Even if Netanyahu’s corruption scandals force him out of office, Israeli politics will still be guided by the idea that Palestinians must be pummeled into submission.
By Marzuq Al-Halabi
It’s easy to understand the expressions of joy and hope emanating from the broad spectrum of Israelis who are fed up with the Netanyahu government and its misdeeds, particularly in light of the reports that police suspect the prime minister of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust. It’s also natural to nurture illusions imagining the possibility of this saga — of a racist, right-wing government, corruption, and discourse of hate — coming to an end.
Of course, any further examination leads us back to the feeling that the end of the Netanyahu regime won’t really change or lives or propel us into some utopia. I think we need to look beyond the names in the headlines, beyond the right-wing’s “fake news,” which has been trying to take advantage of Israel’s “strategic structure,” which engenders precisely this kind of government.
The victory of the Zionist enterprise
In order to understand the political reality, we must analyze the strategic structure between Israel and what we call the “Arab world” — including the Palestinians — which has developed here over the past few decades. The strategy is a balance of power after 100 years of conflict between the Jews who came to historic Palestine and the nations that lived in the region, including the native Palestinian people.
Israel’s strategic situation vis-a-vis the Arab world is the best it has ever been since the establishment of the state. It enjoys military and economic superiority, as well as an advantage in its non-military strength. Israel’s power is measured in its economic and social might, and its strategic strength is a result of alliances and understandings (both explicit and implicit) with regional actors, its place in the international system, and the fact that it faces no external existential threats. Israel surpasses its neighbors in all these aspects.
On the Arab side, we are witnessing a collapse: states are coming apart, and bloody civil wars have created millions of refugees and the destruction of major Arab cities. Major hubs of Arab life have ceased functioning, and their political significance has all but disappeared. In Syria and Iraq, entire armies have disintegrated.
Looking back over the past 100 years, one can safely say that the Zionist enterprise has defeated that of the Arabs. The victory is not only clear to experts in intelligence and strategy, or to academics and the military establishment. It is a fact, so much so that it has become part of the consciousness of Jewish-Israeli society, which feels not only pride and satisfaction in its accomplishment, but superiority vis-a-vis the region. Zionism’s historic victory creates different kinds of politics and political needs when facing a challenging reality.
That victory, however, has come to erase the Green Line and create a demographic tie-game between the river and the sea. The Israelis will not be able to make the Palestinians disappear, nor will the Palestinians be able to “throw the Jews into the sea.” Israel comes at the demographic draw through a near-total position of power and a sense of victory, expressed through belligerence and racism, preferring to pummel Palestinians into submission than reach a deal with them. This is the point of departure for all the lofty ideas floating around these days, which run the gamut from population transfer to territorial swaps. It is also the underlying reason for the disappearance of the Left’s idea of two states for two peoples and the right-ward intellectual drift among Israeli elites — including those who only recently were considered libertarians or democrats who would never have voted for the Right.
Demography doesn’t just disappear
This is also what has led the Israeli middle class to come to terms with the settlement enterprise in the occupied territories and partially what has caused the non-Zionist ultra-Orthodox to make peace with the Zionist state. Even the change from a largely secular society to a religious-Zionist one reflects deep changes that are a result of these strategic shifts.
When we add all this to the colonial ideology and practices of settling and redeeming the land, through ethnic cleansing and occupation of territory from native Palestinians, it becomes clear that the present situation is not the result of right-wing policies alone. In fact, much of the Right’s policy is a result of this strategic structure. The Right, we must admit, has successfully appropriated and emboldened this structure. Just look at the fear- and hate-mongering against Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Even if Netanyahu goes, we will still find ourselves with a political situation that is nourished by the same strategic situation. Even if Bibi goes, Israel and Israeli politics will be stuck with a demographic draw. And if he does go, what do we do with that draw?
Marzuq Al-Halabi is a jurist, journalist, author. He writes regularly for Al-Hayat. This post was originally published in Hebrew on Local Call.
This article has been corrected to reflect that police have named Netanyahu as a suspect. There has been no police recommendation to indict at the time of writing.