by Gerry Foley / April 2006 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
Israeli general elections on March 28 coincided with the assumption of office of the new Hamas government in the Palestinian Authority. In both cases, the actual political shifts were small.
The most notable changes in the Israeli election were a record low poll and a smaller vote than expected for Kadima, the new party formed by Ariel Sharon to support his policy of limited unilateral withdrawal from some Palestinian territories. It got 29 seats in the 120-member Knesset, eight or nine less than expected. It will have to form a coalition of at least
61 members to form the government.
The Labor Party, on the other hand, got a higher vote than expected, getting 20 seats. The Sephardic religious party, Shas, got 12 votes, and the Russian immigrants party, Israel Beitenu, 11. A surprise gainer was a party claiming to represent pensioners, which got seven seats. The left Zionist party Meretz got five seats, for a gain of one.
In the wake of the election, Shas and Labor combined to present a common social package. According to Haaretz of March 30, the program included three major planks—old-age pensions for all, an increase in old-age pensions, and an increase in the minimum wage.
Shas is a reactionary, theocratic party but it represents Jews of Middle Eastern origin, who suffer from a higher rate of poverty and poverty-related problems than those of European origin.
In the initial voting, it appeared that Israel Beitenu had outpolled Likud, the major right-wing nationalist party and the former party of Ariel Sharon. But when the votes of the soldiers were counted, Likud had gained a seat and Beitenu lost one.
Thus, Likud remained the largest of the more chauvinist right-wing parties. It was nonetheless
decimated and humiliated. In particular, Benyamin Netanyahu, the most right-wing and aggressive of the major politicians in the country, was buried. Moreover, after the vote even Israel Beitenu indicated that it might support Kadima leader Ehud Olmert’s program of partial unilateral withdrawal from some Palestinian territories.
Thus, it seemed that Olmert, Sharon’s successor as premier, will be able to form a coalition government capable of carrying out the sort of withdrawal from the West Bank that Sharon advocated. However, his government will be under increased pressure to reverse some of the social welfare cuts made by the Likud government and with which Netanyahu was identified.
Israel has been showing more and more strains from the cost and economic disruption caused by the unending war with the Palestinians, as well as the general fading of the “socialist” pretensions of the Zionist state. In the March 29 issue of the British Guardian,
Israeli liberal and novelist Amos Oz commented: “Until 20 to 30 years ago, Israel was one of the most egalitarian societies in the democratic world; now it has one of the widest gaps between rich and poor.” Obviously, if you sup with the big imperialists, you end up having the same table manners. The Zionist state in reality is a client of U.S. imperialism, and its economic policy is largely dictated by the United States.
The extraordinary low vote, 63.2 percent, the lowest vote in Israel’s history, pointed to a continuing demoralization of the Israeli Jewish population, due to fading hopes both for an end to the war with the Palestinians and for any solution to the country’s social problems.
The installation of the Hamas government provided the pretext for the big imperialist powers to step up their pressures on the Palestinian movement. The U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the UN (the so-called Quartet) warned the Palestinian Authority that they would cut off aid if the Hamas government did not recognize Israel and renounce “violence.” Actually, Hamas leaders have offered long-term, indefinite coexistence with Israel and de facto recognition of the Zionist state if Israel will retreat from the territories it occupied in the 1967
war and permit the formation of a sovereign Palestinian state.
There is little practical difference between the position of Hamas and the position of Fatah, which previously controlled the Palestinian Authority. The difference is mainly in words.
U.S. and Israeli spokespersons denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization and point to the suicide attacks it has sponsored against Israel. But organizations connected to Fatah also carried out guerrilla attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings. And at present, it seems that groups connected to Fatah are more active in attempting attacks on Israel targets than Hamas, since Fatah, rebuffed at the polls, needs to revive its fighting image.
The first suicide bombing to kill Israelis in the recent period, the killing of an elderly couple and two young persons who picked up a suicide bomber dressed as an Orthodox Jew near the West Bank Zionist settlement of Kedumim on March 30, was claimed by organizations linked to Fatah.
The reality is that no Palestinian organization can renounce the struggle against Israel or accept as justified and immutable the Zionist dispossession of the Palestinian people. The only objective of the demand of the Zionists and the big imperialist powers that Hamas give up its denunciation of Zionism as illegitimate, therefore, is to humiliate the Palestinian movement as a whole, to demoralize the Palestinian people.
Sharon’s decision to remove the Zionist colonies from the Gaza Strip and from some areas on the West Bank was really only a recognition that the cost to the Israeli state of protecting them was far beyond the value of the land they occupied. It represents a consolidation of the Zionist entity, not a retreat. And while the Palestinian people welcome any concessions, they are not satisfied by them, especially after the experience of having gained nothing from the so-called peace accords the Palestinian Liberation Organization accepted in Oslo a decade ago.
The only thing that could open the way for a real peace between the Jewish settler community and the Palestinians is a recognition by the leaders of the Jewish community of the wrongs done to the Palestinians and the acceptance of the need to redress them. That is the first step to preparing the way for Jews and Palestinians to live together in peace on the
small territory of Palestine.
The demand by Israel and its imperialist big brothers that Hamas “recognize Israel” and “renounce violence” without any serious moves by Israel toward removing the grievances of the Palestinians is exactly the opposite of what is needed. It is really just another act of aggression against the Palestinian people, another club.