Whether it is Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton who occupies the White House, America’s love affair with Israel is about to be renewed.
But at what cost?
The absence of a peace deal has served Israel well. It has provided the cover for the colonisation of the West Bank and the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem. Despite Bernie Sander’s comment that its actions in Gaza have been disproportionate, Netanyahu’s Likud government maintains the siege.
Israel’s “success” has been achieved at a high price. Palestinians have paid most of it. As refugees they have been denied their legal rights of return to their ancestral land. As an occupied people they have been humiliated and exploited. The Palestinian political system is divided, corrupted and lacks legitimacy. Palestinians look to the future with little hope of either security or independence.
The people of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon have paid a high price, too. They accommodate, without any Israeli support, millions of Palestinian refugees.
The costs of Israel’s success are not only paid in the Middle East. They are paid, too, by ordinary Americans and Europeans. With their taxes, the USA bankrolls Israel to the tune of $3 billion dollars per year, and Benjamin Netanyahu Israel’s Prime Minister is bargaining hard with President Obama for that sum to be increased. American, European and Arab taxpayers pay heavily into UNWRA, the UN organization that maintains five million Palestinian refugees.
Through multi-national and bi-lateral aid programmes, the same taxpayers meet the costs of Israel’s destruction of housing and infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank. America has invested billions of dollars into the development of West Bank settlements that amplify the resentments and insecurities of the whole region.
For their support of Israel, Western states have lost political credibility across the Middle East and, indeed, across the whole Muslim world. It has not stopped the flow of oil or the trade in arms but popular resentment on the Arab street has been a factor fuelling Islamist support for anti-western movements across the region. Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaida and ISIS share and feed from a popular resentment about the West’s support for Israel and its indifference to human rights of Palestinians.
Such movements are no real military threat to Israel. Far more dangerous to Israel and the Israeli people, who have also paid a high price for the policies of their governments, are the right-wing forces that drive the occupation. Leaders of Likud have grown from, and now shape, a political culture that some Israeli leaders – particularly from a military background – are now describing as fascist.
Resigning from the government, former Defence Minister General Moshe Ya’alon said, “extremist and dangerous elements have taken over Israel and the Likud Party and are shaking the foundations and threatening to hurt its residents.”
Fellow general and Deputy Chief of Staff, Yair Golan, caused a stir on May 4th, Holocaust memorial day, by saying:
“If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”
Referring to Ya’alon’s resignation, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak recently said during a TV interview on May 20th 2016 that Israel had been “infected by the seeds of fascism”. He went on to explain to the TV interview that “Life-sustaining Zionism and the seeds of fascism cannot live together.”
There is growing concern among some Israelis that their society has lost its moral compass and is heading towards an apartheid future that would render their state neither Jewish nor democratic.
Is America listening? Do Americans understand why and to where their pro-Israel leaders are taking them? Do they care? They ought to. They and what is left of their democracy have also paid a high price for their support of Israel. It is not the society they have up till now imagined it to be.
Bill Williamson is the author of Place is the Passion: reframing the Israel-Palestine conflict.
This remarkable new book presents a solution to this conflict that is fair to both Israelis and Palestinians… read more