From Challenge # 79 May-June 2003
Great Expectations on Israel's Left
AMERICA'S MARCH toward Iraq sent tremors, awakening the Left throughout the world. Millions of protestors poured into the streets, including many mainstream people who had never demonstrated before. The imperial arrogance of the White House caused widespread revulsion. Not so, however, in Israel! Not even on the Left.
As the US completed its conquest, the Israeli Left entered into feverish activity. In an article on Y-Net (April 23), Attila Somfalvi described this: "The main push toward the renewal of meetings with Palestinians came from four major events: the elections in Israel, whose results put the Left ... out of the picture; the presentation of the 'Road Map' [see p. 5 - Ed.]; the choice of Abu Mazen as the PA's Prime Minister; and the war with Iraq, in the wake of which, all believe, it will be the turn of Israel and the Palestinians to lie down on America's operating table. The essential glue, however, is the Road Map. It gives both sides the feeling that after two and a half years of paralysis, with the Oslo process buried beneath the ruins of the Muqata'a in Ramallah, a new procedure has appeared, one that can win support from both the Israeli and the Palestinian publics." Somfalvi bases his remarks on conversations with Yossi Beilin of Meretz, Yuli Tamir of the Labor Party, Mossi Raz of the "Coalition for Peace" and others.
True, there is no euphoria, as there was at the signing of the Oslo agreement. Once again, nonetheless, Israel's Left shows its short-sighted eagerness to hurl itself into any procedure, as long as America stands behind it. At this very hour, the US is setting up its unique brand of occupation in Iraq. The Bush Administration demonstrated zero credibility in going to war: "to find Saddam's weapons of mass destruction," it said, although these remain chimerically beyond its grasp. Now the Administration hands out monopolies to its cronies, presumably in order to rebuild what America itself destroyed in the last twelve years. The Iraqi looters seem small fry indeed, compared to this ultimate act of looting. With glee the Administration broadcasts its imperialistic and messianic pretensions. Yet none of this prevents Israel's Left, inside or outside the establishment, from trusting America to create a sustainable peace accord, one that will answer the needs of the Palestinians and put an end to the Occupation. They do not ask the obvious question: how can we trust the initiators of one Occupation to bring about the end of another?
As a condition for its involvement, the US insisted that Abu Mazen should be Prime Minister, requiring the agreement of Arafat and the Palestinian Legislative Council. That should arouse the hackles of every democrat. Not that such behavior on the part of America is new. It has always behaved this way with the rest of the world. In Israel too. Twice it manipulated the election of the Labor candidate as PM: first, in 1992, it threatened not to give loan guarantees if PM Yitzhak Shamir went on building settlements (Shamir refused to comply and was beaten); second, it helped Ehud Barak defeat Binyamin Netanyahu in 1999. This year, however, Bush took an active part in securing a second term for Ariel Sharon, while keeping the Labor candidate, Amram Mitzna, out in the cold. Bush advisers Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle (before his resignation) even rejected the Oslo Accords, saying Israel was giving up too much. Behind Bush stands a chorus of 50 million Christian fundamentalists, who will raise a cry of protest for every settlement Israel's government may ever attempt to dismantle. How then can the Left, any Left worthy of the name, take seriously a peace plan proceeding from the Pentagon?
Again we hear, as we did ten years ago, "The Road Map is problematic, true, but it's the only game in town." It's the only game, indeed, for those who prefer to look no farther.
They are right who say that the Middle East has changed. The Palestinian issue is no longer the crucial one for solving the problems of the Arab world. The issue today is broader: what will be the fate of American imperialism in the light of the conquest of Iraq? The question is no longer one of the Arabs in the face of Israel, rather of the Arabs in the face of America. Concerning the new imperialism, the Israeli Left remains silent, just as it did while the US invaded Iraq. The reason for the silence is becoming clear: in the face of power, hopes this "Left", the Palestinians will settle for what Israel is willing to give. n