Prospects for change with the demise of Netanyahu and criticism of Abu Mazen

Political Report to the Central Committee

The Central Committee’s current gathering is being held under special political circumstances. Netanyahu’s fall comes after a 12-year rule. The government that replaces Netanyahu consists of eight parties that range from the deep right, center, the Zionist left as well as the Islamic Party, all of which sit around the same table. What was agreed by all partners was that in order to hold power, they must refrain from engaging with explosive ideological and political questions, such as the Palestinian question, the separation of religion and state, attitudes towards the judiciary and the High Court, the Jewish Nation-State Law, and the contradiction between the Jewish and democratic character of the state. The avoidance of discussion on these fundamental questions, which remained unresolved between Netanyahu’s bloc and the opposing bloc of the center and left, and Lapid’s agreement to relinquish the position of prime minister in favor of Naftali Bennett, indicate a blurring of the fundamental principles that hitherto separated the conservative right from Israel’s liberal wing.

The prevailing excuse among supporters of the new government is that the compromises reached were an outgrowth of the need to overthrow Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc, which threatened to plunge Israel into the abyss, so this new creature should be treated more as a transitional and not a homogeneous government. Let us examine the long-term strategic tasks given up by the leaders of the center-left parties: resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, tackling the climate crisis, eliminating the social gaps between the majority of citizens and the thriving minority in the high-tech industry; resolving the transportation crisis (and transportation on Saturday); and repairing the mechanisms of education, health, nursing and social care. While Netanyahu clings to the neo-liberal approach adopted in the United States in the early 1980s and spread around the world for 40 years, an approach that advocates drying up the public sector, this government unites two completely different wings. A conservative wing that identifies the strong and directive state as the source of the problem, and the left wing that sees the state as the source for resolving the gaping social abyss.  

The global health crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic, and the climate crisis that is causing global warming and natural disasters, have exposed the globalism of the world in which we live. Coronavirus does not distinguish between an American from New York and an Indian from Bangalore, an Israeli from Tel Aviv and a Palestinian from Ramallah. Nor does global warming separate continents from each other. All of these have reinforced new paradigms that place at the center of humanity’s attention the promotion of human welfare, elimination of poverty and the transition to renewable energy that heralds the fourth industrial revolution. The profound political change that took place in the United States following the victory of Joe Biden placed the Green New Deal program on the world agenda. However, the Biden administration went further and stated that not only is the planet in existential danger, but the democratic regime itself. If 1% of society enjoys resources equal to those enjoyed by the remaining 99%, the democratic regime that caused this problem loses its credibility.

It appears that the new Bennett-Lapid government has adopted a more balanced policy in many areas. This includes an internal policy that does not accept Netanyahu’s approach to the “deep state” in relation to institutions of the rule of law such as the High Court, the police, the General Security Service and the media; its position toward the American political arena, where it aspires to work with both the Democratic and Republican parties in Congress instead of being biased toward the Trump faction and the racist groups that support it; a more flexible stance toward the nuclear agreement with Iran and a less combative one vis-a-vis the US; a more positive position toward the Palestinian Authority at the expense of Hamas, unlike Netanyahu; a different attitude toward the Arabs in Israel and the Arab parties; and less of an inclination to surrender to the ultra-Orthodox parties, which were an essential backbone of the Likud bloc.

At the same time, when it comes to fundamental problems, such as the Palestinian problem, Netanyahu’s legacy continues to dominate, as maintaining the status quo has become the internal glue binding the new government. All parties and political currents in Israel, right and left, including Arabs and even the Greens, ignore the Palestinian problem that has become a so-called unsolvable question. Bennett declares this publicly, and the rest of the parties adopt this approach unequivocally. Moreover, there is no party in Israel that promotes the basic principles adopted by US President Biden: Not regarding democracy and human rights; dictatorial regimes that threaten the democratic regime; economic change that seeks to weaken huge monopolies like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple; taxes on multinational corporations; the construction and re-establishment of the welfare state, strengthening the working class and trade unions; and not in the fight against global warming.

The Unresolved Palestinian problem

The prevailing propaganda in Israel is that there is no solution to the Palestinian problem, when the presupposition that dominates is a zero-sum game – any achievement of the Palestinians is considered a loss for Israelis. Despite the security coordination with the Palestinian Authority and the Oslo Accords, principles of which are implemented to this day, the Palestinian people are still considered Israel’s enemy. From the moment the agreement between Israel and the PLO was signed in 1993, it became clear that Israel never intended to build a sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. Following the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the split between Hamas and Fatah (2006-2007), and on the other hand the expansion of settlements and an increase in the number of settlers to over half a million Israelis, the establishment of a separate independent Palestinian state alongside Israel became untenable.

Trump’s four year rule that was completely biased toward Israel, and the “Deal of the Century” registered as his trademark, critically harmed the Palestinians. Trump went so far as to say that, unlike all previous American governments, he did not oppose annexation of Area C to Israel. Moreover, the agreements between Israel, the Emirates and Bahrain, followed by Sudan and Morocco, were a direct result of Trump’s policies. These agreements gave impetus to Netanyahu’s claim that the Palestinian problem is not the heart of the struggle with the Arab world, and that the formula of “land for peace” is no longer relevant. In a nutshell, all the Zionist parties, including the left-wing parties, supported these “Abraham Accords,” which weakened the bargaining power of the Palestinians. During the four election campaigns that came one after another, these parties did not raise the Palestinian question as an electoral issue at all.  

Biden’s victory over Trump upended the situation. Now that Netanyahu has been left without a patron in the White House, his opponents were given the go-ahead to overthrow him. On the other hand, the qualitative change in US policy pushed Abu Mazen to initiate a political move to get out of the complete political isolation imposed on him by Trump’s position and the agreements between Israel and the Arab states. The first step required of him to restore the status of a legitimate representative in the equation, and to frustrate the position of Israel refusing to work with him on the grounds that he does not represent the entire Palestinian people, was to come to terms with Hamas, restore territorial unity between the West Bank and Gaza, and to form a new government chosen in clean, transparent elections open to all Palestinian political currents.

Yet Abu Mazen failed to achieve this basic goal, without which the Palestinian Authority has no credibility or place. After Fatah split into three heads, it became clear to Abu Mazen that these elections he called for were threatening his rule, and playing into the hands of Hamas. For its part, Hamas maintained its unity and hoped to take over the PA democratically in order to break the blockade on Gaza, and become the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. Among Palestinian public opinion, the cancellation of the election appeared to be met with indifference. This was not so within the Hamas ranks. This move thwarted the organization’s plan to seize power democratically, while allowing Israel to continue its iron fist siege of Gaza. Hamas’ response was direct and simple. If Abu Mazen does not want to transfer power in a democratic way, Hamas will occupy the political arena by beginning a limited confrontation with Israel, in order to expose its weakness and helplessness. For this purpose, the old slogan “Al Aqsa is in danger” was recruited.

However, during the 11 days of conflict, tagged by Israel as Guardian of the Walls, violence also spilled over into Israel in the form of clashes between Jews and Arabs inside Israel.  Hamas’ popularity rose and Abu Mazen lost the remainder of his popular support. Yet Hamas did not emerge victorious from the conflict, as it boasts. Gaza suffered enormous damage: 260 killed, about a third of them children, collapsed residential buildings and towers, 70,000 residents made homeless. On the other hand, Israel, despite its military might, a huge technological advantage and the Iron Dome, did not defeat Hamas. As has become clear since Hamas carried out the coup against the Palestinian Authority and took control of Gaza, Hamas cannot be defeated because there is no alternative to replace it. In addition, there is no international, Arab, or Palestinian body interested in running Gaza. Due to the Israeli closure and Hamas rule, Gaza has become a battered area, undergoing a humanitarian catastrophe that cannot be addressed under current conditions.

It also became clear that the destruction caused by Israel in Gaza does not punish Hamas, but adds to the suffering of the residents and causes an increase in despair, hostility to Israel and the desire to remove the inhuman closure in any way possible. Israel paid a heavy political price after the American leadership demanded an immediately cease fire, and received sharp criticism from the American and world press. Israel’s attitude toward the Palestinians, its continued occupation and apartheid policy, represented in surrender to the settlers, eviction of residents from their homes in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, the ongoing closure in Gaza and the human catastrophe it causes, have removed all masks behind which Israel has hidden for too many years. For example, the claim that the Palestinians are unwilling to recognize Israel, or the terrorist nature of Hamas, and other claims that aim to continue the status quo. Global public opinion does not accept Israel’s policy and its attempt to make the Palestinians disappear and turn them into a “shrapnel in the backside” with which life can go on (a phrase dubbed by Bennet back in 2013 minimizing the importance of the Palestinians to no more than a “shrapnel in the backside”).

Gaza, on the other hand, has only two options: either to continue the current situation, that is, to retain Hamas rule, to repeat periodic military attacks, and to deepen the destruction and humanitarian catastrophe, or to end the closure by meeting Israel’s demands and take full responsibility for Gaza and its residents. The current state of affairs does not indicate a desire on the part of Hamas to reach a long-term settlement that will allow it to abandon its weapons and rehabilitate Gaza. Like Hezbollah, which is destroying Lebanon, Hamas is proving to be a failed, corrupt and dictatorial organization, clinging to mukawama (resistance) to justify its absolute control. On the other hand, anyone who demands that Abbas be preferred in order for him to take on Gaza’s fate is deceiving themselves, because of Abbas’ weakness and inability to deal with Hamas. It follows, therefore, that the two existing movements, Fatah and Hamas, are not entities capable of managing the Palestinian people’s crisis.

On the other hand, there is no party in Israel calling for the return of Gaza to Israeli rule. Israel is facing a Gordian knot. In fact, it controls every detail, small or large, in Gaza. Israel issues ID cards to residents, the currency in Gaza is the shekel, imports and exports are under Israeli supervision, it controls all entrances to Gaza, including air and sea, and even the suitcases full of dollars from Qatar pass through it. Gaza is under Israeli sovereignty without Israel taking any responsibility for its residents, who have become a tool in the hands of Hamas and Israel. This arrangement between Israel and Hamas cannot continue for long, but there is no Israeli political force that is prepared or capable of reaching a solution.

Palestinian protest without program and without leadership

Together with the difficult war between Hamas and Israel, we saw mass demonstrations in Arab communities within Israel, in East Jerusalem, in the West Bank, as well as in European and American cities. The picture that emerged was of a renewed Palestinian unity that managed to bring the forgotten Palestinian issue back to global consciousness. The new and alarming phenomenon that preoccupied the Israeli authorities, was the involvement of Arabs in Israel in demonstrations, and especially the acts of violence and assault on Jewish property and homes in mixed cities such as Jaffa, Lod, Haifa and Acre. At the same time, extremist Jewish organizations, such as Lehava (a small movement inspired by the late racist Meir Kahana) , La Familia (right wing football fans of Beitar)  and others, incited and attacked Arab residents, causing harm to innocent people on both sides.

The slogans adopted by Arab demonstrators were usually divided on the basis of their ideological affiliation. The religious adopted the call “Al-Aqsa is in Danger” and the secular “save the residents of Sheikh Jarrah.” But the outburst of the masses on the streets came from a number of reasons, chief among them a sense of despair, frustration and anger at the government and also against the Arab leadership, including Arab Knesset members. The demonstrators’  violence directed against Jewish residents and government symbols is the same violence that is directed daily at the Arab society and against the Arab residents themselves, making life in the Arab localities unbearable.

In the background also stand uninterrupted years of armed criminal violence in Arab villages and cities.  The Arab leadership insists on blaming the police, claiming that the source of violence in Arab society is the failure of police to restrain the mafia families. It is quite clear, however, that this phenomenon is not reduced to organized crime, but is a widespread culture of violence perpetrated within the family, between neighbors, in schools, on the street, at weddings and in conflicts between clans.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that violence in Arab society has also become a legitimate instrument for imposing religious conventions, and is also used against anyone who violates the strict dictates of tradition. Women who do not abide by the required dress code, artists who demand freedom of expression and exceed the limits permitted by religious tradition, the LGBTQ community, and anyone who wants to hold a show or sports competition featuring women. This violence does not end here. It is fed by a large social stratum, which includes 40% of Arab youth who are not integrated into any framework, do not study and do not work. These young people have lost all hope in the future, and turn to violence to express frustration and anger against the society that has turned its back on them.

Violence is also related to the clan nature of Arab society and its conservatism. This puts obstacles in front of any democratic process in the local authorities. Arab society suffers from a lack of leadership in its institutions. Local authorities cannot deal objectively with society’s deep problems because the key to selecting staff is not their professional suitability but rather their affiliation to the “right” clan. This is what inevitably leads to corruption and a lack of transparency, resulting in a loss of Arab residents’ trust in these authorities.

Moreover, cooperation of the Arab parties with families and clans generates distrust between the citizen and the parties, resulting in a subsequent decrease in trust in the entire democratic process and a drop in turnout in recent elections to below 50%. Government plans, such as Resolution 922, which allocated NIS 15 billion to the Arab society over 5 years, were of no avail because Arab local authorities lack the ability and skills to utilize the sums efficiently and correctly. In fact, as of June 2021, although 90% of the sum has been allocated only 62% was utilized because of the need to be transparent in spending (proper invoices, plans, etc.).

If we add to these phenomena the attitude of the Israeli government, and especially Netanyahu’s attitude towards the Arabs during his 12 years of rule, we have all the elements that concocted a violent explosion. On the one hand, Netanyahu’s administration authorized  NIS 15 billion for the needs of Arab society, on the other hand, he waged a campaign of wild incitement against the Arabs, with the aim of destroying the legitimacy of the Arab voice and the Arab parties as partners in a future parliamentary coalition that could overthrow him.

The purpose of the incitement was political, to prevent the center and left parties from joining with the Arab parties. On the other hand, it served as fuel for Netanyahu’s electoral base by transforming his opponents into traitors to Zionism simply because they cooperated with Arab parties. When Netanyahu decided to change tactics and turn himself to the Islamic Movement to gain a majority in the Knesset, he was apparently too late. His courting after Abbas Mansour, the leader of the Islamic movement  did not alleviate the rage that had accumulated on the Arab street against him, and did not prevent the mass demonstrations that surprised all security forces. The wave of demonstrations ended without any real result while the authorities began a large-scale wave of arrests, which included hundreds and possibly thousands of youths participating in the demonstrations and acts of violence. For now, life is back on track, and what is expected is a return of wild use of arms and, murders and violence within Arab society, leaving tens of thousands of young people idle without a solution and without change, until the next outbreak.

A comparison between the wave of demonstrations by young people in Palestine and comparison to the Black Lives Matter movement, is misleading.  In the United States, this movement has a clear political agenda and a thoughtful leadership operating within the Democratic Party. This leadership mobilized its supporters to secure the victory of Joe Biden in order to remove President Trump from power. In contrast to the Palestinian protest movement, the black movement sets out a clear and determined program that calls for working together with whites to fight for democratic values for all US residents and not just for blacks. On the other hand, the Palestinian movement, which raises the slogan “Free Palestine” without any realistic political agenda to achieve this goal, speaks on behalf of the Palestinians without any attempt or desire to recruit democratic elements from within Israeli society. This is a serious error. It therefore lacks the foundations necessary for the continuity and formation of an alternative leadership to the failed leaders who currently stand both in the Palestinian Authority and at the head of Arab parties and authorities.

DA’AM, Biden and the Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal

Biden’s victory over Trump in the US presidential elections is a watershed in human history, and becomes the basis for a political course of action that changes accepted conventions and concepts in numerous areas: attitudes to the approaching climate disaster, racism, human rights, LGBTQ rights, social justice, the capitalist economy, international relations, democracy versus autocracy and a critical look at the past, especially slavery.

This kind of mental calculation is warranted by the depth of the crisis that American society has reached, and with it many countries around the world that have chosen leaders with populist tendencies, prone to fascism, such as Trump, Erdogan, Urban, Putin and even Netanyahu. These leaders endanger the democratic regime, bringing us back to Europe’s situation during the years in which Nazism developed. In the face of these, the American people had no choice but to pose the poignant question, “Where did we go wrong?” It turned out that the root of the problem was the neo-liberal capitalist regime, which pushed a very broad stratum of the middle class to the margins, depriving them of the basic conditions for a stable life. Much of that class translated this disappointment into support for Trump.

It is our duty as Da’am to understand the nature of the change and the reasons for it. It can be said we successfully met this task. We watched Biden’s victory over Trump. The October 2020 Central Committee report described the tremendous popular movement that occupied the streets of American cities from east to west, headed by movements of blacks, young people, and women. Biden’s victory by a margin of 7 million votes expressed the power of this movement, which united around Biden’s leadership with one clear goal: to overthrow Trump and save the democratic regime. This goal was set by Biden not only with respect to the United States, but on a global scale. He therefore presented to the world the choice between two inescapable possibilities – democracy or autocracy, with the United States and democracies, or with Russia, China and their allies in the world.

The question before us is what is the significance of this historic transformation in the United States for us in Israel and Palestine? How do we translate these principles into the political reality in which we live? For us, adoption of the slogan “Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal ”  is a continuation of the position of the left-wing progressive forces in the United States, which have great influence within the Democratic Party.

As for the Israeli left-wing parties, they sacrificed their principles in favor of forming an alliance with the extreme right, claiming that this is the order of the day to replace Netanyahu. We are currently predicting how Meretz may vote in favor of the law to prevent reunification of Palestinian families, the same law against which Meretz filed a petition with the High Court, defining it as a racist law covered by false security pretenses.

The green movements, which raise the banner of environmental protection and call for a “Green New Deal” in Israel, also draw a clear line between their struggle for the environment, the preservation of the climate in Israel and the Palestinian question. They ignore the occupation and the apartheid regime that Israel is imposing on the West Bank and Gaza, arguing that linking the fight against the climate crisis to the fight for human rights, and against the occupation may narrow their ranks . For them, the occupation is a controversial issue in Israeli society, while it is possible to reach broad agreement and even a consensus on the climate issue. As long as this is its position, the Green Movement in Israel cannot be part of the global green movement for saving the planet, which places the idea of environmental justice and the duty to protect and safeguard the interests of oppressed peoples as a central plank in its struggle. The adherence of the Israeli movements to Zionist ideology and their refusal to change their way of thinking and acting only strengthened the extreme right and enabled it to take over the public space. These environmental movements thus become the tail in the current government, while neutralizing themselves from any real influence and action toward solving the Palestinian problem and achieving peace.

Al-Hirak al-Fhalastini, which calls for the “liberation of Palestine” from the Mediterranean Sea  to the Jordan River and has adopted the slogan “Palestinian lives matter,” isolates itself by adopting an outdated nationalist agenda that has no proximity to the Black Lives Matter movement other than the name. Blacks in the United States are also an oppressed ethnic group like the Palestinians, but representatives of the black movement speak on behalf of the entire American people, in all its ethnic, religious and national components.  Al-Hirak al-Fhalastini refrains from any representation or reference to Israeli society, sometimes distinguishes between a Jew and non-Jew, and is willing to cooperate with extremist religious elements such as Hamas, who deny democracy and secularism. This narrow national focus neutralizes al-Hirak from any real political influence, and ultimately plays into the hands of Hamas, as we saw in the last war. Hamas, for its part, cynically uses al-Hirak, most of which is based on secular activists, to slam Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, thus strengthening its cards in the run-up to a total fundamentalist takeover of the Palestinian arena.

The Da’am Party emphasizes that any political solution to the Palestinian issue must include the absolute majority of Palestinians and Israelis. It has recently been proven that there is no peace without the Palestinians, despite the agreements signed with a number of Arab states. On the other hand, there will not be an end to the occupation without an alliance and close cooperation between Palestinians and the democratic forces in Israel.

We present the Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal as a programmatic basis for unification of the Israeli and Palestinian democratic forces on the basis of equality, climatic and social justice. The struggle against global warming, for human rights, for the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, the struggle for a free democratic society, the campaign to separate religion from the state, for an economic system that puts workers’ interests at the center, and the campaign for a just society – should unite Israelis and Palestinians. We oppose divisions and separation, walls and barriers, and the oppression of culture just because it is different. The fundamental values we are talking about are the guarantee for coexistence in one land, which will put an end to the bloody conflict that leads to a dead end.

Based on this concept, we participated in the last election campaigns and hosted numerous activists who promote struggles in various areas of life, including in the fields of workers rights and unionization, the struggle for climate, human rights, equality for the LGBTQ community, the struggle against clan rule in Arab society and more. Our goal was to develop the discussion and expand it as much as possible, in order to build collaborative relationships and alliances with anyone who acts and takes an interest in these social, cultural and existential areas. The profound change that is taking place in the United States and around the world provides credibility and strength to our positions.

The political bankruptcy of the left-wing Zionist and Arab parties paves the way for a discussion and connection with young activists, women and men, in both Israeli and Palestinian society, who want a Palestinian-Israeli democratic alternative. Our field work in MAAN, in the Sindyanna of Galilee organization, in the empowerment of women, the promotion of alternative energies and urban agriculture and in the adoption of principles of sustainability, all strengthen our presence, confirm our political action and the validity of the program we promote. The call for a “Israeli-Palestinian Green New Deal”, goes in tandem with our goal – one democratic state for Israelis and Palestinians that will end the apartheid regime.

About Da'am: One State - Green Economy

Daam proposes an Israeli/Palestinian Green New Deal, both as a response to the current political-economic crisis and to create a basis for true cooperation between the two peoples. It is a plan that can end the conflict, abolishing the apartheid regime that Israel has imposed since 1967. It can replace the Occupation with a partnership based on civil justice, which will grant full civil rights to Palestinians equally with Israelis in the framework of a single state.