Thousands Demonstrate in Tel Aviv against Racist Loyalty Oath
Could the Netanyahu Government Fall over New Settlements?

Several thousand Jews and Arabs marched in Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest the loyalty oath recently approved by the Israeli cabinet, which would force new candidates for Israeli citizenship to affirm their commitment to a “Jewish and Democratic” state. The measure was pushed by Avigdor Lieberman, the far, far rightwing leader of Yisrael Beitenu, the party of relatively recent immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union. The oath is considered racist by most Palestinian-Israelis and by many on the Israeli left.

For a view that the Netanyahu government that passed the measure is profoundly anti-democratic, see Gershon Gorenberg in The American Prospect.

In other news, the Israeli government’s announcement that it will build 240 housing units for Israeli immigrants into Palestinian territory around Jerusalem threatens to kill the fragile peace talks begun only last month. The Palestine Liberation Organization is adamant that it will not negotiate with Israel unless the settlement freeze is continued. This stance is shared not only by Fatah, the leading faction in the 7-group coalition but also by the others.

Israel invaded the Palestinian West Bank in 1967 and militarily occupied it, then illegally annexed some of it to an artificially created ‘Jerusalem district’ and then illegally flooded into the rest of it Israeli squatters. The United Nations Charter forbids the acquisition of territory by force. The 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of people in militarily occupied territories forbids the transfer of citizens from the metropole into the conquered land. Indeed, the 1907 Hague Convention on occupation forbids the occupier to substantially alter the lifeways of the occupied. Israel has thumbed its nose at international law and has stolen immense swathes of Palestinian territory in the greatest land theft of the last 3 decades.

The Israeli announcement of new building in the region around East Jerusalem provoked Palestinian demonstrations on Friday. Euronews has raw video:

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently offered to attempt to convince his cabinet to continue the settlement freeze negotiated last year by US special envoy George Mitchell if Fatah would recognize Israel as a “Jewish state.”

Palestinian official Abed Rabbo offered to consider recognizing Israel if the Israeli authorities would only present the Palestinians with a map of what they were recognizing. Israeli officials going back to David Ben Gurion in 1948 have consistently refused to specify their country’s borders and have frequently attempted to expand them through warfare and annexing the land of neighbors. The Israelis proffered no map.

Here is where Friday’s demonstration in Jerusalem and Saturday’s in Tel Aviv might dovetail. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition partner, the Labor Party, is deeply unhappy with the announcement of the new construction, and says it wants to continue the peace talks. There is speculation that the Netanyahu government could fall over the issue.

The fall of the government would be the best thing that could happen, especially if a core Labor-Likud-Kadima coalition could be forged. Kadima favors a two-state solution and its leader, Tzippi Livni, has pronounced herself willing to take on the settlers in the Palestinian West Bank. Such a coalition might be able to drop the embarrassing far rightwing Yisrael Beitenu party and its highly corrupt and bigotted leader, Lieberman, currently making Israel a laughingstock by serving as foreign minister.

I am aware that Kadima and Labor are paternalistic toward the Palestinians and won’t want to give them a state with full sovereignty. But they at least would be willing to take steps in that direction, whereas the current government is dominated by parties that reject the 2 state solution out of hand.

The Tel Aviv demonstration is a further evidence of the revival of the Israeli peace movement, which Hamas suicide bombings had killed in the early years of the new century.

7 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    Among all the smoke, mirrors, heat and dust of the British Defence review that apparently leaves the UK with air superiorty over the Taleban, (though the jets can’t be deployed in Aghansatan becasue it is too dustry) and will build aircraft carriers that might not have aircraft, Professor Hew Strachan writes an insightful article.

    link to

    It is interesting to note his reference to the possibility of war in the Middle East.

    If the worst case Middle Eastern scenario were played out, what would Britain’s position be? The answer would probably depend on the United States. Britain is America’s junior partner, as the Prime Minister reminded us, and the United States would almost certainly be involved in such a war. And that is not the only possible major war exercising the Pentagon. The US’s fixation with the rise of China is almost obsessive, and is frequently couched in terms which carry pre-1914 resonances. Can one power rise and the other decline without each fighting the other as they pass?

    It is hard to imagine going to war against friends and trading partners in support of an outlaw state that ignores international law and UNSC Resolutions and engages in piracy and murder on the high seas.

    The sooner the Netanyahu government falls and hard truths are stated to the squatters in East Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories the better.

    • One of the interesting things to be announced is the decline of the Briths Army to five brigades by 2020.

      link to

      Five brigades is a division and a half.

      They will have to arm traffic wardens to do ceremonial duties at the Royal Palaces.

  2. As always a good post.

    While I agree that Kadima-Labor-Likud would make a better coalition, there are a lot of problems towards making it happen.

    Via: Oxford Analytica, via Friday Lunch Club
    link to

    Although consistently courted to join the government, Livni has resisted these pressures, primarily because she fears that Netanyahu would simply use Kadima’s involvement as evidence of a peace agenda, even if his actual policies do not promote this. She also knows that no Israeli leader has ever defeated a sitting prime minister after serving in that prime minister’s cabinet. While Mofaz and others support joining the government, Livni is adamantly against this.

    Livni presides over a party that consists of several former Likud politicians and is repeatedly batting off leadership challenges from Mofaz. Very likely Kadima would lose a lot of members in an alliance with Likud. Also since the Labor Party are now down to the fourth largest party many former Labor supporters sided with Kadima. If they were to all form an alliance Kadima would also run the risk of losing supporters as they go back to Labor.

    Any alliance between Likud-Kadima, in short, runs the risk of destroying Kadima in both popular support and also through Netanyahu stealing back elected officials. It would also place Livini’s leadership in danger from Mofaz.

    All of this would be compounded by the fact that Avigdor Lieberman would then get his wish as being the only leader that defended the settlers. Leaving Netanyahu vulnerable from his right in the next election.

    At the end of the day this is all a sign of how little Israeli voters care about peace. The choice seems to be between a right wing government and a far right wing government.

  3. One can hope for political change within Israel. In the meantime, this small country in the Middle East represents extremely heavy baggage and great danger for the United States. The anti-social and unlawful behavior of Israel is out of control and in the open for everyone to see. So is America’s unflagging support of it, without regard to the unending violations of human rights and international law.

    Let’s face it, Israel cannot survive without the support of the United States, a reality that gives America all the leverage needed to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian statehood issue. Unless we are willing to apply that leverage, however, Israel’s crimes will almost certainly continue and America will continue having to deal with collateral damage and unintended consequences.

  4. I like Dr. Cole’s use of the term “squatter.” It’s more accurate than “settler” and has a negative connotation here, which is also more accurate. In the US, “settler” suggests the Brave Pioneers Who Tamed The West – a perception that isn’t yet sufficiently tainted by the American settlers’ genocidal assault on the indigenes. “Settler” is still a good “brand” here.

    Controlling the language can be a critical factor in controlling how people think. Have you heard many people call themselves “liberal” lately?

    I’m switching to “squatter” to describe the Israeli folks who move into the occupied Palestinian territories, and thanks for the improved terminology!

  5. A more accurate description of the settlers would be war criminals, as defined by the 1998 ICC Rome statute now incorporated into many states Laws for instance the UK ICC act 2001 states at article 8 “war crimes means” v111 The transfer directly or indirectly, by the occupying power of its own population into the territory it occupies, or the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory;

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