no problem killing lots of Arabs.

All of his senior colleagues have for years sat in government with Netanyahu and/or acted as aides to him. They include Avigdor Lieberman of the Israel is our Home Party, who served as finance and later defence minister; Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid as finance minister; Benny Gantz as Defence Minister and before that as chief of staff of the IOF; and Ayelet Shaked of Bennett’s Yamina Party as interior minister. Gideon Sa’ar of the New Hope Party, a more recent deserter from Likud, has held numerous portfolios, while Bennett has served as defence minister. The only thing these political criminals agree on is the need to accelerate the assault on the living conditions of the Israeli working class, more than 20% of whom live in poverty, with Bennett saying his priorities would be reforms in education, health and cutting “red tape,” a euphemism for more privatisation and free market reforms. While the new government will focus on economic and social issues, the coalition agreements grant Bennett executive powers as prime minister to further consolidate the occupation, thereby bolstering the settlers at the expense of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as targeting Israel’s own Palestinian citizens.

Lapid, as incoming foreign minister, indicated some of the broader forces at work in engineering Netanyahu’s exit from power, for the time being at least. Speaking at the swearing in ceremony, he vowed to repair ties between Israel and the Democratic Party in the US, which had become strained under Netanyahu as he bickered publicly with Obama and aligned ever more closely with the Republican Party and later with Donald Trump. Netanyahu’s relations with Biden have been described as “chilly” at best. Lapid said:

The management of the relationship with the Democratic Party in the US was careless and dangerous. The Republicans are important to us, their friendship is important to us, but not only the friendship of the Republican Party. We find ourselves with a Democratic White House, Senate and House and they are angry… We need to change the way we work with them.

Biden called to congratulate Bennett just two hours after the confidence vote in the Knesset, saying he looked forward to strengthening the “close and enduring” bilateral relationship. This contrasts starkly with the two-month long, frosty silence before Biden called Netanyahu after assuming the presidency in January. Other world leaders followed suit, including Putin, Trudeau, Modi and various European leaders. Lapid stressed the importance of restoring relations with the European powers, saying:

We both believe that it is possible, and imperative, to build relations based on mutual respect and better dialogue.

He emphasised the importance of Israel’s relationship with the Jewish Diaspora, especially in the US, which has become increasingly alienated by Israel’s criminal oppression of the Palestinians. While Netanyahu had stressed the importance of Christian evangelicals and other groups, Lapid insisted:

Jews from all streams, Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox, are our family. And family is always the most important relationship, and the one that needs to be worked on more than any other.

Lapid also appeared to step back from Netanyahu’s increasingly hostile attitude towards Jordan’s King Abdullah, amid suggestions that Israel and Saudi Arabia had sought to engineer a coup, replacing him with his half-brother Prince Hamzah. He called Abdullah “an important strategic ally,” promising to work with him. Palestinian leaders had little to say to Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who will face the full force of a far-right, pro-settler and openly anti-Palestinian leadership, dismissing the new government as “an internal Israeli affair.”

The assortment of parties that include ostensibly ideologically opposed politicians from hardline Jewish religious nationalists and the Labour Party and Meretz, both of which are committed formally to opposition to annexation and settlements, and the Islamist United Arab List, ensures that this government will be no less fractious, unstable and short-lived than its predecessors. The new government faces its first challenge on Tuesday when several right-wing Israeli groups plan a flag-waving march through Jerusalem’s Old City. The Netanyahu government gave the go-ahead for the march, a day after police banned the proposed route fearing it would incite violence and rekindle the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Netanyahu has refused to go quietly, declaring to his allies in the Knesset:

If we have to be in opposition, we will do this standing tall, until we bring down this dangerous government and return to lead the state. The right will not forget Bennett’s deception. I will lead you in a daily battle against this bad and dangerous left-wing government and bring it down. And with the help of God, this will happen faster than you think.

One Comment

  1. traducteur
    Posted June 15, 2021 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Almost I dare to hope.

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