Monday, May 26, 2003

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Postwar pressure on Israel, redux

Great article in Ha'aretz describing the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments among Israel's ultra-conservatives after the Israeli cabinet's decision to accept the "steps" of the road map -- which means accepting the concept of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories. The key grafs:

Less than a month ago, analytical Israeli hawks, buoyed by President George W. Bush's Six Week War victory in Iraq, his sympathy for Israel's battle against terrorism, his neoconservative advisers, his pro-Israel power bases among fundamentalist Christians and Jews in key states, as well as the pressures of a coming election year, began to take confidence in the possibilty that the road map could be delayed into oblivion.

Nonetheless, for some on the right, the interminable process of putting off the road map seemed flawed, the idea that it would simply go away like its modest predecessors the Tenet and Mitchell plans, too good to be true.

This week, the boom fell.

Going farther than any previous government in formally endorsing the concept of Palestinian statehood , the cabinet Sunday gave a qualified but high-profile endorsement to the road map, which provides for an independent Palestine in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip by 2005.

Shellshocked hawks were at a loss to explain how Israel's most rightwing government had taken the most left-leaning bedrock policy decision in the history of the Jewish state.

Analysts said the vote, in which Sharon, the progenitor of the system of settlements and for decades Israel's best-known hawk, bordered on a revolution in Israel.

At the same time, "for the settlers and their supporters, the cabinet's acceptance of the road map is an earthquake," says Haaretz commentator Nadav Shragai. "When Yesha Council members say 'the road map is worse than Oslo,' they mean every word, without exaggeration."

This really should not have been a surprise -- it's a replay of Gulf War I. After the 1991 war, the Bush administration recognized the need to move forward on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and forced a Likud government into accepting the Madrid conference, which helped paved the way to Oslo.

One disturbing difference is the relative power of the settlers in the occupied territories -- they are simply a larger constituency now than before. Here's more from Ha'aretz:

Longtime Yesha Council official and former MK Elyakim Haetzni, a Hebron resident, blasted the cabinet vote an act of "national treason" and a "national catastrophe." It was a historic day "in the same sense that the Destruction of the Temple was historic," Haetzni said....

Asked about apparent majority backing for the road map, Haetzni shocked Israelis by telling state-owned radio:

"Yes, of course. And the Jews also willingly boarded those trains [to the Nazi concentration camps], believing everything that the Germans told them. The Jews are a people which is very dangerous to itself. It is a people that has brought Holocausts down on itself throughout the course of its history.

Haetzni, it developed, was only warming up. "It is a people that has extraordinary powers of construction, and extraordinary powers of destruction. It builds and destroys, and this is an intrinsic part of Sharon's personality - Sharon is the greatest builder that we have had, and the greatest destroyer. Today he is in a destruction phase."....

For some Israelis, Haetzni's strident anti-government tone, echoed by a range of far-right demonstrators and groups, posed dangers not only of a volatile, ugly split on the Israeli right, but of dangers to the society at large.

posted by Dan on 05.26.03 at 10:20 AM