I wrote and posted this piece in another blog, in another time, but the world turns and what is old is new again. This is an opinion piece backed by some relevant facts. Like any opinion about the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict it will not be popular. However, I will not play the game of false equivalences. I will try my utmost to look at the facts as best as I can comprehend them. But one thing is certain, the current conflict is unsustainable and a detriment to both Palestinians and Israeli.
The Palestinians need Justice and Freedom.
The Israeli need Freedom from Fear.
Make of that what you will.
Or Who Killed Peace?
On 4 November 1995 (11th of Heshvan on the Hebrew Calendar) Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated by Yigal Amir, a radical right-wing Orthodox Jew who opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords and believed he was saving the country from a dire fate. The shooting took place in the evening as Rabin was leaving a mass rally in Tel Aviv in support of the Oslo process. Rabin was rushed to the nearby Ichilov Hospital, where he died on the operating table of blood loss and a punctured lung within 40 minutes. Amir was immediately seized by Rabin’s bodyguards. He was later tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment. After an emergency cabinet meeting, Israel’s foreign minister, Shimon Peres was appointed as acting Israeli prime minister.
Not an Egyptian missile, a Syrian tank, a Hezbollah rocket or a Palestinian suicide bomber.
Yigal Amir, a radical right-wing Jew who opposed the signing of the Oslo Accords and believed he was saving the country from a dire fate.
And what was that dire fate he believed would befall his beloved country?
Once Israel fought for survival, now it survives through fighting. It needs an “enemy” to justify its existence. The reasons for this are many but they exist in three (interconnected) levels: military, economic and political .
1) Military: Without an enemy to fight, the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) would cease to exists as it is today:
- I would be the end of universal conscription. In order to maintain its numbers (around 700,000 active and reserves out of a population of 7 million or around 10% of the total population not counting Arab Israelis who are not allowed to serve), the IDF requires all males over the age of 18 to serve in the armed forces. An end to the Palestinian conflict would probably force a move to either a small conscription pool or an all volunteer force, because,
- The IDF consumes a full 10% of Israel GDP or 20% of the entire budget. Thus without an enemy to justify such a large force (relative to population size, the U.S. for example fields nearly 1.5 million men and women under arms out of a population of 300 million or .5% of total population), tax payers would demand a shift from “defense” costs to other areas, a “peace dividend” if you will. But also,
- You would see American military support, the source of all of Israel’s advance military hardware as well as the funding that underwrites the IDF budget (if not the whole state of Israel, at a tune of $2.9 Billion a year) evaporate. No need to “sell” (sales payed for through loans made by Congress, that is, the U.S. taxpayer), advance fighter planes or other weapons systems straight from the U.S. own arsenals. Which ties in with the next level….
- A significant part of the Israeli economy comes from taking Western technology (primarily U.S. weapons systems) reworking them and then selling them to other states, such as China. Most of the Israeli know-how in the form of missiles, electronic warfare and aviation technology (including the nation’s ballistic defense system) comes straight from the U.S. Without preferential access to U.S. hardware and the funding from the U.S. Congress, the Israelis would have to spend far more on R&D (which is the main force behind spiraling high-tech weapons costs), thus undercutting its ability to sell said systems at competitive prices.
- Tourism is another pillar of the Israeli economy. Imagine if key sections of the West Bank (or the whole of East Jerusalem) fell under Palestinian control. Millions of pounds, euros and dollars a year would go to Palestinian coffers, not Israeli. Not only that, but cheaper Gaza beach resorts could divert internal tourism away from their Jewish counterparts in the north. I mean, a cheaper bottle of Coca-Cola tastes as sweet on a Gaza shore as it would in an Israeli one.
- It would also remove a ready made pool of tightly controlled wage slaves from the territories. If the Palestinian economy booms, more workers would stay in Palestine and not work inside Israel, or consuming Israeli goods if they have access to international markets.
- It would also cramp the artificial building boom in Israel which derives its impulse from the Settlers. No new land for gated communities with brand new AC units and satellite dishes, exclusive Settler highways or new sections of the Wall. A real peace would mean a stop to settlement expansion and perhaps the relocation of thousands of settlers back into the 1963 borders. Which leads us to the third level….
- The Settlers have become a powerful voting block within Israel and a strong supporter of the Israeli Right Wing. Deny them their delusions of a God given right to expand from the Jordan River Valley to the Mediterranean Sea and they might revolt. Years of arming Settlers so they could “defend” themselves against their Arab and Palestinian neighbors could spark massive internal conflict. Settlers have already attacked soldiers trying to remove them. Expect an escalation of said violence if the illegal settlements are rolled back.
- The current Netanyahu/Likud government depends on the threat of Palestinian violence to gin up support (through fear) among the center and left in Israel. Without the fear of Qassam rockets or suicide bombers the vast majority of voters would not support the right wing or its extremist religious allies (who make the mullahs in Iran blush by comparison) who want to expand settlements and turn Israel into a theocracy (didn’t end up all that well the first time they tried it).
- Also, the same “threat” allows the Likud to cover Israel’s endemic internal corruption, such as the scandal over Sharon’s settlement scheme, rape, and Israel dependence on a foreign power.
For all these reasons, the current government can not allow a just and clear peace accord. Israel, as it it configured right now, would not survive it. There is simply no vision of Israel as a land without conflict or without an enemy, no matter how puny it might be.
And that is the truth about Israel.