Middle East: Israel annexes more land
A UN vote giving increased recognition to Palestine has produced an Israeli show of contempt, writesTony Greenstein
is widely accepted, not least amongst Israeli public opinion, that
Operation Pillar of Defence - the murderous attack on Gaza, which
indiscriminately killed all in its path - achieved nothing, other
than emphasising Israel’s growing impotence in the region.
month-long Operation Cast Lead attack in 2008-09, which killed nearly
10 times as many people and led to a ground invasion, also ended up
achieving nothing (Cast Lead was, of course, fully supported by the
quisling Palestinian Authority in Ramallah under ‘president’
Mahmoud Abbas, as the leaked Palestinian
The recent offensive merely emphasises that the Middle East is
changing. No longer did Israel have a pliant and corrupt puppet in
president Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Reactionary though Mohammed Mursi
and the Muslim Brotherhood undoubtedly are, they are the product of
the revolution, half-finished, which overthrew Mubarak and his elite.
Egypt has moved to emphasise that it is no longer merely an extension
of Israeli foreign policy, but that it has interests of its own. It
is not unlike Turkey in this respect.
very last thing the Egyptian rulers wanted was to see thousands of
Palestinians crossing the border at Rafah to become refugees in
Egypt. At the very least the consequences would have been extremely
destabilising for a regime in which the US has invested so much.
Pressed on all sides, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu
agreed to a ceasefire after eight days, having previously agreed to
end the blockade and the targeted assassinations. Of course, the
Israeli state is a past master at tearing up or ignoring agreements
which are inconvenient.
November 22 the ceasefire came into effect, and a week later, on
November 29, the United Nations general assembly voted to accord
Palestine ‘non-member observer status’. Within hours Netanyahu
had promised to build an extra 3,000 houses in the West Bank and East
Jerusalem and put into effect the ‘E1 plan’ that envisages the
expansion of the settlement Ma’ale Adumim, to the east of
addition to stealing £120 million from the Palestinian Authority in
tax revenues it continues to hold, Netanyahu has thrown down the
gauntlet. The Israeli state, the only active settler-colonial state
surviving, was not brought into being through peace treaties, but
through creating ‘facts on the ground’. This is an old Zionist
tradition - common to both its ‘left’ and ‘right’ wings.
Mahmoud Abbas got his meaningless recognition of Palestine as a
non-member state, the only effect of which is that it will now have
the right to take Israeli war criminals to the International Court of
Justice. It changes nothing on the ground, but it has given Netanyahu
the excuse to go ahead with a plan, which, if realised, would deal a
death blow to the idea of a two-state solution, as is widely
recognised even by its most ardent supporters.
received the support of some 138 states at the UN, with another 41
abstaining and just nine voting against recognition of Palestine,
which included four Pacific island ‘states’. It is clear that
there is a significant majority in the west which realises that, far
from weakening Hamas, the recent Israeli attack has strengthened its
position and undermined that of Abbas. That is why countries like
Britain and Germany abstained rather than vote with the US.
is unlikely that when push comes to shove either the EC or the United
States will do anything other than rap Israel over its knuckles.
After all, the logic of settlement has always been one Jewish state
from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. No wing of Zionism - labour or
revisionist - has seriously countenanced anything other than a
Palestinian Bantustan, at best. The only serious difference has been
between those who wished to expel the Palestinians outright, with
their slogan ‘Jordan is Palestine’, and those who envisaged small
enclaves like Ramallah controlled by a Palestinian paramilitary.
the conditions are not conducive to the ‘transfer’ (mass
expulsion) of the Palestinians - to do so would require another major
conflict in the region - the alternative is a de facto
apartheid state, where Jews now constitute a minority ruling over a
majority, complete with their own ghetto wall.
is and has been seen by the west as a solid and stable base for
imperialist interests in the Middle East. What recent criticism by
people like Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s former national
security advisor, suggests is that a section of the US ruling class
is wanting to put a distance between the actions of a not wholly
rational and strutting Zionist state, which seeks regional domination
even at the expense of the US, and American wider interests. Although
it is unlikely that Obama will want to adopt Brzezinski’s
suggestion that Israeli warplanes over Iraq should be shot down!2
change in attitude towards Israel is partly a result of the United
States itself weakening as a global power, a consequence of its
economic decline. It also stems from a fear that an over-confident
and aggressive Israel could destabilise the Hashemite monarchy in
Jordan, lead to more radical elements challenging Mursi in Egypt, as
well as taking the west’s eye off the ball in Syria in the past
is clear is that there will be no solution to the question of
Palestine by itself. Neither Hamas nor Abbas have the political
ability to reach out to the Palestinian masses. Hamas seeks an
alignment with friendly Middle Eastern states, such as Turkey and
Qatar, and Abbas is content to play the role of the USA’s pet
poodle. The key question in the region will be the overcoming of
sectarianism - be it between Arabs and non-Arabs, or Christians,
Sunnis and Shi’ites - and the unification of the working class and
the poor against their real enemies, not least the sheiks and emirs
of the Gulf.