Israel: slowly but steadily losing its supporters and international patronage

At the backdrop to the vote in the House of Commons when the British Parliament voted with majority to formally recognise the Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel ‘as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution’ [1] the situation in the region is worryingly tense and increasingly desperate for the people living in the occupied Palestinian territories. This manifested manoeuvre is more of a political gesture, and is hardly going to make any significant difference on the ground in Palestine, neither will it change the direction of the national policy that the Prime Minister Netanyahu has been pursuing for some time. Whilst the resolution is not changing the broader UK policy, it is nevertheless reflective of a shift in the international opinion away from Israel, and that the conflict in Gaza over the summer and the latest harrowing events have had a major impact, which can be quite uneasy for the more moderate Israeli policy-makers.

It remains undeniable that there are deeply entrenched issues and rooted contestation, which have continued to hinder the peace process for decades. But nevertheless the outside world increasingly considers the persistent settlement expansion of the Israeli government as a tactic to destroy hopes for a two-state agreement. The Prime Minister Netanyahu and his policy of building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has been denounced by Israel’s’ closest ally – the US and Europeans, and is identified as the principal cause for the breakdown of the latest attempts to a more lasting solution.

There is an on-going conflict of convictions between most Israeli citizens and the outside world. The past summer and the latest conflict eruption in Jerusalem and the response of the Israeli government has received the solid support of most Israelis, but for the outside community, the latest events are seen as counterproductive and exacerbate the existing tensions and destabilise the region further. Whilst it remains the case that Israel can never be denied the right of self-defence and statehood, there is a great dichotomy of ideas and deeply entrenched attitudes of the representatives from both sides. Some of the reasons for that antagonism lie in the profound influence of the anti-Zionist ideology – a system of demonising ideas and representations about Israel and Jews. According to the prominent historian, professor and social activist Ilan Pappé the Zionist ideology has very early ideological underpinnings and Zionism was born out of the need to reinvent Judaism as nationalism [2] and to create a Jewish nation state, where Jews all over the world can settle. Nowadays, however, there are several Zionist myths that continue to be propagated and are used for calculated, strategic political purposes. The Zionist ideology and its cultural significance is often exercised in the modern Israeli society and, at times, misused and manipulated for political ends and to mobilise popular opinion. The policies deployed by the Netanyahu government need to satisfy and constantly feed this ideology and in that way they have become populist among Israelis and many Jews around the world.

The inherent Zionist ideology has been turned into a misinterpreted version that is deeply separatist and divisive, as at its heart is an often unconscious assumption about the dichotomous natures of Israelis and Palestinians that underpins the current dynamics at play and the whole understanding of the conflict, and influences the never-ending cycle of violence and redemption. There is a perceived separation between them – the Palestinians (and Arabs in general), and us – the Israelis (Jews), who have the exclusive superior authority and are the masters of all circumstances.

Despite the fact that the international community recognises the right of Israel as a nation state to exist in peace and security, the recent episodes of violence eruption from both sides have drained patience and trust and led many to believe the Prime Minister Netanyahu is more committed to a permanent state of war than to a difficult peace [3] with no alternative for the creation of two states. There is a feeling that Israel is starting to lose its supporters and international patronage that are being replaced by weary listeners that perceive his warnings of a nuclear threat from Iran as a diversion and an effort to distract from the government’s refusal to accept a Palestinian state. The environment that is being created by Israeli policy-makers is analogical to the choice the international community was presented with over a decade ago by President George W. Bush on the declaration of war on terror and the subsequent invasion of Iraq – ‘you are either with us or against us’. The conception that is consciously advocated, and is unreasonable in nature, is that one cannot be a friend of both Israel and Palestine, but that if one is a friend of Israel one needs to automatically be an enemy of Palestine.

As the situation stands at this moment, in light of the most recent tragic events, the foundations of a new Intifada are created and are slowly, but steadily, flourishing. Even if there is not an explosion now, there will be one in a few years, unless the Israeli government changes the course of its policy-making drastically and the international community starts to live up to its rhetoric and moral responsibilities. It is pressing to explore further and observe the price that the international community is willing to pay before it intervenes to stop the on-going destructive cycle. For the time being the Palestinian people, who continue to live in some of the most desperate and humiliating conditions, are paying the highest price. The prospect for the future does not look any brighter; for example according to one comprehensive United Nations report on the Gaza Strip the area ‘will not be liveable by 2020’[4].

[1] Former Foreign Secretary – Jack Straw, the Britain Israel Communications & Research Centre, 15/10/2014, http://www.bicom.org.uk/analysis-article/22706/

[2] Interview with Ilan Pappe, Rye Dag Holmboe, July 2014, The White Review, http://www.thewhitereview.org/poetry/interview/interview-with-ilan-pappe/

[3] http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/35e33be6-5485-11e4-bac2 00144feab7de.html#axzz3I8z8zUBo

[4] Gaza in 2020: A liveable place?, 2012, United Nations Country Team in the occupied Palestinian territory, http://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/file/publications/gaza/Gaza%20in%202020.pdf

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