Forum: Åpent

Behind Israel’s Hysterical Opposition to the Iran Nuclear Deal

August 7, 2015

by Ismael Hossein-Zadeh

In light of the fact that Israel is in possession of at least 200 (surreptitiously-built) nuclear warheads, and considering the reality that, according to both US and Israeli intelligence sources, Iran neither possesses nor pursues nuclear weapons, the relentless hysterical campaign by Israel and its lobby against the Iran nuclear deal can safely be characterized as the mother of all ironies—a clear case of chutzpah.

As I pointed out in a recent essay on the nuclear agreement, the deal effectively establishes US control (through IAEA) over the entire production chain of Iran’s nuclear and related industries. Or, as President Obama put it (on the day of the conclusion of the agreement), “Inspectors will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain—its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities. . . . Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years. Because of this deal inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location.”

Even a cursory reading of the text of the agreement shows that, if ratified by the US congress, the deal would essentially freeze Iran’s nuclear program at a negligible, ineffectual level of value—at only 3.67% uranium enrichment. Israel and its lobby must certainly be aware of this, of the fact that Iran poses no “existential threat to Israel,” as frequently claimed by Benjamin Netanyahu and his co-thinkers.Read more

Uri Avnery: Israel and The Treaty with Iran

Uri Avnery
July 18, 2015

AND WHAT if the whole drama was only an exercise of deception?

What if the wily Persians did not even dream of building an atomic bomb, but used the threat to further their real aims?

What if Binyamin Netanyahu was duped to become unwittingly the main collaborator of Iranian ambitions?

Sounds crazy? Not really. Let’s have a look at the facts.

IRAN IS one of the oldest powers in the world, with thousands of years of political experience. Once they possessed an empire that spanned the civilized world, including our little country. Their reputation for clever trade practices is unequaled.

They are much too clever to build a nuclear weapon. What for? It would devour huge amounts of money. They know that they would never be able to use it. Same as Israel, with its large stockpile.

Netanyahu’s nightmare of an Iranian nuclear attack on Israel is just that – a nightmare (or daymare) of an ignorant dilettante. Israel is a nuclear power with a solid second-strike capability. As we see, the Iranian leaders are hard-boiled realists. Would they even dream of inviting an inevitable Israeli retaliation that would wipe from the face of the earth their three-millennia-old civilization?

(If this capability is defective, Netanyahu should be charged and convicted for criminal negligence.)

Even if the Iranians did deceive the whole world and build a nuclear bomb, nothing would happen except the creation of a “balance of terror”, such as saved the world at the height of the cold war between America and Russia.

The people around Netanyahu pretend to believe that, unlike the then Soviets, the Iranian mullahs are crazy people. There is absolutely no evidence for that. Since their 1979 revolution, the Iranian leadership has not made one single important step that was not absolutely rational. Compared to American missteps in the region (not to mention the Israeli ones), the Iranian leadership has been thoroughly logical.

So perhaps they traded their nonexistent nuclear designs for their very real political design: to become the hegemon of the Muslim world.

If so, they owe a lot to Netanyahu.

WHAT HAS the Islamic Republic ever done in its 45 years of existence to harm Israel?

Sure. Tehran crowds can be seen on television burning Israeli flags and shouting “Death to Israel”. They call us, not flatteringly, “the Little Satan”, as compared to the American “Great Satan”.

Terrible. But what else?

Not much. Perhaps some support for Hezbollah and Hamas, which were not their creation. Iran’s real fight is against the powers that be in the Muslim world. They want to turn the region’s countries into Iranian vassals, as they were 2400 years ago.

This has very little to do with Islam. Iran uses Islam as Israel uses Zionism and the Jewish Diaspora (and as Russia in the past used communism) as a tool for its imperial ambitions.

What is happening now in this region resembles the “religious wars” in 17th century Europe. A dozen countries fought each other in the name of religion, under the flags of Catholicism and Protestantism, but in reality using religion to further their very earthly imperial designs.

The US, led by a bunch of neocon fools, destroyed Iraq, which for many centuries had served as the bulwark of the Arab world against Iranian expansion. Now, under the banner of the Shia, Iran is expanding its power all over the Region.

Shiite Iraq is now to a large extent an Iranian vassal (we’ll come back to Daesh). The leaders of Syria, a Sunni country ruled by a small semi-Shiite sect, depend on Iran for their survival. In Lebanon, the Shiite Hezbollah is a close ally with growing power and prestige. So is Hamas in Gaza, which is entirely Sunni. And the Houthi rebels in Yemen, who are Zaidis (a school of the Shia.)

The status quo in the Arab world is defended by a corrupt bunch of dictators and medieval sheiks, such as the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf oil potentates.

Clearly, Iran and its allies are the wave of the future, Saudi Arabia and its allies belong to the past.

That leaves Daesh, the Sunni “Islamic State” in Syria and Iraq. That is also a rising power. Unlike Iran, whose revolutionary élan long ago exhausted itself, Daesh is radiating revolutionary fervor, attracting adherents from all over the world.

Daesh is the real enemy of Iran – and of Israel.

PRESIDENT OBAMA and his advisors realized this some time ago. Their new alliance with Iran is partly based on this reality.

With the advent of Daesh, realities on the ground have changed completely. The shift reaffirms the old British maxim that one’s enemies in one war can well become one’s allies in the next, and vice versa. Far from being naïve, Obama is building an alliance against the new and very dangerous enemy. This alliance should logically include Bashar Assad’s Syria, but Obama is still afraid of saying so aloud.

Obama and his advisors also believe that with the lifting of the crippling sanctions, Iranians will concentrate on making money, lessening their nationalist and religious fervor even more. That sounds reasonable enough.

(Netanyahu thinks the American people are “naïve”. Well, for a naïve nation the US has done quite well in becoming the world’s only super-power.)

One by-product of the situation is that Israel is again at loggerheads with the entire political world. The Vienna treaty was signed not just by the US, but by all leading world powers. This seems to create the situation described by a jolly popular Israeli song: “The whole world is against us / But we don’t give a damn…”

Unfortunately, unlike Obama, Netanyahu is stuck in the past. He continues demonizing Iran, instead of joining it in the fight against Daesh, which is far, far more dangerous to Israel.

One does not have to go back to Cyrus the Great (6th century B.C.) to realize that Iran can be a close ally. In the relations between nations, geography trumps religion. Not so long ago, Iran was Israel’s closest ally in the region. We even sent Khomeini arms to fight Iraq. The Mullahs hate Israel not so much because of their religion, but because of our alliance with the Shah.

The present Iranian regime has long since lost its revolutionary religious fervor. It is acting according to its national interests. Geography still counts. A wise Israeli government would use the next ten-or-more years of a guaranteed nuclear-free Iran in order to renew the alliance – especially against Daesh.

This could mean new relations with Assad’s Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas too.

BUT SUCH far-reaching considerations are far from the mind of Netanyahu, the son of a historian, who is devoid of any historical knowledge or intuition.

The fight is now going to Washington DC, where Netanyahu will be fully committed as a mercenary of Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Republican Party.

It is a sorry sight: the State of Israel, which has always enjoyed the full unblinking support of both American parties, has become an appendix of the reactionary Republican leadership.

One victim of this is the legend of the “invincible” pro-Israeli lobby. This crucial asset has now been lost. From now on, AIPAC will be just one of the many lobbies on Capitol Hill.

AN EVEN sorrier sight is Israel’s political and media elite on the morrow of the signing of the Vienna treaty. It was almost incredible.

Almost all political parties fell in line with Netanyahu’s policy, competing with each other in their demonstrations of abject loyalty. From the “leader of the opposition”, the pitiful Yitzhak Herzog, to the voluble Yair Lapid, everybody rushed to support the Prime Minister at this crucial hour.

The media were even worse. Almost all prominent commentators, left and right, ran amok against the ’disastrous" treaty and heaped their uniform disgust and contempt on poor Obama, as if reading from a prepared government “list of arguments” (as indeed they were).

Not the finest hour of Israeli democracy and the much lauded “Jewish brain”. Just a despicable example of all-too-common brain-washing. Some would call it presstitution.

One of Netanyahu’s arguments is that the Iranians can and will cheat the naive Americans and build the bomb. He is sure that this is possible. Well, he should know. We did it, didn’t we?

Uri Avnery: -The Second Battle of Trafalgar

Uri Avnery
July 4, 2015

A MIGHTY naval battle took place this week on the waves of the Mediterranean. It will go down in history as the equal of Salamis or Trafalgar.

In a daring move, the navy of the State of Israel intercepted the enemy, consisting of the trawler Marianne and the 18 people aboard. Israel naval commandos captured the ship and towed it to the harbor of Ashdod.

The admiral who commanded this glorious action has so far modestly remained anonymous. Therefore we cannot honor him with a column in the center of Tel Aviv, like Admiral Horatio Nelson’s column in London’s Trafalgar Square. Pity.

However, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lauded the courage of the victors in glowing terms, expressing the gratitude and admiration of the nation for their gallant deed.

I WOULD continue in this vein, but even sarcasm has its limits.

The whole affair was a masterpiece of stupidity.

Five years ago, several boats tried to reach Gaza, as a symbolic act of support for the beleaguered enclave, and were let through by the Israeli navy. No one mentioned them again.

Then there came the “Turkish flotilla”. Several boats were led by the larger Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, with hundreds of Turkish and international peace activists on board. This time, Netanyahu and his minions were determined to show the world that Israel rules the waves. He ordered an attack on the flotilla.

Israeli naval commandos were lowered onto the deck of the Marmara from a helicopter, and in the ensuing mêlée nine Turks (one of them also an American citizen) were killed. A tenth died later from his wounds. All of them were unarmed but resisted violently.

The other boats were captured without violent resistance. All were brought to Ashdod harbor.

The international reaction was immense. For many, the Marmara became a symbol of Israeli brutality. The propaganda catastrophe compelled Netanyahu to release all the imprisoned activists and crew and send them on their way home.

Altogether, what could have been a negligible incident, soon forgotten, turned into a great victory for the activists. The entire world paid attention. The Gaza blockade became the center of international interest.

EVEN WORSE were the political consequences. Turkey became an enemy.

For many years, Turkey – and especially the Turkish armed forces – had been a staunch ally of Israel. Secret relations between the two non-Arab Middle Eastern powers were woven. During the reign of David Ben-Gurion, a “peripheral theory” became the cornerstone of Israel’s regional policy. Accordingly, Israel established an unofficial alliance with the non-Arab states that surround the Arab world: Kemalist Turkey, the Shah’s Iran, Ethiopia, Chad and so on.

Israel sold arms to the Turks. Joint army maneuvers were held. Eventually open diplomatic relations were established.

All this came to an end with the Marmara affair (except the military part, which continues in secret). Emotions were aroused. Turkish public opinion reacted with fury. Israel refused to pay the high indemnities demanded for the bereaved families. (Negotiations about them are still going on.)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an adroit politician, exploited the incident in order to change fronts and reestablish Turkish influence in the Arab countries which had belonged to the late Ottoman Empire.

What did Israel gain from this incident? Nothing.

DID THE Israeli government draw any conclusions from this debacle?

How could they? For them it was not a debacle at all, but rather an admirable demonstration of Israeli prowess and determination. This week’s incident was the inevitable outcome. More will follow.

In order to weigh up the results of a hostile encounter, one has to ask what each side wanted to achieve.

The organizers of the flotillas wanted to stage a provocation, in order to draw the world’s attention to the pernicious blockade. From their point of view, the Israeli reaction serves their purpose admirably.

Netanyahu wants to keep the blockade going, drawing as little attention to it as possible. From this point of view, the attacks are counterproductive. In short, they are stupid.

THE MAIN question is, of course: Why, for God’s sake, is there a blockade at all? What purpose does it serve?

Officially, the purpose is to prevent weapons reaching the Gaza strip, so as to prevent Hamas from attacking Israel.

If so, why cause the whole drama? Boats sailing to Gaza, purportedly to supply it with medicines and food, can be searched by mutual agreement in their harbors of departure. The organizers cannot object to this without arousing suspicion.

Alternatively, the boats can be stopped on the high seas, searched and released. Such a procedure is quite usual.

The Israeli government has rejected these possibilities, thereby raising the suspicion that the purpose of the blockade is quite different. It is to prevent any supplies from reaching Gaza in order to keep the overcrowded territory totally dependent on supplies coming from Israel, which lets through only the bare necessities of life.

The hidden purpose is to let the 1.8 million inhabitants, the majority descendents of refugees from Israel, vegetate on the brink of starvation, in order to induce them to rise up and overthrow the Hamas authorities. If so, it has been a miserable failure. On the contrary, under the cruel pressure, the inhabitants seem to draw ever closer to Hamas. After all, Hamas is not a foreign invader, but the brothers and sons of the inhabitants.

Leaving aside the question whether the blockade is legal under international law, it certainly has not fulfilled its promise. The rule of Hamas in Gaza seems to be as solid as ever.

THIS BEING so, one might raise the opposite option. Why not lift the blockade altogether? (Gasp!)

I can imagine a situation of open borders and open sea. Food, medicines, building materials and everything else, except arms, flowing into the Strip from all directions – by sea and by land from Egypt and Israel.

Why not let the Gazans build a harbor or obtain a floating harbor? Why not let them reactivate their airport? The beautiful building they once built near Dahaniya was destroyed by our armed forces. Why not build it again?

Simple logic dictates that the more the people of Gaza have to lose, the less will they be inclined to provoke another war. If we really want quiet and tranquility, that is the way.

Yes, but what about arms? Establish strict supervision by international inspectors. That has been done before in history. No problem.

BEHIND THE tactical stupidity of this whole affair there lurks a much larger strategic stupidity.

The air of the Middle East is full of rumors about an ongoing secret effort to forge an Israel-Hamas armistice, even a kind of alliance.

This is based on the disinclination of the Israeli government to re-conquer the Gaza strip, with its 1.8 million Palestinian Arabs. It’s not only a problem of security – a guerrilla war by Hamas would be certain – but something much worse. What really frightens all Israeli governments, right and left, is demography. 1.8 million more Arabs, multiplying all the time? A nightmare for Zionists!

In all the dreams about the annexation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip is always left outside. True, it is geographically and historically part of “Eretz Israel”, but who wants it? To hell with it!

Our present government, composed of extreme right-wingers, wants to eventually annex the West Bank, with as few Arab Palestinians as possible. Because of this, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is a far more dangerous enemy of Netanyahu and his ilk than Hamas. Abbas attracts international recognition. He enjoys growing UN and US support.

By this logic, Netanyahu could be expected to fight Abbas and support Hamas in creating a separate mini-state in Gaza. But he behaves like a child who has to choose between two sweets: he wants both.

So he tries to undermine Abbas while at the same time fighting his glorious battles on the high seas against Hamas. But he is also engaged in secret negotiations with his new friends, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in order to forge a long-term armistice (“hudna”) with Hamas.

Complicated? Indeed.

SOMETHING PERSONAL: I have been asked why I was not on the boat that tried to run the blockade this week.

Frankly, I would have loved to go. I love the sea. I love boats. I would have enjoyed the company of the former Tunisian prime minister and the Arab member of the Knesset who were on the boat. Breaking the blockade would have appealed to me very much.

The trouble is that the organizers of these flotillas insist on a political program that negates the existence of the State of Israel. Much like the organizers of the BDS, they insist on the One-State chimera.

I believe in peace. Peace means peace between the two states: Israel and Palestine. I support the Palestinian struggle for independence as part of my struggle for a peaceful, democratic Israel.

So I missed the Second Battle of Trafalgar.

Uri Avnery: War Crimes? Us???

Uri Avnery
June 27, 2015

WAR IS HELL!” the US general George Patton famously exclaimed.

War is the business of killing the “enemy”, in order to impose your will on them.

Therefore, “humane war” is an oxymoron.

War itself is a crime. There are few exceptions. I would exempt the war against Nazi Germany, since it was conducted against a regime of mass murderers, led by a psychopathic dictator, who could not be brought to heel by any other means.

This being so, the concept of “war crimes” is dubious. The biggest crime is starting the war in the first place. This is not the business of soldiers, but of political leaders. Yet they are rarely indicted.

THESE PHILOSOPHICAL musings came to me in the wake of the recent UN report on the last Gaza war.

The investigation committee bent over backwards to be “balanced”, and accused both the Israeli army and Hamas in almost equal terms. That, in itself, is problematic.

This was not a war between equals. On one side, the State of Israel, with one of the mightiest armies in the world. On the other side, a stateless population of 1.8 million people, led by a guerrilla organization devoid of any modern arms.

Any equating of such two entities is by definition contrived. Even if both sides committed grievous war crimes, they are not the same. Each must be judged on its own (de)merits.

THE IDEA of “war crimes” is relatively new. It arose during the 30 Years War, which devastated a large part of Central Europe. Many armies took part, and all of them destroyed towns and villages without the slightest compunction. As a result, two thirds of Germany were devastated and a third of the German people was killed.

Hugo de Groot, a Dutchman, argued that even in war, civilized nations are bound by certain limitations. He was not a starry-eyed idealist, divorced from reality. His main principle, as I understand it, was that it makes no sense to forbid actions that help a warring country [or “party”] to pursue the war, but that any cruelty not necessary for the efficient conduct of the war is illegitimate.

This idea took hold. During the 18th century, endless wars were conducted by professional armies, without hurting civilian populations unnecessarily. Wars became “humane”.

Not for long. With the French revolution, war became a matter of mass armies, the protection of civilians slowly eroded, until it disappeared entirely in World War II, when whole cities were destroyed by unlimited aerial bombardment (Dresden and Hamburg) and the atom bomb (Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

Even so, a number of international conventions prohibit war crimes that target civilian populations or hurt the population in occupied territories.

That was the mandate of this committee of investigation.

THE COMMITTEE castigates Hamas for committing war crimes against the Israeli population.

Israelis didn’t need the committee to know that. A large share of Israeli citizens spent hours in shelters during the Gaza war, under the threat of Hamas rockets.

Hamas launched thousands of rockets towards towns and villages in Israel. These were primitive rockets, which could not be aimed at specific targets – like the Dimona nuclear installation or the Ministry of Defense which is located in the center of Tel Aviv. They were meant to terrorize the civilian population into demanding a stop to the attack on the Gaza strip.

They did not achieve this goal because Israel had installed a number of “Iron Dome” counter-rocket batteries, that intercepted almost all rockets heading for civilian targets. Success was almost complete.

If they are brought before the International Court in The Hague, the Hamas leaders will argue that they had no choice: they had no other weapons to oppose the Israeli invasion. As a Palestinian commander once told me: “Give us cannons and fighter planes, and we will not use terrorism.”

The International Court will then have to decide whether a people that is practically under an endless occupation is allowed to use indiscriminate rockets. Considering the principles laid down by de Groot, I wonder what the decision will be.

That goes for terrorism in general, if used by an oppressed people that has no other means of fighting. The black South Africans used terrorism in their fight against the oppressive apartheid regime, and Nelson Mandela spent 28 years in prison for taking part in such acts und refusing to condemn them.

THE CASE against the Israeli government and army is quite different. They have a plentitude of arms, from drones to warplanes to artillery to tanks.

If there was a cardinal war crime in this war, it was the cabinet decision to start it. Because an Israeli arrack on the Gaza Strip makes war crimes unavoidable.

Anyone who has ever been a combat soldier in war knows that war crimes, whether in the most moral or the most base army in the world, do occur in war. No army can avoid recruiting psychologically defective people. In every company there is at least one pathological specimen. If there are not very strict rules, exercised by very strict commanders, crimes will occur.

War brings out the inner man (or woman, nowadays). A well-behaved, educated man will suddenly turn into a ferocious beast. A simple, lowly laborer will reveal himself as a decent, generous human being. Even in the “Most Moral Army in the World” – an oxymoron if there ever was one.

I was a combat soldier in the 1948 war. I have seen an eyeful of crimes, and I have described them in my 1950 book “The Other Side of the Coin”.

THIS GOES for every army. In our army during the last Gaza war, the situation was even worse.

The reasons for the attack on the Gaza Strip were murky. Three Israeli kids were captured by Arab men, obviously for the sake of achieving a prisoner exchange. The Arabs panicked and killed the boys. The Israelis responded, the Palestinians responded, and lo – the cabinet decided on a full-fledged attack.

Our cabinet includes nincompoops, most of whom have no idea what war is. They decided to attack the Gaza Strip.

This decision was the real war crime.

The Gaza Strip is a tiny territory, overcrowded by a bloated population of 1.8 million human beings, about half of them descendents of refugees from areas that became Israel in the 1948 war.

In any circumstances, such an attack was bound to result in a large number of civilian casualties. But another fact made this even worse.

ISRAEL IS a democratic state. Leaders have to be elected by the people. The voters consist of the parents and grandparents of the soldiers, members of both regular and reserve units.

This means that Israel is inordinately sensitive to casualties. If a large number of soldiers are killed in action, the government will fall.

Therefore it is the maxim of the Israeli army to avoid casualties at any cost – any cost to the enemy, that is. To save one soldier, it is permissible to kill ten, twenty, a hundred civilians on the other side.

This rule, unwritten and self-understood, is symbolized by the “Hannibal Procedure” – the code-word for preventing at any cost the taking of an Israeli soldier prisoner. Here, too, a “democratic” principle is at work: no Israeli government can withstand public pressure to release many dozens of Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of one Israeli one. Ergo: prevent a soldier from being taken prisoner, even if the soldier himself is killed in the process.

Hannibal allows – indeed, commands – the wreaking of untold destruction and killing, in order to prevent a captured soldier from being spirited away. This procedure is itself a war crime.

A responsible cabinet, with a minimum of combat experience, would know all this at the moment it was called upon to decide on a military operation. If they don’t know, it is the duty of the army [or “military”] commanders – who are present at such cabinet meetings – to explain it to them. I wonder if they did.

ALL THIS means that, once started, the results were almost unavoidable. To make an attack without serious Israeli casualties possible, entire neighborhoods had to be flattened by drones, planes and artillery. And that obviously happened.

Inhabitants were often warned to flee, and many did. Others did not, being loath to leave behind everything precious to them. Some people flee in the moment of danger, others hope against hope and stay.

I would ask the reader to imagine himself for a moment in such a situation.

Add to this the human element – the mixture of humane and sadistic men, good and bad, you find in any combat unit all over the world, and you get the picture.

Once you start a war, “stuff happens”, as the man said. There may be more war crimes or less, but there will be a lot.

ALL THIS could have been told to the UN committee of inquiry, headed by an American judge, by the chiefs of the Israeli army, had they been allowed to testify. The government did not allow them.

The convenient way out is to proclaim that all UN officials are by nature anti-Semites and Israel-haters, so that answering their questions is counterproductive.

We are moral. We are right. By nature. We can’t help it. Those who accuse us must be anti-Semites. Simple logic.

To hell with them all!

Uri Avnery: Isratin og Palestrael?

Uri Avnery
June 20, 2015

THERE WAS this guy who had an earth-shaking invention: an airplane that flies on water.

No more gas. No more pollution. No more astronomical prices. Just fill it up with water, and it will fly to the end of the world.

“Wonderful!” people cried out. “Show us the plans!”

“Plans?” the man said. “I have had the great idea. I leave it to the engineers to work out the technical details.”

The inventors of the “One-State Solution” remind me of this genius. They have a wonderful idea. But there are a few questions left open.

FIRST QUESTION: how can it be achieved?

The obvious answer is: by war.

The Arab world will mobilize its armies. Israel will be conquered. The victors will impose their will.

This may be possible within a few generations. I rather doubt it. In a world of nuclear arms, wars may end with mutual annihilation.

Well, if not war, then “outside pressure”.

I doubt this, too. The international boycott movement is quite effective, in its way. But it is far, far from being able to compel Israelis to do something that is opposed by every fiber of their being: to give up their sovereignty. The same goes for political pressure. It may hurt Israel, it may isolate it – though I don’t believe this is possible in this or the next generation – but this, too, won’t be enough to bring Israel to its knees.

Convince the majority in Israel? One has to be very remote from Israeli reality to believe that this can happen in the foreseeable future. For more than 130 years, now, the core of the Zionist and Israeli raison d’etre has been Israeli (or “Jewish”) statehood. Many people have died for it. Every child in Israel is indoctrinated from kindergarten on, through school and the army, to see the state as the highest of all ideals. Give it up voluntarily? Not likely.

But for argument’s sake, let’s assume that one way or another, the One-State Solution becomes possible. Perhaps by divine intervention.

How would it function?

In all my dozens of debates with One-Staters of all kinds, I have never, not even once, received an answer to this simple question. Not once. Like the inventor of the water-fueled plane, they leave that to the engineers.

Let’s try.

HOW WILL the state be named? Not an easy question.

The late Muammar Gadddafi proposed “Isratin” (why not Palesrael"?) I can think of “Holyland”, “State of Jerusalem” and other names. Perhaps just “The United State of Israel and Palestine” (let’s call it USIP).

Various flags and national anthems have been proposed., some of them really inventive. Will anyone sacrifice their blood for them?

But that, too, is not the real problem. It’s when we approach the realities of the state the questions multiply.

How will the state function on a day-to-day basis?

How difficult that may be is illustrated by a simple historical fact: since World War II, there is not a single instance of two states or two peoples voluntarily coming together in one state. But there are ample instances of multinational states breaking apart.

Let’s start with the Soviet Union, a mighty world power. Then Yugoslavia. Then Serbia. Czechoslovakia. Sudan.

Other countries are threatened with breakup. Who would have thought that the venerable United Kingdom might become Disunited? Scots, Catalans, Basques, Quebecois, East Ukrainians are waiting in line. Only the Swiss, united by centuries of history, seem immune. And also Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Be that as it may, let’s look more closely at the thing itself.

THE STATE must have a united army. How will it function?

Will Jews and Arabs serve in the same squad? Or will there be separate battalions or separate brigades? If there is trouble in Jewish neighborhoods, will Jewish units follow orders against their brethren? In a war against an Arab state, how will Arab units act?

Will the Chief of Staff be a Jew or an Arab? Perhaps by rotation? And the General Staff – half and half?

That’s easy, compared to the police. Will Jews and Arabs serve side by side, as they did during the British Mandate, when practically all local policemen belonged to secret nationalist organizations?

How will this police force investigate nationalist crimes? Who will be the Inspector General?

Then there is the question of taxes. As of now, the average income of Jews in Israel is 25 times higher than that of Arabs in occupied Palestine. No, that is not a typo. Not 25% higher. 25 times higher!

Will they pay the same taxes? Very soon, Jewish citizens would complain that they pay for nearly all the welfare and education of the Palestinian citizens. Trouble.

THEN THERE are the problems of the political structure.

Of course, there will be universal and free elections. How will citizens vote – according to their class interests or along ethnic lines?

Experience in many countries indicates that the ethnic identity will take precedence. In today’s Israel, that is the rule. During the British Mandate, there was only one joint party: the Moscow-line Communist one. On the eve of the 1948 war, it split between Jews and Arabs. In the new State of Israel, they reunited (as ordered by Moscow) but then split again. Now it is in practice an Arab party, with a few Jewish followers.

In 1984 I took part in the foundation of a new party, the Progressive List for Peace, based on strict parity: our Knesset list was Arab, Jew, Arab, Jew, up to 120.

In two successive election campaigns we entered the Knesset. But a curious thing happened: almost all our voters were Arabs. Soon after, the party disappeared.

I strongly suspect that in USIP the same will happen. In Parliament, two blocs will face each other in a climate of perpetual mutual animosity. It will be extremely difficult to form a working government coalition composed of elements of both sides. Look at Belgium, another problematic bi-national state.

Some One-Staters admit that the project is only feasible if both peoples change their basic attitudes completely, and a spirit of mutual love and respect displaces the present nationalistic hatred and contempt.

Some 50 years ago I had a conversation with the then Indian ambassador in Paris, Kavalam Madhava Panikkar, a very respected statesman and scholar. We talked, of course, about Israeli-Palestinian peace, and he said: “It will take 51 years!”

Why exactly 51, I asked, surprised. “Because we need a new generation of teachers,” he said. “That will take 25 years. These new teachers will educate a new generation of pupils, who will be able to make peace, That will take another 25 years. Making peace will take one more year.”

Well, 51 years have passed, and peace is further off than ever.

Matchmakers tend to say: “They don’t love yet, but once married and having children, they will come to love each other.”

Perhaps. How long will it take? A hundred years? Two hundred years? Long before that, we shall all be dead.

The main argument against the One-State vision is that it will soon become the battlefield of a perpetual conflict, like Lebanon. There will not be a day of internal peace.

The greatest danger is that in such a state, with a growing Arab majority, affluent and highly educated Jewish citizens will slowly leave (as some are already doing now). In the end, only the poor and ill-educated will be left –a small Jewish community in another Arab state.

I have a lurking suspicion that some of the Arab One-Staters embrace the idea for this reason alone: to put an end to Israel.

Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs are two of the most nationalist nations in the world. One has to be an extreme optimist – even more extreme than I – to believe that it will work.

Honest disclosure: I did once believe in the “One-State solution”, long before the term was invented. In 1945, when I was just 22 years old, I founded a group that was devoted to the idea that the new Hebrew nation in Palestine and the Arab nation in Palestine, bound by common love for the country, could become one joint nation and live in one common state.

Our ideology caused an uproar in the Zionist community in the country. We were universally condemned. But during the 1948 war, when I came into immediate contact with the Palestinian reality, I gave up this beautiful idea forever and from 1949 on was one of the creators of the concept of the Two-State Solution.

I have a great respect for the adherents of the One-State Solution. Their motives are admirable. Their vision lofty. But it is disconnected from reality.

I WOULD like to make one point quite clear: for me, the Two-State Solution is not a recipe for separation and divorce, but on the contrary, a kind of wedding.

From the first day on, 66 years ago, when we, a tiny group, raised the banner of the Two-State Solution, it was clear to us that the two states, living close together in one small country, must live in close cooperation. Borders must be open for the movement of people and goods, the economies closely intertwined. Some kind of federation is inevitable. Attitudes will slowly change on both sides.

Connections will be formed. Friendships will be established. Business interests will convince people. People will work together and come to like each other. As the Arabs say: Inshallah.

When I am asked whether this is the best solution, my answer is: “It is the only solution.”

Uri Avnery: -Why boycott of Israel is wrong!

Uri Avnery
June 13, 2015

BDS, the New Enemy

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU was racking his brain. His whole career is based on fear mongering. Since Jews have lived in fear for millennia, it is easy to invoke it. They are addicts.

For years now, Netanyahu has built his career on fear of the Iranian Nuclear Bomb. The Iranians are crazy people. Once they have the Bomb, they will drop it on Israel, even if Israel’s nuclear second strike will certainly annihilate Iran with its thousands of years of civilization.

But Netanyahu saw with growing anxiety that the Iranian threat was losing its edge. The US, so it seems, is about to reach an agreement with Iran, which will prevent it from achieving the Bomb. Even Sheldon the Great cannot prevent the agreement. What to do?

Looking around, three letters popped up: BDS. They denote Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a worldwide campaign to boycott Israel because of its 48 year-old subjugation of the Palestinian people.

Ah, here we have a real threat, worse than the Bomb. A second Holocaust is looming. Brave little Israel facing the entire evil, anti-Semitic world.

True, until now Israel has suffered no real damage. BDS is more about gestures than about real economic weapons. But who is counting? The legions of anti-Semites are on the march.

Who will save us? Bibi the Great, of course!

HONEST DISCLOSURE: my friends and I initiated the first boycott, which was directed at the products of the settlements.

Our peace movement, Gush Shalom, was deliberating how to stop the spread of the settlements, each of which is a land mine on the road to peace. The main reason for setting up settlements is to prevent the two-state solution – the only peace solution there is.

Our investigators made a Grand Tour of the settlements and registered the enterprises which were lured by government enticements to set up shop beyond the Green Line. We published the list and encouraged customers to abstain from buying these products.

A boycott is a democratic instrument of protest. It is non-violent. Every person can exercise it privately, without joining any group or exhibiting himself or herself in public.

Our main aim was to get the Israeli public to distinguish clearly between Israel proper and the settlements in the occupied territories.

In March 1997 we held a press conference to announce the campaign. It was a unique event. I have held press conference which were overflowing with journalists – for example, after my first meeting with Yasser Arafat in besieged West Beirut. I have held press conferences with sparse attendance. But this one was really special: not a single Israeli journalist turned up.

Still, the idea spread. I don’t know how many thousand Israelis are boycotting the products of the settlements right now.

However, we were upset by the attitude of the European Union authorities, which denounced the settlements while in practice subsidizing their products with customs exemptions like real Israeli wares. My colleagues and I went to Brussels to protest, but were told by polite bureaucrats that Germany and others were obstructing any step toward a settlement boycott.

Eventually, the Europeans moved, albeit slowly. They are now demanding that the products of the settlements be clearly marked.

THE BDS movement has a very different agenda. They want to boycott the State of Israel as such.

I always considered this a major strategic error. Instead of isolating the settlements and separating them from mainstream Israelis, a general boycott drives all Israelis into the arms of the settlers. It re-awakens age-old Jewish fears. Facing a common danger, Jews unite.

Netanyahu could not wish for more. He is now riding the wave of Jewish reactions. Every day there are headlines about another success of the boycott movement, and each success is a bonus for Netanyahu.

It is also a bonus for his adversary, Omar al-Barghouti, the Palestinian organizer of BDS.

Palestine is well stocked with Barghoutis. It is an extended family prominent in several villages north of Jerusalem.

The most famous is Marwan al-Barghouti, who has been condemned to several life sentences for leading the Fatah youth organization. He was not indicted for taking part in any “terrorist” acts, but for his role as organizationally responsible. Indeed, he and I were partners in organizing several non-violent protests against the occupation.

When he was brought to trial, we protested in the court building. One of my colleagues lost a toenail in the ensuing battle with the violent court guards. Marwan is still in prison and many Palestinians consider him a prospective heir of Mahmoud Abbas.

Another Barghouti is Mustafa, the very likable leader of a leftist party, who ran against Abbas for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority. We have met while facing the army in several demonstrations against the Wall.

Omar Barghouti, the leader of the BDS movement, is a postgraduate student at Tel Aviv University. He demands the free return of all Palestinian refugees, equality for Israel’s Palestinian citizens and, of course, an end to the occupation.

However, BDS is not a highly organized worldwide organization. It is more of a trade mark. Groups of students, artists and others spring up spontaneously and join the struggle for Palestinian liberation. Here and there, some real anti-Semites try to join. But for Netanyahu, they are all, all anti-Semites.

AS WE feared from the beginning, the boycott of Israel – as distinguished from the boycott of the settlements – has united the general Jewish population with the settlers, under the leadership of Netanyahu.

The fatherland is in danger. National unity is the order of the day. “Opposition Leader” Yitzhak Herzog is rushing forward to support
Netanyahu, as are almost all other parties.

Israel’s Supreme Court, a frightened shadow of its former self, has already decreed that calling for a boycott of Israel is a crime – including calls for boycotting the settlements.

Almost every day, news about the boycott hits the headlines. The boss of “Orange”, the French communications giant, first joined the boycott, then quickly turned around and is coming to Israel for a pilgrimage of repentance. Student organizations and professional groups in America and Europe adopt the boycott. The EU now vigorously demands the marking of settlement products.

Netanyahu is happy. He calls upon world Jewry to take up the fight against this anti-Semitic outrage. The owner of Netanyahu, multi-billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, has convened a war council of rich Jews in Las Vegas. His counterpart, pro-Labor multi-billionaire Haim Saban has joined him. Even the perpetrators of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion would not believe it.

AS COMIC relief, another casino owner is competing for the headlines. He is a much, much smaller operator, who cannot be compared to Adelson.

He is the new Knesset Member Oren Hazan, No 30 on the Likud election list, the last one who got in. A TV expose has alleged that he was the owner of a casino in Bulgaria, who supplied prostitutes to his clients and used hard drugs. He has already been chosen as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. The Speaker has temporarily suspended him from chairing Knesset plenum sessions.

So the two casino owners, the big and the small, dominate the news. Rather bizarre in a country where casinos are forbidden, and where clandestine casino goers are routinely arrested.

Well, life is a roulette game. Even life in Israel.

Uri Avnery: Who will save Israel?

Uri Avnery
May 23, 2015

THE BATTLE is over. The dust has settled. A new government – partly ridiculous, partly terrifying – has been installed.

It is time to take stock.

The net result is that Israel has given up all pretense of desiring peace and that Israeli democracy has suffered a blow from which it may never recover.

ISRAELI GOVERNMENTS – with the possible exception of Yitzhak Rabin’s – have never really desired peace. The peace that is possible.

Peace, of course, means accepting fixed borders. In the founding declaration of the state, which was read out by David Ben-Gurion on May 14, 1948 in Tel Aviv, any mention of borders was deliberately omitted. Ben Gurion was not ready to accept the borders fixed by the UN partition resolution, because they provided only for a tiny Jewish state. Ben-Gurion foresaw that the Arabs would start a war, and he was determined to use this for enlarging the territory of the state.

This indeed happened. When the war ended in early 1949 with armistice agreements based on the final battle lines, Ben-Gurion could have accepted them as final borders. He refused. Israel has remained a state without borders that it recognizes itself – perhaps the only one in the world.

This is one of the reasons for the fact that Israel has no peace agreement with the Palestinian nation. It did sign official peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, based on the internationally recognized borders between the former British government of Palestine and its neighbors. No such borders are accepted by the Israeli government between Israel and the undefined Palestinian entity. All Israeli governments have always refused even to indicate where such borders should run. The much-praised Oslo agreement was no exception. Rabin, too, refused to draw a final line.

This refusal remains government policy. On the eve of the recent elections, Binyamin Netanyahu unequivocally declared that during his term of office – which for him means until his demise – no Palestinian state would come into being. Thus, the occupied territories would remain under Israeli rule.

No peace agreement will ever be signed by this government.

NO PEACE means attempting to keep the territorial status quo frozen forever, except that settlements will continue to grow and multiply.

This is not the situation concerning democracy. It is not frozen.

Israel is famously “the Only Democracy in the Middle East”. That is practically its second official name.

It is debatable how a state that dominates another people, depriving it of all human rights, not to mention citizenship, can be called a democracy. But Jewish Israelis have been used to this for 48 years, and just ignore this fact.

Now the situation inside Israel proper is about to change drastically.

Two facts attest to this.

First of all, Ayelet Shaked has been appointed Minister of Justice. One of the most extreme right-wing Israelis, she has not made a secret of the fact that she wants to destroy the independence of the Supreme Court, the last bastion of human rights.

This court has managed, throughout the years, to become a major force in Israeli life. Since Israel has no written constitution, the Supreme Court has succeeded, under strong and determined leadership, in assuming the role of the guardian of human and civil rights, even annulling democratically adopted Knesset laws that contradict the imagined constitution.

Shaked has announced that she would put an end to this impertinence.

The court has survived many onslaughts because its composition cannot be easily changed. Contrary to the practice in the US, which looks scandalous to us, judges are appointed by a committee, in which politicians are held in check by incumbent judges. Shaked wants to change this practice, stuffing the committee with politicians loyal to the government.

The court is already cowed. Lately it has made a number of ignoble decisions, such as outlawing calls for boycotting the settlements. But this is still heaven compared to what is bound to happen in the near future.

PERHAPS WORSE is Netanyahu’s decision to retain for himself the Ministry of Communication.

This ministry has always been disdained as a low-level office, reserved for political lightweights. Netanyahu’s dogged insistence on retaining it for himself is ominous.

The communication Ministry controls all TV stations, and indirectly newspapers and other media. Since all Israeli media are in very bad shape financially, this control may become deadly.

Netanyahu’s patron – some say owner – Sheldon Adelson, the would-be dictator of the US Republican party, already publishes a give-away newspaper in Israel, which has only one sole aim: to support Netanyahu personally against all enemies, including his competitors in his own Likud party. The paper – “Israel Hayom” (Israel Today) – is already Israel’s widest-circulation newspaper, with the American casino king pouring into it untold millions.

Netanyahu is determined to break all opposition in the electronic and written media. Opposition commentators are well advised to look for jobs elsewhere. Channel 10, considered slightly more critical of Netanyahu than its two competitors, is due to be closed at the end of this month.

One cannot avoid an odious analogy. One of the key terms in the Nazi lexicon was the atrocious German word Gleichschaltung – meaning connecting all media to the same energy source. All newspapers and radio stations (TV did not yet exist) were staffed with Nazis. Every morning, a Propaganda Ministry official by the name of Dr. Dietrich convened the editors and told them what tomorrow’s headlines, editorials etc. were to be.

Netanyahu has already dismissed the chief of the TV department. We don’t yet know the name of our own Dr. Dietrich.

As a humorous counterpoint, Miri Regev has been appointment Minister of Culture. Regev is a loud-mouthed woman, whose vulgar style has become a national symbol. No one can even guess how she had become the army spokesperson. Her style, such as concluding every public utterance with the call “Applause!”, has become a joke.

THE MOST efficient instrument of de-democratization is the education ministry (which is not efficient in anything else.)

Israel has several education systems, all of them financed – and hence controlled – by the Education Ministry.

Two systems belong to the government outright: the general “state” system and the autonomous “religious state” system.

Then there are two orthodox systems, one Ashkenazi and one Oriental. In some of these, only religious subjects are taught – no languages, no mathematics, no non-Jewish history. This makes alumni unfit for any employment. They remain dependent on their religious community’s handouts forever.

Before the state came into being, there was also a leftist system with socialist values, especially in the kibbutzim. This was abolished by David Ben-Gurion in the name of “statism”.

The last government tried in a timid way to compel the orthodox to introduce “core studies” into their schools, such as arithmetic and English. This has been abandoned now, since the orthodox have become members of the government coalition.

The real battle, which is starting now, is about the “general” state schools, which have been free to some extent. My late wife, Rachel, was a teacher in such a school for almost 30 years, and did what she wanted, trying to instill in her pupils’ minds humanist and liberal values.

Not any more. Israel’s most extreme nationalist-religious leader, Naftali Bennett, has now been installed as Minister of Education. He has already announced that his main objective is to imbue the young with a nationalist-Zionist spirit, raising a generation of real Israeli patriots. No mention of humanism, liberalism, human rights, social values or any other such nonsense.

Netanyahu has also retained the Foreign Ministry in his own hands. Many of its functions have been dispersed between six other ministries. The pretext is that Netanyahu is keeping the prestigious ministry open for Labor Party leader Yitzhak Herzog, who he is pretending to invite into the government. Herzog has already loudly refused. (I suppose that the real owner of the government, Sheldon Adelson, would not allow him in anyway.)

Netanyahu’s real aim is to prevent any potential competitor from gaining international and national prestige in this position. He does conduct foreign policy alone anyhow.

ALTOGETHER, A deeply troubling picture for anyone who loves Israel.

It is not so much that the balance of power in Israel has changed (it has not) but that the worst elements of the Right have taken over, pushing out almost all right-wing moderates. Until now, these extreme elements had been subdued, talking loudly but carrying a small stick. This has now changed. The extreme right has found its self-assurance, and is determined to use its power.

The Israeli Left (timidly calling itself “center-left”) has lost its spirit. Its only hope is “foreign pressure”. Especially from the White House. Barack Obama hates Netanyahu. Any time now, American pressure will be applied and save Israel from itself.

That’s a comfortable thought. We don’t have to do anything. Salvation will come from the outside, deus ex machina. Halleluja.

Unfortunately, I am a non-believer. What I see is the US increasing its support of the Netanyahu regime, offering huge new arms deliveries as “compensation” for the budding Iran nuclear deal. John Kerry, humiliated by Netanyahu and treated with open contempt, is groveling somewhere at our feet. Obama boasts that he has done more for “Israel” (meaning the Israeli Right) than any other president.

Salvation will not come from that direction. God will remain in the machine.

THERE IS only one kind of salvation: the one we carry inside us.

Some hope for a catastrophe that will cause people to open their eyes. I don’t wish for catastrophes.

I don’t want Israel to become a replica of al-Sisi’s Egypt, Erdogan’s Turkey or Putin’s Russia.

I believe we can save Israel – but only if we get up from the couch and play our part.

Segregation in Israeli courts

The race segregation in Israeli buses turned out to be a public relations disaster for the government, and PM Benjamin Netanyahu stated that the arrangement would be suspended. However, the segregation on buses is not cancelled. Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, has made it clear that this is a temporary suspension, not a cancellation of segregation.

Much worse discrimination is the segregate judicial system: A civil system for Israeli settlers and their children, and military courts for the Palestinians living in the territories occupied by Israel.

Since 1967, Israel has colonised these occupied territories, even though to do so, is forbidden according to International law. In these occupied territories; East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, there is one civil law for Israeli settlers, and a military jurisdiction for Palestinians. A child of an Israeli settler throwing stones, and a child of a Palestinian doing the same thing, will therefore face two quite different judicial systems.

There’s a group of lawyers and human rights activists, Military Courts Watch, working to improve the treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military courts, in military and police custody and in the prisons.

They have covered the segregation issue here.

Israeli Government Most Racist, Extremist in History

Israel named its new cabinet (Hebrew) yesterday and the names are a Who’s Who of the most rabid, racist, brutal and cruel politicians in the nation.

by RICHARD SILVERSTEIN

Israel named its new cabinet (Hebrew) yesterday and the names are a Who’s Who of the most rabid, racist, brutal and cruel politicians in the nation. The only one who rivals them and is missing from the show is Avigdor Lieberman, who’s bowed out for political reasons of his own. In the past, nations of the world have isolated individual leaders of nations and refused to visit or meet with them because their ideas are so noxious that they fall outside the consensus of international discourse. Kurt Waldheim and Jorg Haider are examples of this. The time has come to put the Israeli government in herem. You can pick your poison among them as to which deserves special ostracism.Läs mer

Uri Avnery: The War of Fools

May 16, 2015

A FEW days ago, Israeli TV Channel 10 broadcast an investigative story about the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon, known as “Lebanon War II”.

Though not very profound, it provided a good picture of what actually happened. The three main Israeli protagonists talked freely.

The picture was very disturbing, to say the least. One could say that it was alarming.

The main conclusion is that all our leaders at the time behaved with blatant irresponsibility, combined with stupidity.

TO RECAPITULATE: Lebanon II lasted 34 days, from July 7 to August 14, 2006.

It was provoked by a border incident: Hezbollah forces in South Lebanon crossed the border and attacked a routine Israel patrol. The aim was to capture Israeli soldiers in order to effect a prisoner exchange – the only way to get the Israeli government to release Arab prisoners.

In the attack, two Israeli soldiers were dragged to Lebanese territory. All the others were killed. We were told that the captives were assumed to be alive. The film shows that the army command knew immediately that at least one of the captives was dead, and the second was assumed to have died, too. In fact, both were killed in the action.

The usual reaction to such an incident is a retaliatory strike “to restore deterrence”, such as the bombing or shelling of a Hezbollah base or a Lebanese village. Not this time. The Israeli cabinet started a war.

Why?

The TV story does not provide a convincing answer. The decision was taken at once, after a minimum of deliberations. One gets the feeling that emotions and personal ambitions played a major role.

THE TV investigation consists almost exclusively of the testimonies of the three persons who actually took the decision and conducted the war.

The first was the Prime Minister. Ehud Olmert had arrived at his office only a few month earlier, almost by accident. He had been the Deputy Prime Minister under Ariel Sharon, who had given him this empty title as compensation for not giving him a serious ministry. When Sharon suddenly fell into a permanent coma, Olmert adroitly managed to succeed him.

Throughout his adult life, Olmert had been a political functionary, being loyal to nobody, jumping from party to party and from patron to patron, from the Knesset to the Jerusalem municipality and back, until he achieved his lifetime’s ambition: the Prime Minister’s office.

Throughout, he had not gathered any military experience at all. He had shirked real army service, and in the end he did some shortened service in the army’s judicial department.

The Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, had even less military experience. A labor activist by profession, the former Secretary General of the giant Histadrut trade union, he became the leader of the Labor Party. When his party joined Olmert’s new government, Peretz could chose a ministry and took the most prestigious one: Defense.

This combination of two government leaders without any military qualifications is unusual in Israel, a country perpetually at war. The entire country laughed when Peretz was caught by a photographer at an army exercise following the action through binoculars with the lens caps still on.

The third person in the fateful trio, the Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, was supposed to make up for the military deficiencies of his two civilian superiors. He was a professional soldier, an officer in good standing. But, alas, he was an Air force general, a former combat pilot, who had never handled ground troops.

In Israel, all previous Chiefs of Staff had come from the land forces, had been experienced infantry or tank commanders. The appointment of Halutz to this post was highly unusual. Bad tongues insinuated that the former Defense Minister, a person of Jewish-Iranian origin, had preferred Halutz because his father was also an immigrant from Iran.

Be that as it may, the Chief of Staff, less than a year in office, had no qualifications for leading a force on the ground.

It thus happened that the three leaders of Lebanon War II were new in office, quite inexperienced in directing a ground war. Two of the three had no experience whatsoever in military matters.

The Chief of Staff had another misfortune. It appeared later that a few hours after the decision to go to war, and before the first shot was fired, he had instructed his broker to sell his shares. In the TV story he argued that he had meant to give the instruction some days earlier, when no one dreamed of a war, and that for some technical reason there had been a delay. But like Peretz’ photo with the capped binoculars, Halutz’ affair with the shares cast a shadow over both.

Olmert, of course, has in the meantime been convicted of taking bribes and divers other crimes and sentenced to prison, pending appeal.

LEBANON WAR II was preceded 24 years earlier by Lebanon War I, which was led by Defense Minister Ariel Sharon under the auspices of Menachem Begin.

At the time, the purpose was to destroy the Palestinian bases in South Lebanon. There was a definite war aim, a clear operational plan and efficient, military and political leadership. It ended, of course, in disaster, when the Sabra-Shatila massacre shocked the world.

In the wake of the atrocity, a Commission of Inquiry was set up and Sharon was dismissed from the Ministry of Defense (but not from the government). Military commanders were punished.

In spite of this, in Israel the campaign was considered a brilliant military achievement. Only a few realized that it was a military shambles: on the eastern front, opposite Syria, no Israeli unit reached its prescribed objective, while on the western front the Israeli troops reached Beirut only after the prescribed time, and only by breaking the UN-imposed cease-fire. (It was then that I met Yasser Arafat in the besieged western part of the city.)

Lebanon I had one unforeseen and, lasting effect. The Palestinian troops were indeed removed for the country and relocated in Tunis (where Arafat continued to conduct the fight until the Oslo agreement), but instead of the Palestinian threat another, much worse threat grew in Lebanon. The Shiite population, until then an ally of Israel, became a deadly and very efficient enemy. Hezbollah (“Party of Allah”) grew into a potent political and military force, which eventually led to Lebanon War II.

YET LEBANON War I was a strategic masterpiece compared to Lebanon War II.

In Lebanon II there was no operational plan at all. Nor was there a clear war aim – a requisite for any successful military operation.

The war started with a massive bombardment of civilian as well as military targets, power stations, roads and villages, the fulfillment of an Air Force general’s dream. Decision were taken and revoked, operations started and cancelled. Targets were bombed and destroyed without any purpose, except to terrorize the civilian population and “burn into their consciousness” the lesson that it was not worthwhile to provoke Israel.

Hezbollah reacted by terrorizing Israeli towns and villages with missiles. On both sides, casualties and destruction mounted. South and Central Lebanon suffered, of course, the most.

When Hezbollah did not capitulate, pressure in Israel mounted for a ground attack. It led next to nowhere. After the UN decreed a cease-fire, the Israeli leadership decided to make a last effort and launched a ground attack after the deadline. 34 Israeli soldiers were killed for nothing.

A large part of the operation was carried out by reserve soldiers, who were hastily called up. When the reservists arrived at their bases, they found the permanent emergency stores empty of many essential war materials. Being uniformed civilians, they complained loudly. Clearly, the army command had neglected the stores for years. The same with training – many reserve troops had not been through their annual training exercises for years.

When the fire eventually stopped, the achievements of the Israeli army amounted to nothing. A few Lebanese villages right next to the border were conquered, and had to be left again.

THIS TIME, the failures could not be covered up. A civilian Commission of Inquiry was set up. It condemned the leadership. Peretz and Halutz had to resign, Olmert was indicted for corruption soon after and had to resign, too.

From the Israeli government’s point of view, Lebanon II did yield some achievements.

Since then until now the Lebanon-Israel border has been comparatively quiet. If there had been any discernible war aim at all, it was to terrorize the Lebanese civilian population by widespread destruction and killing. This was indeed achieved. Hassan Nasrallah, the outstanding Hezbollah leader (who was appointed after his much less able predecessor was “eliminated” by the Israeli army in a “targeted killing”) publicly admitted with unusual candor that he would not have ordered the prisoner-taking action if he had foreseen that it would result in a war.

However, listening to the three Israeli leaders in the TV stories, one is struck by the glaring incompetence of all three. They started a war in which hundreds of Israelis and Lebanese were killed and houses destroyed without a valid reason, conducted a war without a clear plan, took decisions without the necessary knowledge. Speaking on TV, they showed very little respect for each other.

An Israeli, listening to these testimonies, is compelled to ask himself or herself: is this true for all our wars, past and future? Has this only been covered up until now by censorship and silent agreement?

And the much larger question: has this not been true for most wars in history, from ancient Egypt and Greece until now? We know already that World War I, with its millions of victims, was ignited by political idiots and conducted by military incompetents.

Is humanity condemned to suffer this forever? Is this all that we Israelis can look forward to, another few wars conducted by the same kind of politicians and generals?

Uri Avnery

Uri Avnery: -A Netanyahu day- and nightmare!

Uri Avnery
May 9, 2015

BINYAMIN NETANYAHU seems to be detested now by everyone. Almost as much as his meddling wife, Sarah’le.

Six weeks ago, Netanyahu was the great victor. Contrary to all opinion polls, he achieved a surprise victory at the last moment, winning 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset, leaving the Labor Party (re-branded “The Zionist Camp”) well behind him.

The extra seats did not come from the Left. They came from his nearest competitors, the Rightist parties.

However, it was a great personal triumph. Netanyahu was on top of his world. Sarah’le was radiant. Netanyahu left no doubt that he was now the master, and that he was determined to order things according to his wishes.

This week he had his comeuppance. On the very last day of the period allotted to him by law to set up his new government, he was near desperation.

AN OLD Hebrew saying puts it succinctly: “Who is a hero? He who turns an enemy into a friend.”

In this sense, Netanyahu is an anti-hero. He has a peculiar talent for turning friends into enemies. Sarah’le is a great help in this.

Winston Churchill once advised that at the moment of victory, one should be magnanimous. Magnanimity is not one of Netanyahu’s outstanding virtues. He made it clear that he, and he alone, was now the master.

Right after the election Netanyahu decreed that the next government would be a narrow coalition of orthodox and rightist parties, which would be able at long last to do the things he really wants to do: put an end to this two-state nonsense, castrate the Supreme Court, muzzle the media and much more.

Everything went just fine. Netanyahu was invited by the President of the State to form the next government, coalition talks went smoothly, and the contours of the coalition were clear: Likud, the Ashkenazi orthodox Torah party, the Oriental orthodox Shas party, Moshe Kahlon’s new economic reform party, Naftali Bennett’s nationalist-religious party and Avigdor Lieberman’s ultra-rightist party. Altogether: a comfortable 67 of the 120 Knesset members.

Party chiefs don’t have lo love each other to set up a coalition. They don’t even have to like each other. But it is not really very comfortable to sit together in a government when they hate and despise each other.

THE FIRST to throw a bomb was Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman is not considered a “real” Israeli. He looks different, speaks with a very thick foreign accent, his mind seems to work in a different way. Although he came to Israel decades ago, he is still considered “a Russian”. Actually he came from Soviet Moldavia.

There is a saying that has been attributed to Stalin: Revenge is best served cold. This Tuesday, 48 hours before the end of the time allotted by law to the formation of the new government, Lieberman dropped his bomb.

In the election, Lieberman lost more than half of his strength to Likud, shrinking to six seats. In spite of this, Netanyahu assured him that he could retain his post as Foreign Minister. It was a cheap concession, since Netanyahu makes all important foreign policy decisions himself.

All of a sudden, without any provocation, Lieberman convened a press conference and made a momentous announcement: he was not joining the new government.

Why? All Lieberman’s personal demands had been satisfied. The pretexts were obviously contrived. For example, he wants “terrorists” to be executed, a demand resolutely resisted by all security services, who believe (quite rightly) that creating martyrs is a very bad idea. Lieberman also wants to send to prison orthodox youngsters who refuse to serve in the army, a ridiculous demand from a government in which the orthodox parties play a central role. And so on.

It was a clear and blatant act of revenge. Obviously Lieberman had taken the decision right from the beginning but kept it secret until the very last moment, when there was no time for Netanyahu to change the composition of the government by inviting, for example, the Labor Party.

It was indeed revenge served cold.

WITHOUT THE six members of Lieberman’s party, Netanyahu still has a majority of 61, just enough to present the government to the Knesset and get a vote of confidence. Just.

A 61-member government is a continuous nightmare. I would not wish it on my own worst enemy.

In such a situation, no member of the coalition parties can go abroad, for fear of a sudden opposition motion of no-confidence. For Israelis, that is a fate worse than death. The only way for a coalition MK to travel to Paris would be to make an agreement with a member of the opposition who wants to go, say, to Las Vegas. Hand Washes Hand, as the saying goes.

But there is a much worse day-and-night-mare for Netanyahu: in a 61-member coalition, “every bastard is a king”’ as a Hebrew saying goes. Each and every member can obstruct any bill produced by the government, allow any opposition motion to win, absent himself from any crucial vote.

Every day would be a field day for blackmail of all kinds. Netanyahu would be compelled to accede to every whim of every member. Even in Greek mythology no such torture was ever invented.

THE FIRST example was given already on the very first day after the Lieberman bomb.

Bennett, who had not yet signed the coalition agreement, found himself in a position in which there would be no Netanyahu government without him. He racked his brains on how to exploit the situation and get something more than was already promised to him (and humiliate Netanyahu in the process). He came up with the demand that Ayelet Shaked become Minister of Justice.

Shaked is the beauty queen of the new Knesset. In spite of her 38 years, she has a girlish appearance. She has also a beautiful name: Ayelet means gazelle, Shaked means almonds.

Her mother was a leftist teacher, but her Iraqi-born father was a rightist Likud central committee member. She follows in his footsteps.

This almond-eyed gazelle excels in political activities based on hatred: an intense hatred of Arabs, leftists, homosexuals and foreign refugees. She has authored a steady stream of extreme rightist bills. Among them the atrocious bill that says that the “Jewish character” of Israel takes precedence over democracy and overrides basic laws. Her incitement against the helpless refugees from Sudan and Eritrea, who have somehow succeeded in reaching Israel, is just a part of her untiring efforts. Though the No. 2 of a rabid religious party, she is not religious at all.

The relationship between her and Bennett started when both were employees of Netanyahu’s political office, when he was leader of the opposition. Somehow, they both incurred the wrath of Sara’le, who never forgets or forgives. By the way, the same happened to Lieberman, also a former director of Netanyahu’s office.

So now is payment day. Netanyahu tortured Bennett during the negotiations, letting him sweat for days. Bennett used the opportunity after Lieberman’s desertion and put up a new condition for joining the coalition: Shaked must be Minister of Justice.

Netanyahu, bereft of any practical alternative, gave in to open blackmail. It was that or no government.

So now the gazelle is in charge of the Supreme Court, which she detests. She will choose the next Attorney General (known in Israel as the “judicial advisor”) and stuff the committee that appoints the judges. She will also be in charge of the ministers’ committee that decides which bills will be presented by the government to the Knesset – and which not.

Not a very promising situation for the Only Democracy in the Middle East.

NETANYAHU IS too experienced not to know that he cannot à la longue govern with such a shaky coalition. He needs at least one more partner in the near future. But where to find one?

The Arab party is obviously out. So is Meretz. So is Yair Lapid’s party, for the simple reason that the orthodox will not sit with him in the government. So only the Labor Party (aka Zionist Camp) is left.

Frankly, I believe that Yitzhak Herzog would jump at the opportunity. He must know by now that he is not the popular tribune needed to lead his party to power. He has neither the stature of an Apollo nor the tongue of a Netanyahu. He has never voiced an original idea nor led a successful protest.

Moreover, the Labor Party has never excelled in opposition. It was the party in power for 45 consecutive years before and after the founding of the state. As an opposition party it is pathetic, and so is “Buji” Herzog.

Joining Netanyahu’s government in a few months would be ideal for Herzog. There is never a lack of pretexts – we experience at least once a month a National Emergency that demands National Unity. A little war, trouble with the UN and such. (Though John Kerry this week gave an interview to Israeli TV that was a masterpiece of abject, belly-crawling self-humiliation.)

Getting Herzog won’t be easy. Labor is not a monolithic body. Many of its functionaries do not admire Herzog, consider Bennett a fascist and Netanyahu a habitual liar and cheat. But the allures of government are strong, ministerial chairs are so comfortable.

My bet: Netanyahu, the great survivor, will survive.

Uri Avnery: A boy called Bibi

Uri Avnery
May 2, 2015

THERE ARE two different opinions about Binyamin Netanyahu. It is difficult to believe that they concern the same person.

One is that Netanyahu is a shallow politician, devoid of ideas and convictions, who is led solely by his obsession to remain in power. This Netanyahu has a good voice and a talent for making shallow speeches on television, speeches devoid of any intellectual content – and that’s all.

This Netanyahu is highly “pressurable” (a Hebrew word invented almost solely for him), a man who will change his views according to political expediency, disclaiming in the evening what he has said in the morning. None of his words should be trusted. He will lie and cheat anytime to assure his survival.

The other Netanyahu is almost the exact opposite. A principled patriot, a serious thinker, a statesman who sees danger beyond the horizon. This Netanyahu is a gifted orator, able to move the US Congress and the UN plenum, admired by the great mass of Israelis.

So which of these descriptions is true?

Neither.

IF IT is true that the character of a person is shaped by his early childhood, we must examine the background of Netanyahu in order to understand him.

He grew up in the shadow of a strong father. Benzion Millikowsky, who changed his foreign name to the Hebrew Netanyahu, was a very dominant and very unhappy person. Born in Warsaw, then a provincial town in the Russian Empire, he immigrated to Palestine as a young man, studied history at the new Hebrew University in Jerusalem and expected to become a professor there. He was not accepted.

Benzion was the son of an early adherent of Vladimir (Ze’ev) Jabotinsky, the extreme rightist Zionist leader. He inherited from his father a very extremist outlook, and passed it on to his three sons. Binyamin was the second one. His elder brother, still a child himself, called him Bibi, and the childish appellation stuck.

Benzion’s rejection by the prestigious young Hebrew University turned him into a bitter man, a bitterness that lasted until his death in 2012, at age 102. He was sure that this rejection had nothing to do with his academic qualification, and everything with his ultra-nationalist opinions.

His extreme Zionism did not stop him leaving Palestine and seeking his academic luck in the United States, where a second-rate university gave him a professorship. His life’s work as a historian concerned the fate of the Jews in medieval Christian Spain – the expulsion and inquisition. It engendered in him a very dark world view: the conviction that Jews will always be persecuted, that all Goyim (non-Jews) hate the Jews, that a straight line connects the auto-da-fé of the Spanish inquisition with the Nazi Holocaust.

During the years, the Netanyahu family went back and forth between the US and Israel. Binyamin grew up in America, acquired perfect American English, essential for his future career, studied and became a salesman. His obvious talent for this profession attracted a Likud foreign minister, who sent him to the UN as Israeli spokesman.

BENZION NETANYAHU was not only a very bitter person, who accused the Zionist and Israeli academic establishment of failing to recognize his academic stature. He was also a very autocratic family man.

The three Netanyahu boys lived in constant awe of Father. They were not allowed to make any noise at home while the Great Man worked in his closed study. They were not allowed to bring other boys home. Their mother was completely devoted to her husband and served him in every way, sacrificing her own personality.

In every family, the second child of three is in a difficult position. He is not admired like the eldest, nor indulged like the youngest. For Binyamin this was especially hard, because of the personality of the eldest.

Yonatan Netanyahu (both names mean “God has given”) seems to have been a specially blessed boy. He was good-looking, gifted, much liked, even admired. In the army, he became the commander of the revered Sayeret Matkal (“General Staff Commando Unit”) – the elite of the army’s elite.

As such he was the ground commander of the daring 1976 Entebbe commando raid in Uganda, which liberated the captive passengers of a flight hijacked by Palestinian and German guerillas on the way to Israel. Yonatan was killed and became a national hero. He was also adored by his father, who never quite accepted the qualities of his second son.

Between his father, the embittered Great Thinker, and his elder brother, the Legendary Hero, Binyamin grew up as a quiet but very ambitious boy, part Israeli, part American. He worked for some time as a furniture salesman, until he was discovered by the far-right Likud foreign minister, Moshe Arens.

Between his obsessive need to be approved by his father and to be found equal to his glorious brother, Netanyahu’s own character was forged. His father never quite appreciated him, once saying that he would make a good foreign minister, but not a prime minister.

Being his father’s son, Netanyahu incited the people against Yitzhak Rabin after the Oslo Agreement and was photographed on the speaker’s balcony during the demonstration in which a symbolic coffin of Rabin was carried around. Soon after, when Rabin was murdered, he denied all responsibility.

Rabin’s successor, Shimon Peres, failed miserably, and Netanyahu became prime minister. It was a total catastrophe. On the evening after the next elections, when it be came clear that he had lost, multitudes streamed to Tel Aviv’s central square (now named after Rabin) in a spontaneous demonstration of joy like that at the liberation of Paris.

His successor, Labor’s Ehud Barak, had no more luck. A former army Chief of Staff, admired by many and especially by himself, he compelled President Bill Clinton to convene an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference at Camp David. Barak, who was quite ignorant of Palestinian attitudes, came to dictate his terms and was shocked when they were rejected. Coming home, he declared that the Palestinians want to throw us into the sea. Hearing this, the public threw him out and elected the tough far-right general, Ariel Sharon, the founder of Likud.

Netanyahu became Minister of Finance. As such he was quite successful. Applying the neo-liberal ultra-capitalist teaching he had absorbed in the US, he made the poor poorer and the rich richer. The poor seemed to liked it.

Sharon was the father of the settlements in the West Bank. To strengthen these, he decided to give up the Gaza Strip with its few settlements, which were a disproportional drag on the army. But his unilateral retreat from the Gaza Strip shocked the rightist camp. The elder Netanyahu called the move a “crime against humanity”.

Inpatient with opposition, Sharon split the Likud and founded his own Kadima (“Forwards”) party. Netanyahu again became the leader of Likud.

As usual, he was lucky. Sharon suffered a stroke and fell into a coma, from which he never recovered. His successor, Ehud Olmert, was accused of corruption and had to resign. The next in line, Tzipi Livni, was incompetent and unable to form a government, though all the ingredients were there.

Netanyahu, the man who was kicked out just a few years earlier by the cheering masses, came back as an imperator. Again the masses cheered. Shakespeare would have loved it.

SINCE THEN, Netanyahu has been elected again and again. The last time was a clear personal victory. He vanquished all his competitors on the Right.

So who is this Netanyahu? Contrary to popular opinion, he is a man of very strong beliefs – the beliefs of his far-right father. The entire world is out to kill us at all times, we need a powerful state to defend ourselves, all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan has been given us by God (whether he exists or not). Everything else is lies, subterfuges, tactics.

When, in a famous speech at Bar-Ilan university near Tel Aviv, Netanyahu embraced the principle of “Two States for Two Peoples”, those who knew him could only smile. It was as if he had recommended the eating of pork on Yom Kippur.

He dangled this statement before the eyes of the naive Americans and let his Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, lead endless negotiations with the Palestinians, whom he despises. Whenever it seemed that the negotiations were nearing some goal, he quickly put up another condition, such us the ridiculous demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People. He would not dream, of course, of recognizing the Palestinian territories as the Nation State of the Palestinian People – a people he does not really believe exists at all.

On the eve of the last election, just now, Netanyahu announced that there would not be a Palestinian state as long as he was in power. When the Americans remonstrated, he repudiated himself. Why not? As his Likud predecessor, Yitzhak Shamir, famously said, “It is permitted to lie for the Fatherland.”

Netanyahu will lie, cheat, repudiate himself, raise false flags – all for the purpose of achieving his one and only real goal, the Rock of our Existence (as he loves to say), the heritage of his father – the Jewish State from the sea to the river.

THE TROUBLE is that in this area, the Arabs are already the majority, a small majority, but one that is bound to grow steadily.

A Jewish and democratic state in the entire country is impossible. The popular joke has it that this is too much even for God. So He decreed that we have to choose two of the three attributes: a Jewish and democratic state in part of the country, a Jewish state in all of the country that will not be democratic, or a democratic state in all of the country that will not be Jewish.

Netanyahu’s solution to this problem is to ignore it. Just go on, enlarge the settlements, and concentrate on the immediate problem: install his fourth government and plan for his fifth, four years from now.

And, of course, show his father, who is looking down on him from heaven, that after all little Bibi, his second son, is worthy of him.

Ad