Could The Domestic Social Protests in Israel Be The Greatest Impetus for Moving Towards a Two State Solution?
With all of the emphasis (and rightly so) on the domestic economic and political crises here in the U.S. , it may be lost on people that there are huge (and growing) demonstrations against Israeli government social policy going on in Israel virtually as we speak. Reports are that Saturday night there were 300-350,000 people in the streets. As Dimi Reider and Azziz Abu Sarah, wrote in an op-ed published last Wednesday,
The protests that are paralyzing Israel began on July 14, when a few professionals in their 20s decided they could no longer tolerate the city’s uncontrolled rents, and pitched six tents at the top of the city’s most elegant street, Rothschild Boulevard. Three weeks later, the six tents have swelled to over 400, and more than 40 similar encampments have spread across the country, forming unlikely alliances between gay activists and yeshiva students, corporate lawyers and the homeless and ultra-Orthodox Jews and Israeli Arabs.
So far, the protesters have managed to remain apolitical, refusing to declare support for any leader or to be hijacked by any political party. But there is one issue conspicuously missing from the protests: Israel’s 44-year occupation of the Palestinian territories, [emphasis added] which exacts a heavy price on the state budget and is directly related to the lack of affordable housing within Israel proper…
Had the protesters begun by hoisting signs against the occupation, they would most likely still be just a few people in tents. By removing the single most divisive issue in Israeli politics, the protesters have created a safe space for Israelis of all ethnic, national and class identities to act together. And by decidedly placing the occupation outside of the debate, the protesters have neutralized much of the fear-mongering traditionally employed in Israel to silence discussions of social issues…
If the protests continue to stir more and more Israelis out of their political despondency, Mr. Netanyahu still holds two possible trump cards: a sudden breakthrough in the negotiations to free the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, held captive in Gaza, or a sudden escalation of armed conflict.
Moreover, the impending United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood in September imposes a deadline of sorts on the protesters. If Palestinians react by marching on Israeli army checkpoints to demand freedom, Israeli protesters will have to choose between losing internal support by siding with the Palestinians, or abandoning any claim of a pro-democracy agenda by siding with the Israeli soldiers charged with suppressing them.
Interestingly, It didn’t get much press reporting here in the U.S., but the night after this op-ed was published, the Israel Air Force conducted several bombing raids in northern Gaza. However, unless Bibi has some pull with Hamas that nobody is aware of, this was a legitimate (in Israeli terms) response to several rockets that had been launched at Ashkelon and Sderot the previous day. Obviously, from Didi and Azziz’ point of view, whoever fired these rockets (not necessarily the Hamas government itself – there are various factions both within and outside of Hamas which hold varying degree of militancy) played directly into the hands of Netanyahu by providing a pretext for this military action which could potentially take the spotlight off of the domestic protests. For now, the raids have not the averted the attention of the demonstrators – as shown by the fact that the largest turnout yet was on Saturday night.
Bibi finally began to react to the protestors this week with new proposals for more government subsidies for housing and new building. But the protestors don’t seem to be buying that and Bibi is trying desperately day-by-day to get the situation under control.
So, we will just have to watch and see what happens. Certainly, one eventual outcome could be the fall of the current government. And that is what this post’s title refers to is just that. If the government does fall – though it might be based solely on domestic issues – it might well be replaced with a new government that at the same time makes a significant change in Israel’s foreign policy. They might really understand the dangers inherent in the status quo, and do everything possible to make a two state solution happen.
- Israel’s middle class launches mass protest at rising cost of living (rainbowwarrior2005.wordpress.com)
I received a very good comment on one of my most recent posts that deserves an extended response.
The comment is as follows:
The mistake of the Bush administration was to subscribe to LBJ’s theory that “better to piss from inside the tent……………”, thinking that once Hamas had to pick up the garbage and deliver the mail, they would become more responsible, yet it turns out it just afforded them the opportunity to switch from the mafia to a thugacracy , steal much more which gives them more power to push their #1 agenda: radical Islam and Jihad. Abbas is little better and has shown time and again he is a Holocaust denier and duplicitous. If Israel has a partner in peace even remotely close to Anwar Sadat, this conflict would be settled within 6 months.
You act as if Israel has not lost thousands in their wars of defense and only desires domination. It reminds me of the German-Jewish family standing on the platform before being transported to the camps believing they can’t possibly be such monsters……. ” but, We are German.” This is a time for staying strong as much as we all long for peace.
Actually, the history of Hamas post the 2006 election (which as you correctly imply was encouraged by the Bush Administration) is mixed. Although much attention, including decidedly biased accusations against Israel, continues to focus on Operation Cast Lead, collective memory seems to forget that there was a six month ceasefire agreement signed in June, 2008 which held quite well through November, 2008 (Hamas reduced the number of rockets from about 300 in May to about 20 per month (per NYT report December 19, 2008) when the rocket fire began again. The reasons that the cease-fire broke down was an incursion by IDF troops into Gaza on November 4 to eliminate the threat of a tunnel being dug to the Israeli side of the border presumably to allow for the kidnapping of additional IDF soldiers. According to the IDF, Hamas responded with 61 rockets on November 5 aimed at Israeli civilian populations, but essentially curtailed the bombardment at noon. Obviously, each side defended its actions based upon each of their interpretation of the facts. This essentially was the beginning of the end of the cease-fire, and led to Operation Cast Lead.
My point here is not in any way to defend Hamas’ use of rocket fire indiscriminately aimed at civilians, nor to question Israel’s right to defend itself militarily (it certainly has that right), but instead it is to address two very important strategic questions: a) whether Hamas can be trusted to comply with any agreements, and b) to consider the strategic effectiveness of Operation Cast Lead.
The facts seem to indicate that Hamas can be somewhat trusted to comply with agreements. The cease-fire was enforced pretty well by Hamas leadership. Although the Hamas charter is an abhorrent document that cannot be ignored, and it is clear that there are people both inside Hamas and in other organizations like the Al Aqsa Brigade and the Islamic Brotherhood who clearly continue to seek the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Zionists anywhere in the world, the evidence provided by the cease-fire is that there are more moderate and pragmatic elements within Hamas who were strong enough to control the more radical elements. In addition to this circumstantial evidence, I have heard the same from people who have met directly with Khalid Mashaal and other Hamas leaders. My argument is that both Israel and the United States are better off supporting the moderate elements. Rejecting these moderate elements only strengthens the hands of the radical elements. That is seemingly not in Israel’s long-term best interests.
This is actually supported by evaluating the current situation post-Cast Lead. Reports indicate that there are now twice as many rockets (with both enhanced range and guidance systems) in Gaza as there were before Operation Cast Lead. Would it have been better or worse without Operation Cast Lead? No one can say. But I think that one can say that the strategic threat from Gaza is much worse today than it was in July-October, 2008 during the cease-fire. As Secretary of State Clinton said during her speech at the 2010 AIPAC Policy Conference, technological developments are not necessarily on the side of the Israelis. Iron Dome is an amazing technological success. But I don’t think it is a strategic success. Why? Each Iron Dome missile reportedly costs close to $35-50,000. Each of the 40,000 Hamas’ rockets (and presumably a similar number of Hezbollah’ rockets on the Lebanon border) cost hundreds of dollars each, let alone artillery and morter shell. So, even without a nuclear weapon, Iran’s de facto control of these organizations poses a very real existential threat to Israel’s population today. I have heard all of the arguments against “linkage” and I agree that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the cause of Islamic jihadism, however that it does not automatically follow that the converse is not true. That is, I think that the creation of a Palestinian state could be the biggest blow to Iran’s aim for increased hegemony in the region . (But that is an entirely separate topic).
Last night I attended a screening of “This is My Land…Hebron” at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival at Facets Multimedia. The award-winning film by Giulia Amati & Stephen Natanson not only records various day-to-day encounters between Palestinians and the 600 or so Jewish settlers living in the old city of Hebron, but also intersperses commentary from all sides of the conflict. On screen interviews include Palestinian and settler residents as well as commentary by folks like a journalist, a former Knesset Member, various B’tselem officials and former IDF members from Breaking the Silence.
[Note: The film is being rescreened, today, Friday, June 3 at 8:30PM at Facets Multimedia, 1517 W. Fullerton]
It is a very powerful and disturbing movie. As with most documentaries, it is clear that the filmmakers have a point of view, and it is impossible to tell what lies on the cutting room floor. Nevertheless, the virulent anger, hatred and racism of the settlers is palpable. Their very real belief that this land was given to them by G_d is clearly authentic. But the negative energy which springs from this belief is as icily scary as anything seen in the Exorcist. And this fear is not the result of any manipulation by the filmmakers, but from the fiery hatred in the settlers eyes, the stones and garbage thrown from their hands, and the profane venom spewing from their mouths.
The Human Rights Watch Festival continues through the 9th. You can see a schedule here – and Saturday night’s film “The Green Wave” comes highly recommended.
By providing an animated backdrop for the urgent blog posts and tweets that became a lifeline to Iranian pro-democracy activists, The Green Wave recounts the dramatic events of the most severe domestic crisis in the history of Iran.
Dir. by Ali Samadi Ahadi, Germany/Iran. 2010, 80 mins. In English and Farsi with English subtitles.
From the widespread hope of political change in Iran through the 2009 elections to the brutal suppression of the mass protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, The Green Waverecounts the dramatic events of the most severe domestic crisis in the history of the Islamic Republic. In May 2009, the youthful green-clad crowds were enraged and the atmosphere was explosive. Yet Election Day in June was a disappointment on a massive scale. The film recounts the ways in which the authorities violently crushed the protests that took place directly thereafter and exposes the arrests and interrogations that followed in intense detail.Interweaving animated blogs and tweets, video footage caught by those present, and extensive interviews, The Green Waveis a remarkable portrait of modern political rebellion, an exposé of government-sanctioned violence, and a vision of hope that continued resistance may galvanise a new Iran.Danny Postel, editor of The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future, and Kaveh Ehsani of DePaul University will be here for a Q&A after the 7 pm screening on Saturday, June 4th.Trailer Official site Guardian UKShowtimes:
Sat., June 4 at 7 pm purchase tickets
Tues., June 7 at 6:30 pm purchase ticketsX