Shahar Benhorin, Socialist Struggle Movement (ISA in Israel-Palestine)
Starting on July 1, the new Israeli power-sharing coalition government is threatening to launch, with the support of the US Trump administration, an official annexation of up to 30% of the occupied West Bank to the State of Israel.
Even a smaller scale annexation would mark an immense blow against the democratic and national ambitions of millions of Palestinians, and particularly against the idea of a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel, and thus would mark a significant turning point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Moreover, steps in this direction, part of an Apartheid-style vision, would also further harm the hopes for peace and security of millions of Israeli Jewish workers and poor.
This threat has already drawn protests and sharp opposition on both sides of the national divide and internationally. This includes thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and thousands of Jews and Palestinians in Israel who have protested against the plan.
At the same time, it has also inevitably ignited a dynamic of escalation of national tensions and the Israeli military has been reportedly preparing for a “war situation”.
Top officials from both of the dominant Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, have warned that any Israeli annexation in the West Bank would lead to a new generalized uprising, an Intifada. Saleh al-Arouri, deputy leader of the political bureau of Hamas, the right-wing Islamist movement which is the local ruling group in the Gaza Strip, under brutal Israeli-Egyptian blockade, warned on the Gaza-based Al-Resalah TV channel that “We cannot exclude the possibility that, in the wake of Israeli aggression, matters may reach a point of escalation in the confrontation, which might lead to military escalation”.
Palestinian Authority’s response
The Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas declared on May 19 a cessation of all written agreements with Israel and the US. This is a popular move. Similar announcements have been made several times in recent years, but before, they have had no practical consequences. The full implementation of this idea would mean the disbanding or collapse of the Palestinian Authority itself, which is what Abbas threatens will happen in the aftermath of an annexation scenario. However, unless forced by mass pressure, the Fatah leadership of the PA and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) are unlikely to go so far, as it would jeopardize the PA elite’s interests and underline the failure of their own national liberation strategy. Nevertheless, this time, significant moves have been implemented to suspend the coordination of security with the Israeli military.
Furthermore, the PA government has decided, in a problematic move, not to pay the monthly wages of public sector employees and demands that the occupying state pay them directly, which obviously will not happen at this stage. This has occurred while the PA economy is sliding into a deep recession, accelerated by the implementation of steps to curb the pandemic. The World Bank expects a 7.6–11% collapse in PA’s GDP this year, with a suffocating more-than-doubling of the official poverty rate in PA enclaves, from 14% to 30%. In Gaza this figure has jumped from 53% to 64%.
Thus, anger over the annexation plan is developing against the background of mass frustration over the acute economic crisis and the pandemic. PA’s first major rally, on June 22 in Jericho, mobilized a few thousands, under social distancing measures, and more rallies are planned. But if an annexation is declared, massive rage may also erupt and escalate out of the control of PA officials. The desperate position of the PA is reflected in Abbas’ recent offer to immediately enter negotiations with the new Israeli government in exchange for suspending the annexation threat.
In parallel, the PA continues to hope to exact a political price from the Israeli regime via an unprecedented lawsuit against Israel in the International Criminal Court on the charge of war crimes. This was defined by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the first meeting of the new government as “a strategic threat to the State of Israel”. If a full investigation is launched, it may include international warrants for top Israeli state and military officials. It would become a serious diplomatic headache for the Israeli regime and will likely draw more international attention and opposition to the Israeli occupation.
East Jerusalem killing and Israeli public opinion
With the looming threat of annexation, there’s been a general escalation in attacks by Israeli state forces and by colonial settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The killing of Eyad al-Hallaq, a 32-year-old Palestinian with autism, on May 30 in occupied East Jerusalem by Israeli “Border Police” soldiers was a graphic example of the brutality of the Israeli occupation in a territory which was already officially annexed to Israel immediately after the 1967 war of occupation.
The small but important protests following that killing involved Palestinians and Israelis and drew inspiration from the BLM rebellion in the US, with some using the slogan “Palestinian Lives Matter”. Israeli Jewish activists of Ethiopian origin drew a comparison between the case and the racist police brutality endured by Israeli Ethiopians, which sparked a series of stormy protests, most recently in July 2019. In response to the killing of al-Hallaq, the Israeli establishment, including Netanyahu, shed some crocodile tears, realizing the potential for a stronger backlash.
Yet, despite Netanyahu’s concern with a potential investigation in The Hague, it is clear that any annexation move will trigger a sharp backlash against the Israeli occupation and the Israeli regime in general over the next period.
Israeli public opinion itself is polarized on this question. A recent poll showed that merely 4% regarded the annexation plan to be the most important task of the new Israeli government, while 68%, with over 20% unemployed, specified the economic crisis. In second place was the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. As for support for an annexation move itself, the figures in polls vary, influenced by how the question is formulated and reveal confusion. But support for a concrete step by Netanyahu generally corresponds to supporters of Netanyahu’s bloc and the far-right, and even that is inconsistent, and in some polls, support for immediate annexation stands only at about 25%.
The limited popular support in Israeli society reflects also the weak basis for arguments based on security demagogy to mobilize support for an annexation. Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, recently released from prison, went to the London-based Saudi Arabian news website Elaph to say that it is “nonsense” to suggest that Israel needs the Jordan Valley for security reasons, and that “annexation will lead to catastrophe”.
The Israeli ruling class, troubled by strategic longer term concerns, is openly divided on the question. The leaders of both political blocs, which constitute this extraordinary “rotation government”, with a prime minister and an “alternate prime minister” who are supposed to swap places next year, are still debating whether and with what concrete steps to move ahead. Until now, there hasn’t been any official specific discussion in Israeli government meetings on the actual details of any map, budget costs, potential repercussions, etc. It may very well be that a lack of agreement on the issue will eventually trigger yet another election, the fourth in a year.
Nevertheless, the threat is real. The coalition agreements allow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to decide the issue at either government or parliamentary level and either way, he would get a majority. He has so far claimed he’s determined to carry through an annexation move, to be implemented in phases, obviously in an attempt to curb opposition.
Trump’s “peace plan”
The annexation initiative is meant to seize upon Trump’s imperialist “peace plan”, the so-called “Deal of the Century”, which was rolled out in January at the White House alongside Netanyahu and three pro-US Arab Gulf state ambassadors, with the event boycotted by Palestinian officials. It continued the logic of Trump’s series of extremely provocative moves in support of the Israeli occupation, expropriation and oppression of the Palestinians, on the questions of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements and the Palestinian refugees, and the cut of financial aid to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
The plan offers US support for an annexation of about 30% of the West Bank by the Israeli state, with no right for a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, along with other provocations. This position is not linked to even a pretence of negotiations and political agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
Territorially, this cynical, almost farcical, plan hypothetically offers the Palestinians national “control” over 15% of historic Palestine, under conditions which are meant to never happen, and in a form worse than a Bantustan, with an extremely subjugated and dissected puppet state. In Netanyahu’s own words:
“The process would continue if they would actually fulfill about 10 hard conditions which include Israeli sovereignty in the Jordan valley, keeping Jerusalem united [exclusively under Israeli control], the non-entrance of even one [Palestinian] refugee, non-uprooting of settlements, and Israeli sovereignty in extensive parts of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and more. They need to recognize that we are the security [military] ruler in all of the territory. If they agree to all of that, then they would have an entity of their own which Trump defines as a state. As I told a US statesman, ‘you can call it whatever you like’. In the essence of Trump’s plan there are elements we could have only dreamed about”
The Israeli colonial settlers’ main official organization, Yesha Council, has voiced opposition to the Trump plan because of the reference to a so-called Palestinian state and the token request for a four-year freeze in Israeli settlement construction outside the annexed territory. But they’re ultimately striving to secure the most extensive annexation possible. One of the settlers’ movement leaders explained that “applying sovereignty [annexation] is important in order to wreck the conception that there is an occupation here”.
Generally, the most reactionary elements in the Israeli ruling class and Israeli society at large recognize a narrow “historic” window of opportunity to give full legal sanction, normalize and further legitimize the land grab from the Palestinians in the West Bank and deliver a blow to the idea of a Palestinian state. Beyond their possible hopes that the pandemic will curb attention and resistance to the plan, they realize that Trump may lose the presidential election in November — especially now, with the economic crisis, the pandemic and the rebellious mass movement in the US — and that the more they wait pressure will mount on his administration to back off from an explicit support.
Already, it’s reported that Trump’s broker, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, is demanding as a precondition that the two blocs in the Israeli government reach an agreement on the issue, which is not at all certain. Both blocs support the Trump plan, as do some in the capitalist opposition as well, but are differing concretely on a “unilateral” annexation.
The division in the Israeli ruling class over the idea of immediate annexations stems from the fear they have over both the immediate and longer-term strategic repercussions at all levels, not least a potential Palestinian uprising and a deepening of economic recession in Israel. Any type of official annexation move in this period will be playing with fire.
From the point of view of international relations and the geo-strategic alliances of Israeli capitalism, they can expect more than the usual hollow diplomatic denunciations. In this explosive period of globalized capitalist crisis, mass popular solidarity against the oppression of the Palestinians may develop into more forceful popular and working-class-centered actions in some countries and may exert significant pressure on capitalist governments. Popular initiatives for international solidarity, including various protest boycott campaigns, such as “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS), will likely re-emerge.
A new imposed border will not receive significant international recognition, and may even, under pressure, be de-recognized by a future US administration. Joe Biden has already expressed explicit opposition to annexation, and this is the mainstream stance of the US ruling class’ international relations and intelligence apparatus. They are concerned that any destabilization will affect US imperialist interests in the region, and also with domestic public opinion which is increasingly critical of the Israeli occupation. Some political strategists of the Israeli ruling class have been warning for some years that support for the country in the US has been losing ground to an unprecedented extent. This has particularly affected the base of the Democratic Party, which has historically been more “pro-Israel”. This could become a more serious problem for the Israeli regime under future Democratic administrations.
Pressures from Europe will also increase. The German Foreign Minister made his first post-lock-down visit to Israel to warn that his government opposes annexation. Other European governments may repeat the token move made by the Swedish government in 2014, following the horrific Gaza war of that year, to officially recognize a Palestinian state. Some may press for increased sanctions on the Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and depending on the course of events, possibly even to some extent on Israel itself. However, as the EU is Israeli capitalism’s largest trade partner, with a whole range of further interests at stake, other EU member states could frustrate major sanctions, particularly given a period of growing crisis and division in the EU itself. A clear message on the impotence of the European capitalist response was sent on June 18, when the European Parliament ratified with a large majority the “open skies” agreement with Israel.
Regionally, even a “scaled-down” Israeli annexation move will undermine the process that has seen, in recent years, an extending alliance between the main pro-US Arab Sunni regimes and Israel against Iran. Several of the former, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE and Qatar, in fact support Trump’s plan and have already intervened to pressurize the Palestinian Authority to capitulate to Trump and accept a charade of negotiations on the plan. However, the developing capitalist crisis, linked with the complications of the pandemic, are feeding into the processes of revolution, as we saw in a number of countries last year. This has a serious effect on the strategic calculations of the reactionary Arab rulers.
Any Israeli annexation move could potentially unleash massive popular rage among the Palestinian and Arab masses, which would have further radicalizing effects, coming just after a wave of revolutionary movements in Algeria, Sudan, Iraq and Lebanon, and a heightened class struggle in Jordan.
While the Sudanese government, which has moved towards partial normalization of relations with Israel and has faced a widespread popular outcry at home as a result, has tried to avoid the issue, it is no coincidence that Jordan, Algeria and Iraq are amongst the only Arab states which have individually voiced an open rejection of Trump’s plan. Another point of concern for some of the Sunni Arab ruling classes is the potential for the Iranian regime and its allies across the region to exploit an annexation scenario to stir up popular support under the false pretense of solidarity with the Palestinians, and to even retaliate militarily against targets associated with allies of US and Israel.
Thus, some of the Arab regimes are playing a double game on the issue, as reflected by an emergency meeting of the Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo at the request of the Palestinian Authority on February 1. This meeting embarrassed the US president by unanimously rejecting his plan, reiterating empty rhetoric about “the centrality of the Palestinian cause to the entire Arab nation” and repeating its commitment to the Arab League’s Saudi-led 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which demands the Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories of 1967 in exchange for the full normalization of relations. A subsequent meeting at the end of April stated that Israeli annexation would be “a war crime”.
UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba, who stood with Trump at the White House during the presentation of the “Peace Plan” in January, five months later wrote the first ever Hebrew language article by a UAE official in an Israeli newspaper, with a direct appeal to the Israelis with a soft warning that the current process of growing formal Israeli-Arab connections can be reversed.
Other elements among the pro-US Arab regimes, in an attempt to exploit mass solidarity sentiments against the oppression of the Palestinians and deflect rage from the ruling elites, may turn to stronger denunciations and possibly even return to using some anti-Israel nationalist rhetoric.
The Jordanian King Abdullah, while maintaining an unpopular peace agreement with Israel, in a country where the majority of the population is of Palestinian origin and against the backdrop of social unrest, has for a period presented a false image of having a more militant approach towards Israel. In January, the Jordanian parliament was forced to vote to cancel an agreement on the import of natural gas from Israel, following popular protests. Two historical Israeli agricultural enclaves in Jordan, previously defined as under lease, were terminated in recent months to return to full Jordanian control. Now, the king has warned that Jordan will retaliate harshly in response to an Israeli annexation and hasn’t denied this may eventually include suspension of the peace agreement. The Jordanian foreign minister Ayman a-Safadi underlined that “the annexation won’t pass without retaliation. Its implementation will blow up the conflict, [and] make the alliance between the two countries impossible”.
Trump’s boost to Israeli nationalist reaction
Trump’s rise to power almost four years ago coincided with the dominance of counter-revolutionary trends in the Middle East. This played a role in facilitating the previous Israeli coalition government, which was one of the most right-wing in Israel’s history. Trump’s administration has given a huge boost to the confidence of the ultra-Zionist supporters of the colonial settlements and of that wing of the Israeli ruling class which supports some form of a “Greater Israel” expansionist program. Settlement construction was accelerated. In 2017, the central committee of the ruling Likud party passed a resolution calling upon the government to “apply sovereignty” over the West Bank.
However, it was not long before Netanyahu’s corruption scandals and various aspects of the reactionary government policies fuelled political polarization in Israeli society, sparked counter-movements, and crystalized a capitalist opposition bloc composed of former generals and Netanyahu’s rivals from various backgrounds.
That broad anti-Netanyahu bloc focused on the issues of corruption and Netanyahu’s right-wing populist attacks on state institutions. However, for a large part of that bloc, this challenge to Netanyahu’s rule was about much more. It came after years of vocal opposition by former generals and top security apparatus officials who have spoken out against what they viewed as Netanyahu’s reckless, adventurist conduct on geostrategic and national issues. These elements also tend to regard Trump as an unreliable ally for the longer-term interests of the Israeli regime.
The Blue-White alliance became the largest electoral challenge to Netanyahu, but its failure to really appeal to parts of his base resulted, until the setting up of the new government, in an unprecedented political crisis, with no bloc capable of establishing a majority government after three parliament elections.
Netanyahu failed to gain a majority even in the recent March election. But throughout those election campaigns, he has sought to whip up nationalism, gloating about all the gifts he has secured from the Trump administration, including the recognition of Jerusalem as only Israel’s capital, the recognition of the annexation of the Golan Heights, and the promise to aid Israel to “apply sovereignty” in the West Bank. During the September 2019 election campaign, Naftali Bennet, leader of the religious settlerist “Rightward” party, commented “eight years ago I’ve said the same things and I was called a lunatic”. At that time, during the US Obama administration, Netanyahu himself was forced to pay some lip-service to the idea of a “Palestinian state” and, in 2009, implemented a brief partial settlements construction freeze. Then there was less of a tailwind to drive the annexation aspirations of the hard-core right-wing settlers.
The Blue-White bloc, a split in which, earlier this year, opened the way to the formation of the joint government with Netanyahu, not only contains pro-annexation figures, but has also toyed with the idea, that it could advocate support for annexation as long as the vague supposed condition of US and international agreement is met. Up till now it is not clear if the Blue-White leaders in government will act to obstruct any kind of annexation plan. The remnants of the Labor Party in government have voiced token opposition to annexation, but it is insignificant.
On June 9, a Supreme Court decision annulled Israel’s Settlements Regularization Law of 2017, that had legally sanctioned the expropriation of privately owned Palestinian land in the West Bank for Israeli settlements. As an example of the dynamic in the government coalition, while Blue-White figures called for the ruling to be adhered to, voices from Netanyahu’s bloc called to bypass it via legislation. But Blue-White’s support has collapsed in opinion polls and they have much more to fear from a new election than Netanyahu, who despite his corruption trial has managed to surge in the polls after successfully tearing his main parliamentary opposition to shreds.
Strategic dilemma of the Israeli ruling class
Although Israeli governments since 1967 have promoted, to a greater and greater extent, the colonial settlements as a form of crawling annexation, creating ethnic demographic facts on the ground, they have nevertheless all refrained from official annexation. The key reason for that has been the demographic balance. Unlike the former Apartheid regime in South Africa, Israeli capitalism is far less dependent on the working class of the oppressed nation, which, from a Zionist point of view, is, to one degree or another, ultimately a “demographic threat” to a Jewish majority based “Jewish state”. Zionism, including the Israeli state today, has always leaned on policies of “Judaization”, striving to guarantee control over a territory by engineering the national-ethnic demographic balance. Following the imperialist UN partition plan of 1947, this logic was most brutally applied in the Palestinian Nakba, the catastrophe, during the 1948 war, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians became refugees and hundreds of communities were wiped off the map.
More Palestinians became refugees in the 1967 war. Soon after that war, a debate about the future of the new occupied Palestinian territories began to develop in the government and the ruling class. While they considered the idea of a Palestinian state on any part of historic Palestine to be a potential threat, they were primarily concerned that annexation of the territory containing the mass of the Palestinian population would render the Israeli Jewish population a minority of citizens and ultimately lead to either a bi-national state — an end to the idea of a “Jewish state” and possibly a transition towards a Palestinian national state — or to an attempt to fortify an explicitly Apartheid-type state, which would lose legitimacy and be more unstable. The “threat” of a bi-national state still remains a key argument used today by those pro-capitalist Zionist forces opposed to the annexation plan.
This has always gained an echo among the Israeli Jewish masses, who fear the scenario in which they become a national minority, given not only the history of anti-Semitic oppression and the horrors of the Holocaust, but also contemporary anti-Semitic reaction internationally and the reactionary nationalist threats to expel, harm or destroy the Jewish population made by the Iranian Ayatollahs’ regime and some right-wing Islamist forces across the region. Not surprisingly, the idea of annexations in the West Bank remains polarizing.
The First Intifada in 1987, the mass uprising of the Palestinians, only underlined the unsustainability of the direct military occupation of the territories of ’67. The mass of the Palestinians managed to force the strongest military power in the region to sit at the negotiation table and brought a shift in consciousness among the Israeli Jewish masses towards supporting the idea of a Palestinian state in the occupied territories of ’67. Amongst the general Israeli population, support jumped from around 21% in 1987 to around 50% and more within a few years (INSS poll data). The imperialist-sponsored Oslo Accords “peace process” of the early 1990’s at first engendered high hopes amongst the masses on both sides of the national divide. But the concession of agreeing to the establishment of the Palestinian Authority enclaves was intended by the Israeli regime to continue the occupation by other means. There was never any intention to concede a Palestinian state, as explained by the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin himself a month before he was assassinated. The PA was meant to function ultimately as a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation regime.
Under the Oslo Accords, the settlements expanded, and the movements of Palestinians were more strictly controlled. The Israeli regime refused more substantial concessions and inevitably the process imploded with a new Palestinian uprising, the Second Intifada in 2000. Unfortunately, its mass phase soon gave way to the dominance of secretive militias and terrorist attacks against civilians, which have strengthened reactionary forces in Israeli society and served as a pretext for severe bloody repression in the occupied territories.
This was followed by a shift to “unilateral” strategy by the Israeli ruling class, which included the setting up of the Separation Wall in the West Bank and the implementation of the pull-out from the Gaza Strip in 2005, after the settlements enterprise there had completely failed to attract ordinary Israelis.
In the aftermath of the pull-out, Hamas won the Palestinian Authority elections by presenting itself as a less corrupt and allegedly more “militant” alternative to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority elite and its futile direct collaboration with Israel. Israeli and US governments were unwilling to accept that result, and responded with sanctions. Under those pressures, the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah culminated in 2007 in a split in the Palestinian Authority, with Hamas securing a separate ruling authority in Gaza. Hamas’ destructive methods, including its earlier suicide bombings and firing of indiscriminate projectiles against Israeli civilians were used by the Israeli regime to mobilize support for state-terrorist measures against the Palestinians, not least the siege on Gaza and barbaric military offensives which have killed thousands of Palestinians of all ages.
While the pull-out from Gaza gave way to a new form of an even worse hell for the Palestinians who lived there, in the West Bank it was used to further expand the Settlements enterprise. This has been a clear feature under the Netanyahu regime since he returned to power at the head of the Likud in 2009.
Death of the “two-state solution”?
De-facto, Israel has full direct control of about 60% of the West Bank, under “Area C”. Also, in the Palestinian Authority enclaves, where the majority of the Palestinian population is concentrated in impoverished ghettos in besieged towns and refugee camps, the Israeli military is regularly entering to conduct raids and patrols. But announcing the official annexation of even part of “Area C” amounts to declaring what may seem as an irreversible and decisive narrowing of the territory reserved for a Palestinian state. It would further escalate state and settlers’ attacks with the aim of uprooting the super-oppressed Palestinian minority in “Area C” and driving them into the PA enclaves. It would set in motion a process which could lead down the road to further effective annexations and even possibly a return of the direct military occupation in the PA enclaves.
From the standpoint of the Israeli ruling class, the immediate de-stabilizing knock-on effects of an annexation scenario will further drive the situation into a strategic dead-end, as far as long term control of the mass of the Palestinian population is concerned. It would also increase the possibility of a future change in the strategy of the Palestinian movement to adopt the former South-African demand for one-person-one-vote. The Israeli state, which for decades hasn’t conceded any form of Palestinian state even on a small part of historic Palestine, would resist such a scenario even more fiercely, depicting it as an existential threat and relying on the mobilization of support from the mass of the Israeli Jews. The mainstream of the Israeli ruling class would prefer not to reach this point, and instead employ a more flexible approach to concessions in its attempt to stabilize its overall control.
It goes without saying that the past two decades of atrocities during the Israeli occupation and Israeli-Palestinian conflict have stirred up grim pessimism among the masses on both sides of the divide about the potential to reach a solution — one which would meet the desire of Palestinians for national liberation, and the desire of the masses on both sides of the divide for an end to the bloody national conflict.
Support for the idea of a “two-state solution”, while still significant, has generally been in decline for a number of years among both Palestinians and Israelis, especially among the younger generation. An annexation move will almost surely re-assert this trend. For example, in a poll conducted back in February by PCPSR, 78% of Palestinian correspondents in West Bank and Gaza supported responding to Trump’s plan with “non-violent popular demonstrations”. At the same time, 81% in Gaza and 53% in the West Bank — 64% overall — were in favor of waging an armed struggle or armed uprising. The contradiction between support for “non-violent actions” and “armed struggle” is a long term trend, and generally both figures represent hopes for the rise of resistance in almost any form, and reflect the lack of clear political leadership, pointing to a more coherent strategy and program to overcome the occupation, national oppression and social misery.
Support for the concept of “two-state solution” in this poll was at its lowest level since the Oslo Accords, at 38.6%, with 59% opposing (40.6% “opposing”, 18.5% “strongly opposing”). 61% believed that this concept is no longer feasible due to the settlements. At the same time, 59% opposed the abandonment of a “two-state solution” and its replacement with a “one-state” position, with opposition to this in the West Bank at 66.6%. This is a consistent trend.
Among the Israeli population, particularly among the Jewish, there’s been a relative growth of opposition to the concept of “two-state solution” over the past decade, although the support for the concept has remained a relative majority so far, despite a drop from about 69% in 2012 to about 55% today (INSS poll data).
It’s one thing to correctly reject the sham imperialist “two-state” plans dictated to the Palestinians in the past, which never offered anything resembling genuine national liberation from oppression by the Israeli state. It’s another thing to attempt to replace that sham with the over-abstract concept of one bi-national state.
Millions of Palestinians aspire for national liberation and independence from Israel. It’s worth noting that over half a century since the occupation and annexation of Eastern Jerusalem to Israel, the poor Palestinian majority there continue to boycott municipal elections. While some have, for practical considerations, applied for full Israeli citizenship, which is not easy to get, in any case, this remains a marginal trend, as the majority reject what would be considered as “normalization” of their national subjugation and aspire to become citizens of a separate Palestinian state. In parallel, millions of Israeli Jews will fiercely resist and fight against the idea of an arrangement which, in their view, doesn’t include their national self-determination.
Once Palestinians in the occupied territories of ’67 move again in a mass struggle against the occupation, their aim will probably not be to integrate into the Israeli state but to push it away.
While the annexation is dangerous, and further settlements construction must be opposed, nevertheless, the idea that the settlements enterprise at this stage and any partial annexation will render a Palestinian state “unpractical” is a pessimist exaggeration. Among other things, the settlements population remains a relatively small minority in the West Bank and is concentrated mostly in a few “blocs”. The de-colonization of the colonial settlements could ultimately be implemented in various forms. Apart from overcoming and removing zealous colonialist elements and expropriating the settlements’ industrial zones, it is possible, for example, that an agreement could be reached allowing some of the settlements’ population, particularly working class families in larger communities, to choose to remain as a national minority with guaranteed rights in non-segregated communities under a Palestinian state. It’s also possible that some lands that are officially part of Israel today may be part of a future Palestinian state, as part of a political agreement.
All of the political issues at the heart of the national conflict could potentially be resolved in themselves on the basis of equality of national rights avoiding any new injustices. However, not only will the Israeli ruling class resist as much as possible any substantial concession to the Palestinians, not least on the most sensitive question of the refugees, but it is a complete misreading of the complexity of the situation to suggest that any political and legal arrangements in themselves would suffice to resolve the situation.
Without expropriating the ruling class which stands behind this regional military machine; without using resources democratically to end poverty, the massive material inequality between the two national groups and build an advanced infrastructure to guarantee a high living standard for all, then there is no path to genuinely resolve the conflict, which will continue in one form or another. A solution is only possible as part of a regional movement for the toppling of rotten oligarchies and agents of reaction, in a “socialist spring”. Only in such a context is it possible to lay the conditions for the withering away of national prejudice and schism.
In the current circumstances of conflict and deep divide, a program of two equal democratic socialist states, in a voluntary confederation, with two capitals in Jerusalem, points the way to address the current suspicions and allow the potential collaboration in struggle of workers and poor on both sides of the divide to effectively undermine and challenge the Israeli ruling class.
Derail the annexation
The effects of the still spreading pandemic and of the economic crisis currently hold back the development of more attention to the issue and the build-up of resistance on the ground to the annexation. This is added to by speculations about whether or not Netanyahu will actually carry through his threat. This may of course change in the coming weeks.
But already now, the most urgent task for socialists in the face of this threat is to mobilize workers and youth to exert maximum pressure to derail the plan and effectively block the Israeli government, with protest actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, in Israel, across the region and globally.
In the occupied territories, the daily danger of lethal repression should be met by advancing the establishment of democratic action and defense committees.
In Israel, joint protests of Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, should appeal to broader sections of the working class to warn against the repercussions and to call for a generalized struggle against the capitalist government and its anti-workers agenda.
Internationally, unions and the left should mobilize solidarity actions and protests in front of Israeli embassies and with demands for governments to take measures such as the immediate recognition of a Palestinian state, the recall of ambassadors from Israel and the declaration that Netanyahu is a persona non-grata, with the imposition of strict sanctions against the Israeli occupation and settlements. This should include the suspension and ban on any possible financial and military public and private aid and agreements that may be directly used to support the occupation and settlements.
Finally, capitalist and right-wing nationalist elements anywhere who intervene in the movement against the annexation from their own standpoint should not be confused as allies of the Palestinian masses or working people in the region. Anti-annexation actions should be linked to the task of advancing working class solutions and a socialist alternative in the face of the severe capitalist crisis unfolding.