The Unsolvable Problem in Israel

At the end of each brutal day in the Palestine, the world chorus is pointing a finger of accusation not just at Israel and its atrocious treatment of Palestinians under apartheid or at the hard core of Hamas resistance in Gaza but — you guessed — at the American administration that has lost its mantle of “honest broker” and its leverage over the intransigent conduct of an embattled Netanyahu who has ignored for ages American pressure to stop the proliferation of Jewish settlements and to consider the two-state solution.

Once again, while the Israeli air force and army destroy an entire urban area with disproportionate “defense force” and Hamas launches vastly ineffective rockets at Israeli towns, the world turns its eyes to the apparent inability of the United States to stop the carnage. More is at play in that conflict because the triumph of the bellicose right in Israeli politics has fomented an uncontrollable internal crisis where the settlers have sworn the destruction of the Arab minority that does not enjoy any rights save for the ironic exception of voting, something that can be useful to some parties in the obstreperous Israeli Knesset.

This time, however, the state of permanent crisis in Israel has taken on an unprecedented character of “civil war” within Israel itself as fighting and violence have inflamed Jewish and Arab neighborhoods in the country. The spark for these confrontations was provided by the actions of settler groups as they tried to force Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes.

Under orders from the top, the Israeli police cracked down on the Palestinian protesters in Sheikh Jarrah and around the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Temple Ground during the Ramadan celebrations. This is when the rudimentary rockets started coming down in large numbers from the Gaza strip. The Israeli reaction was again out of proportion. Television graphically showed what the armaments provided by the U.S. to Israel can do to a civilian population. There are only two winners in this bloody encounter: the defiant Israeli prime minister who has no majority to rule and exercises an iron fist because it is the only way to maintain himself in power. Conversely, the Hamas leadership can absorb human and material losses in Gaza and stand strong in the status quo. The civilians, women and children, are expendable. In Israel, where the ultra-right is ascendant, no thought is given to the exploding consequences of the permanent occupation of Palestinian territory and of the imposition of an apartheid regime that denies full rights to 20% of the population. The dramatic truth must be told how the $3.8 billion that the U.S. gives Israel each year (these funds are the very first appropriated by the Congress) are used to finance the war efforts of the Israeli Defense Force, the eviction schemes and demolition of Palestinian homes, the expansion of the settlements and the creeping annexation.

    Unfortunately, the Trump administration implicitly accepted the strategy of annexation and the permanent unacceptable one-state reality. Furthermore, the comparison with European countries shows how the largesse of the U.S. to Israel is excessive. Israel has an annual household income per capita of $21,436. In Italy, it is just $15,321. More significant yet is the fact that the average Palestinian family earns $1,710 per month. There was a time when generations of Americans identified Israel as a stalwart U.S. ally that needed to be defended at all costs. The money still flows to Israel but the idea that it prevents Israelis from being pushed into the sea is anachronistic to say the least. The Abraham accords prove that Arab monarchies would rather deal with Israel and cultivate tourism. Iran is an outlier that can be dealt effectively the United States. In the meanwhile, something new has emerged among many Americans — the discovery that the plight of the Palestinians is a parallel of the injustices suffered for a long time by black Americans. While the critics of Israel cry out against the use of American taxpayer dollars to commit human right violations, the Biden administration sticks to the old refrain of the need to “de-escalate, reduce tensions and take practical steps to calm things down,” a non-sequitur propounded by Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The White House press secretary assured that the administration was “continuing to closely monitor the situation.” All that was said by the Pentagon spokesman was that the rockets fired from Gaza were “unacceptable.” The world took notice of such equivocal statements. Truth be told however, that just like the U.S., the European Union’s members have also become passive and continue to advocate a negotiating process between Israel and Palestine that simply does not exist. In fact, they do not even agree how to act to support the Palestinians.The tragic truth is that everybody has an interest in maintaining the status quo, from Netanyahu to the Hamas leaders, from the U.S. to its pro-Palestinian allies. The Biden administration could exert some tough diplomacy to stop the spiral of escalation but it is not up to the task. Granted, it is preoccupied with the pressing politics of economic recovery.

Finally, even dealing with Israel has become fastidious as the Israeli leadership distrusts Biden and America. A realistic way to start would be to impress upon the Israelis the idea that the huge financial bonanza that they enjoy each year from Uncle Sam should be subject to conditions, first and foremost the respect for the human and civil rights of the Palestinians. It is about time.

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