While I’m writing this, the foreign policy of Israel towards the West Bank (WB so far) has just shifted from taking a first step towards the total annexation of the vast majority of the WB based on the so-called Trump peace plan to a total stop.
The main points were the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, de facto recognized by the U.S. and some other countries since 6 December 2017 and second point stating that Jewish settlements in the West Bank were consistent with international law.
Anyway, this article is not about Trump’s plan to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition to this, the one writing needs to express the following opinion: one of the best Israeli government, such as Rabin’s, wasn’t able to set an agreement between the two parties, I doubt that someone, who has half of the political weight and will of Rabin, such as Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu, are going to fix the situation for Israel in an effective and long lasting way. With Netanyahu, Israel is going to send its best youth to protect right wing settlers for years to come.
On the other side, Palestinians are almost irrelevant from a power standpoint, they don’t have any allies inside the muslim world (even the pan Ottoman Erdogan hasn’t done much for them), the same can be said about Egypt since they stopped helping Palestine after the Camp David treaty of the 1979. Not even a chance to look at Iran to find an ally (Shia country), since it has already a strong ally in the south of Lebanon called Hezbollah. The Gulf states are almost in the process of recognizing Israel, first the Emirates.
Palestinians have to cross their fingers and hopefully wait for a change in the head of the American government, which might probably not be enough anyway. Europe has too many inside issues to bother being an ally of the Palestinian people, even if some voices can sometimes be heard.
Violence as well doesn’t seem like an answer, looking at the imbalances of the two actors. If peace could be built, it has to start inside Israeli borders, especially in Tel Aviv and in the buildings of power.
But let’s go back to the point: why didn’t Israel play the game of annexation, even though they had all the right cards in hand? Because Israel is internally weak and because Covid-19 pandemic screwed every plan.
Regarding internal weakness, let’s look at the demographic component: 9 millions of inhabitants, 75% Jews while 20% are Arabs and a 5% defined of others such as non-Jewish, Christians and non-Muslim Arabs. The weakness has to be found in the 75% of Jews, of which: 12-16% are ultra-orthodox, 38-40 % religious while 40-42% are secular.
How are they distributed among the country? Tel Aviv is surely secular and closer to a European city as well as Haifa, while in all the other areas you find a mix substrate, especially in Jerusalem. Picture Italy being catholic or ultra-catholic and the other half totally secular, mostly gay friendly, lefty and hyper progressive.
But how could a country with such a strong Jewish component face internal clashes or worse, a civil war?
Twenty years of Bibi Netanyahu and Likud have split up the country in two parts, one on the right, nationalist, that has always existed, belonging to the real Shabra (Jews born in Israel) and of whom Netanyahu is part. His family roots are mixed with the Israeli recent history, from the death of his brother in the Entebbe, Uganda, during one of the most incredible special forces operations to his political career, started in the U.S. and continued on the balconies of Jerusalem where he incited during the time of Camp David against the peace talks (he has been recognized by many as the main catalysator of the climate of hatred that then lead to the assassination of Rabin).
Another aspect, in the latest military operation, such as the Gaza War in 2008-2009 the approach of the vast majority of the military apparatus has changed. Israeli sons do not want to die to protect the settlements as well as to patrol Gaza. Even if Israel has total control over the sea and the air, the land is still dangerous for many soldiers. More and more young people fled the country after the military service, to escape from the hard situation at home and young generations are more and more suffering for the current situation. The generation of Six days war and Yom Kippur is leaving the times to a more progressive one, especially in Tel Aviv.
On the other side, right wing people, settlers and ultra-orthodox, with strong ties with some ultra-catholic sects, especially in the U.S., are not inclined to leave what they have gained in these twenty years of Right leaning power. While the left, progressive and liberal soul of Israel is not represented by any party. See the terrible performance of Meeretz and the Labour Party. Benny Gantz as well is more similar to the experience of Macron in France than to a real party.
So the actual government in Israel consists of the well-known Netanyahu, involved in many corruption scandals that put him in the position of having the power at any cost in order to avoid facing justice as a lone citizen, and Benny Gantz, a military but not for sure a politician who is backed by part of the country.
So, now the picture may look clearer. In the last days of mid-September, Israel has seen a wave of protest that brought thousands of people sick of the state of uncertainty, democratic right for the entire population and the aggressive foreign policy, especially in the West Bank.
Like a storm, a new lockdown was issued, that has a completely different nature compared to the European countries, which are nowadays facing a so called “second wave”, that I prefer to refer to as “the stupid citizen way” since it could be easily avoided without parties and if people properly social distanced. Israel due to the high level of tech and surveillance apparatus, did not face a first wave, that came anyway. In the last week almost 4000 cases a day were recorded in a country of only 7 million people. The country was locked down as soon as riots hit the streets.
What’s next for Israel?
Much is going to be understood after the American elections in November that could favor Trump and Netanhayu, as well.
Would the enrolled soldiers grown up in Tel Aviv die for the West Bank, if the annexation plan were to happen? And what would be the social cost of it for Israeli unity, in a country where almost every citizen, except for the vast majority of ultra-orthodox (who have the opportunity to choose if enrol) has a military training?