Israel declares war permanent
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s Foreign Minister, has told Israelis that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is not going to be resolved. Citing the example of Cyprus, he has called on Israelis to stop seeking peace and make the best of his countries oppression of the Palestinians. In a sense, this isn’t anything new, but it would be easy to see this as merely an admission of hopelessness, rather than a calculated position for Israel to put itself in.
First of all, the BBC article is clear that this is because it is in Israel’s interests not to enter any negotiations that might cause it to cede control of Jerusalem. Israel may have withdrawn settlements from many places, but it is building new settlements with a reinvigorated and refocused program around the outskirts of East Jerusalem, the Palestinian residential quarter. If completed, the result would be entrapment for Palestinians still living in East Jerusalem and perhaps ultimately a complete exodus of Palestinians from the city.
But secondly, this has far wider implications for Israel’s future plans. A wartime economy and a peace time economy look very different, and that which can be justified under war cannot always be justified under peace. For example, this is why the war on terror needed to appear to have a UK front; otherwise the many anti-terror acts would not have been passed. Israel’s entire economy is focused around two things: military advantage and exploitation of the Palestinians. Without these two things its financial wellbeing couldn’t be maintained (we shall temporarily put aside the billions of dollars donated to prop the economy up).
Israel is the home of many of the world’s most important and technologically advanced research and development centres, including those for civilian purposes such as Nokia and Intel. But without the military demand for equipment, much of the civilian work around the edges of this milieu of development would simply fade. Israel would be left without even its civilian economic role in the world, and would be reduced, in the short term at least, to the economic level of its neighbours.
Finally, it would give Israel a lower profile in the world. Only because it is seen as important to world peace is Israel, a strip of land barely 100 miles long, of any consequence to world affairs. By removing itself from the top of the world’s list of most volatile states, it would cease to be of any interest at all. The antagonism in Israel’s current existence is one of its most tradable commodities, especially in diplomatic circles.
As such, peace is not in the favour of the Israeli state. Its control of its own people, its economics and diplomatic standing are almost entirely built on the conflict and so removing the conflict would end its position of power. As a peace studies graduate I would say there is currently no common basis on which to mediate a peace settlement, as there is little sign of any real common value or human need between the two sides, such is the difference in their experiences.
This is why peaceful coercive action, whether boycotts by individuals or national sanctions are required. This is also why it is so good that Israeli politicians no longer feel safe visiting the UK, for fear of arrest and trial for their involvement in past atrocities. Almost every supermarket in Britain is now discussing issues surrounding labelling of goods from Israel with campaigners, and the government still has a legal headache around the issue of “stolen goods”, food grown in occupied territories and sold in this country by Israeli companies. This pressure is what will be needed to convince Israel that it needs to negotiate a just settlement. It falls to civil society to make the pursuit of peace appear in Israel’s favour.