Are Israel’s days numbered?

Alex Clackson 

Image © Maxnathans

The saga between Israel and Palestine has been ongoing for many decades now, resembling a long dark corridor with no end in sight. For many years, through the financial and military support from the United States, Israel has been able to develop and prevent any moral or physical assault from Palestine and its allies. However, over the last few years we have seen a slow, but sure change in opinion. Through non-mainstream media and organizations like BDS (a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel) and finally individual human rights activists, the world is waking up to the realisation that Israel is not the perfect liberal state among the “dangerous” Arab nations as it wants to be seen. As Norman Finkelstein has said in his most recent book, “Even the American Jews are turning their backs on Israel.” It is becoming clearer that the only life support system the Israeli machine can rely on is the American Israel lobby.

Despite the fast changing opinion on the Jewish state, Israel continues to act in a way which further pushes it away from the support Israel is so used to receiving from the Western powers. The Palestinian’s quest for a state of their own has been as futile as ever, as the Israelis continue to build on land that is supposed to form the basis of Palestine. Nearly three years ago Mr. Netanyahu said he accepted the principle of two states, Jewish and Palestinian, existing side by side in peace and security. But he has since shown precious little appetite for putting that principle into practice. Despite admonitions from the State Department, Netanyahu’s government has continued to approve and/or legalize settlement constructions in Jerusalem and the West Bank following the expiration of a freeze on settlement construction in September, 2010.

Even the Israeli politicians are starting to understand the thin thread the Jewish state is walking on.  In an interview published in the Times of Israel, Dan Meridor, the Israeli minister delivered harsh words to his colleagues who have overseen the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Meridor warned that the current calm in relations with the Palestinians might be producing “an illusion” among Israelis “that this is sustainable in the long term. It is not. It is an anomaly. We need to change it.”

In addition, the deputy prime minister of Israel has urged the government to freeze further settlements “across the line of the [settlement] blocs or the fence or whatever you call it,” a reference to the Israeli West Bank barrier which is partially built along the 1949 armistice line, or “Green Line.” 

Whether it was always Israel’s ambition to eventually take over the Palestinian land completely is unknown, yet what is clear now is that this potential ambition will not become a reality. As the Deputy Prime Minister said, “…But the reality now is that we can’t get all of it (referring to the Palestinian land) and stay a democratic state or a Jewish state, in terms of numbers and in terms of regime.”

Two main factors should concern the Israeli government most. Firstly, the more than 350 million Arabs in the region are losing faith in a two-state solution. Secondly many Europeans put most of the blame for the present impasse on Israel. For these reasons under the second-term Mr. Obama and the American public may start to lose patience with an intransigent Israeli government. The last thing the American government needs right now, especially due to the fact that the Arab Spring is still fresh (and in some states like Syria and Bahrain, still ongoing), is a unanimous decision by the Arab states to unsettle Israel. This would have massive implications for the Middle East, and the USA and Europe will not be able to handle such consequences, due to the current economic situation.

If some are not convinced by the idea that Israel’s days as we know it are numbered, one should compare the situation to the fall of the South African apartheid regime. While associating current Israel to the past South African state may cause some uneasiness, the growing dislike towards Israel from the public and governments has many similarities to the beginning of an end of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

If Israel wants to continue to receive support from the West, it must change its domestic policies and more crucially, its policies towards Palestine. If there is one thing we can learn from history, it is that false liberal democracies do not survive forever. If Israel wants to be seen as the nation which embraces the correct social and political attitudes, then it must start following them.

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