Tension between approaches and the failure of Israeli-Palestinian talks

Political report submitted to the Central Committee of the Da’am Workers Party

23 March 2014 

The global political arena is undergoing dangerous and dramatic changes. The conflict in the Ukraine and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex the Crimea further inflames tensions between the US and Russia, and is undoubtedly a surprising development in the relations between the two superpowers following a long period of cooperation in solving crises around the world, especially concerning the Iranian nuclear issue and chemical weapons in Syria. The former cooperation between the Obama administration and the Kremlin appeared to reflect a new framework for a new pattern of international relations. This followed the temporary agreement with Iran, which also isolated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But it seems Putin has decided to exchange international cooperation for the assertion of new facts regarding the status and influence of Russia in certain parts of the world, similar to the situation during the USSR period. Putin is attempting to fill the void left by Obama using his military might and energy resources. One of the arenas about which there is no agreement is Syria, where Putin maintains unreserved support for Assad, who is murdering his people, while the US refuses to accept Assad as partner in any future arrangement and calls for his removal.

But the events in the Ukraine are not happening by chance. They are the result of profound processes linked to Russia’s history following the collapse of the USSR, and the West’s role in the weakening and dismantling of the socialist bloc. The West’s behavior regarding Russia during Yeltsin’s leadership caused an enormous economic and human catastrophe due to the economic policies dictated by the US: the privatization of the public sector, the elimination of the USSR and the domination of US influence in the former soviet republics, and the inclusion of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to the NATO alliance contrary to American promises to Gorbachev that NATO would not be extended eastwards. All this is in addition to the Balkan war which dismantled Yugoslavia and stirred up animosity in Russia towards the West, and the fundamental change when Putin took over in 2000. Putin came to power after Russia had declared bankruptcy in 1998. The Yeltsin “family” and a very small number of capitalists took control in various ways of the State’s resources and the Russian economy, particularly in energy, metals and banking. For Putin, the dismembering of the USSR was an historic error which must be reversed.

Syria: the last straw

Obama’s entry to the White House marked a fundamental change in US foreign policy. Instead of exploiting its military strength to impose American hegemony around the world, and seeing Russia as an enemy, Washington began seeking cooperation with Russia for solving international conflicts, seeing Russia as a partner in the framework of the G8.

Obama decided to withdraw his plan to deploy 10 interceptor missiles and a radar on Polish soil, and worked to build trust with Putin. But Putin did not play along, and interpreted the new Washington policy as US weakness which could be exploited. Bush tried to reap the fruits of US Cold War victory by humiliating Russia and using military force to impose US dominance by occupying Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein. In contrast, following US defeat in Iraq, Obama seeks to reduce military spending and redirect resources to economic development and welfare. Putin meanwhile acts according to Bush’s logic, and hopes to take advantage of US defeat to restore the influence Russia enjoyed during the Cold War. While Europe worked to include Russia in the European market, Putin worked to build an alternative market with states in the East which were once part of the USSR known as the Eurasian Economic Community customs union. Just as Germany has become a central axis in the European Union, Russia hopes to become the central axis in a new “Eurasian Union.” Putin does all he can to provoke Obama, and his decision to offer asylum to Edward Snowden, who revealed the NSA’s global surveillance programs, was a slap in the face for the White House. However, the Americans were compelled to restrain themselves on this issue.

The Syrian revolution was a test for US-Russia relations, as there was direct conflict between the superpowers over Assad’s regime. While Russia supports Assad, supplies military aid and provides diplomatic patronage at the Security Council, Obama has called for Assad’s removal since the start of the conflict. Here too Putin sees Obama’s position as a sign of weakness. While US policy was marked by hesitancy, Russia and Iran provided strong support for Assad. Despite the West’s efforts

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The boycott: To what end?

Pro-Palestinian demonstration to boycott IsraelUntil 2008 the boycott against Israel, known also as the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), was a marginal phenomenon. It began on July 9, 2005 when 171 Palestinian NGOs called for a boycott at an economic and cultural level. Over time, the initiative spread beyond the Occupied Territories to the wider world. But the Palestinian Authority (PA), which maintains diplomatic, security and economic ties with Israel, refused to express support (and refuses until now). The world’s governments likewise withheld support. Here and there, a famous singer or actor cancelled a gig in Israel, and demonstrations were held abroad when Israelis performed there, but these did not have an impact on public opinion in Israel, or on its government, which regularly accused the boycotters of anti-Semitism.

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Equality for Israel’s Arab citizens? Don’t hold your breath!

benet in arab sector conference 29-10-13The Prime Minister’s Conference on Minorities, held on Oct. 29, 2013, was entitled “Growth in Partnership.” PM Binyamin Netanyahu and senior ministers took part, including the “brothers in arms” Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Economics Minister Naftali Bennett, as well as Education Minister Shay Piron and Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug. The speakers gave stirring speeches full of promises to boost the political and economic integration of Israel’s Arab citizens, and to dismantle barriers to enable the full business potential of the Arab sector to be used. Higher education was emphasized along with employment, real estate, and fields in which government incentives could encourage economic growth in the Arab sector.

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The Arab Spring and the Consciousness Revolution: Daam’s Ideological Seminar

DSC_9244 copyOver 60 activists, supporters and members of Daam—Jews, Arabs, and representatives from the occupied territories—participated in the 3rd annual Daam ideological seminar, which took place at St. Gabriel Hotel in Nazareth on the 5th and 6th of July. The military coup that took place at the same time in Egypt demonstrated the relevance of the seminar topic, as well as the gravity with which Daam regards the revolutions in the Arab world. In a region where the only voice that was heard belonged to military and police-backed dictatorships on the one hand, and political Islam on the other, there has been a new voice in the past two years—the voice of the people. This voice has joined others from outside the Arab world—Spain, Israel, US, Greece, Turkey and Brazil, all sharing a yearning for a new economic and civil order, as coined by Daam in its campaign slogan: Equal justice for all.

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Abu Mazen’s failed gamble

1530097-5On July 19, 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced the resumption of talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The announcement did not come from Jerusalem or Ramallah, but from the Jordanian capital Amman, which has become the US State Department’s front line in the region. In the present tour, Kerry did not meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, because it was clear to all that Netanyahu was not the one who must make the decision. The ball was in the court of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen); he’s the one being asked to accept Israel’s familiar terms – talks with no preconditions, or in other words, talks for the sake of talks, as has been the norm since the Oslo Accords were signed.

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Egypt has lost its way

BESTPIX Egyptian President Morsy Ousted In Military CoupThe Egyptian revolution of 2011 was a rare opportunity to drive the country towards the future by creating a democratic regime which would enable Egyptians to develop a political awareness. The Muslim Brotherhood is incapable of turning Egypt into a modern state, because its religious outlook directly opposes cultural and scientific freedom, while the oppression of women prevents Egypt from shaking off backwardness and social introversion. But this is no reason to support the generals and the military coup. The only way of contending with these issues is via democratic elections.

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The settlements: shrapnel in Israel’s backside

3940732411When Naftali Bennett compared the Palestinians to shrapnel in the backside of an IDF soldier, undoubtedly many public figures in Israel identifies with his allegory. Bennett, Israel’s newest political star and now Economy Minister, asserted it was better to leave the shrapnel where it is than risk paralysis in removing it. Having seen how the political issue was marginalized during the last elections, and how the social protest movement of 2011 embraced the settlers, it’s clear that Bennett isn’t the only one who believes it’s better to leave the shrapnel firmly lodged in Israel’s backside, which will lead to nothing worse than occasional discomfort. Indeed, Bennett has many partners both inside and outside the Knesset.

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