By Robert Olson
November 12, 2015
It seems that the latest outburst of violence in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank in many ways marks the end of Palestine -- at least as it has been represented historically as part of the Zionist-Israel, Arab-Palestinian-Israel conflict.
It is clear from the current unrest that the conflict between Palestinians and Israel no longer represents viable demands for national rights but for communal, human and civil rights and equal treatment of Palestinians within the judicial system of Israel and in East Jerusalem. This is the system that Israel has had in place within Israel for 67 years (since 1948) and in East Jerusalem for 48 years (since 1967). In the coming decades it will now be applied forcefully in the West Bank. The best indication of this is that Israel may well start to strip the citizen rights of perpetrators of attacks again Israeli soldiers and police, not just from Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, but also within pre-1967 Israel.
The 327,000 Palestinians of East Jerusalem, conquered by Israel in 1967, do not have citizenship rights. They have only permanent residency status that does not allow them to run for the Knesset or vote. Until they prove to the Israeli authorities that they reside in East Jerusalem or within the border of Israel they cannot receive “health insurance, children allowances, retirement and unemployment benefits, or … services through the Interior Ministry such as being issued an ID, travel documents, marriage and birth registrations, and spousal death certificates,” Al-Monitor says. It is now reported that the current Likud government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like to revoke the residency permits of thousands of East Jerusalemites as well as hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel -- in other words, a kind of a juridical cleansing.
The current unrest provides a propitious time for such a move. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is anaemic, incompetent and so corrupt that it can do little to stop such actions except shout and encourage Palestinian youths to violence including random stabbings of Jews.
The PA has no control over Area C, which was awarded to Israel as a result of the 1993 Oslo Accord and comprises 60 percent of the West Bank. It now has 330,000 Jewish settlers. The PA also has little control over areas A and B, which comprise 40 percent of the 2,200 square miles of the West Bank, a total of 440 square miles. Areas A and B are mutually controlled by the PA and Israeli forces and completely infiltrated by Israeli undercover (Shin Bet) agents and their Palestinian collaborators. One former retired Israeli general, Michael Herzog, told The New York Times “it is in their [the PA] interest” to maintain the relationship with Israel. A PA official confirmed that statement, saying even the PA forces' bullets, tear gas and other crowd control devices come from Israel. PA forces collaborate with Israeli forces to control, contain and arrest resisting Palestinian youth.
Hamas, the Palestinian government in Gaza, is as helpless as the PA. All it can do is to exhort Palestinian youth to keep attacking Jews. This has now led teenage Palestinians and Jews to attack and stab each other. Hamas has not yet recovered from the devastating attacks by Israel on Gaza in 2014 in which about 2,200 Palestinians were killed and 10,000 were wounded, 10,000 homes were razed and 89,000 were damaged. Rebuilding costs are believed to be between $4 and $6 billion. Even trying to address such damage is bound to keep Hamas busy for 20 years -- if they manage to stay in power.
It is clear that the PA and Hamas can do little to deter Israel from absorbing the East Jerusalem Palestinians and absorbing (not integrating) them into Israel in the matter that Palestinians within pre-1967 Israel have been absorbed -- prejudice, bias and discrimination aside.
It seems that the same fate awaits West Bank Palestinians: pushed into virtual detainment camps in areas A and B and compelled to make a living by building homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank, in greater Jerusalem and the area between pre-1967 Israel and the barrier wall. The barrier wall itself comprises 10 percent of the West Bank. Many Palestinians are dependent on Israel's economy to survive.
The Palestinians cannot expect help from Jordan or the 3.1 to 3.3 million Palestinians in Jordan. Jordan is struggling with 800,000 or more refugees from Syria and another estimated 400,000 from Iraq. Refugees from Iraq and Syria began coming as early as the 1980s. In addition, Jordan is completely under the national security umbrella of Israel and the US. Jordan's big concern is that if Israel moves to expel Palestinians from the West Bank in the coming years it could be compelled to accept them despite its weak economy. Perhaps the UN and international and US aid agencies would provide such refugees with aid, much like they do in Gaza, relieving Israel of the burden of doing so.
Palestinians in the West Bank can expect no help from Iraq, Syria or Lebanon, which are themselves inundated by refugees and are near collapse. There will also be no help from the Gulf Arab countries, which have made it clear for the past four years they are now cooperating with Israel in a variety of ways and not just against Iran. Little help can be expected from Turkey. While Turkey's diplomatic relations with Israel have not been good since the Mavi Marmara incident of 2010, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Islamist government of Turkey under then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a number of diplomatic clashes with Israel. However, trade relations between the two countries remain sound and recently began to improve. It is possible that relations between Turkey and Israel will improve further after the Nov. 1 election in Turkey in which the AKP government made stronger gains than expected, further strengthening its dominance in Turkey's politics.
In spite of its Nov. 1 gains, the AKP government also has its hands full with increasing opposition to its authoritarian rule and its own Kurdish insurgency. There will be little help for Palestinians, whether in the West Bank or Gaza, from Arab countries or Ankara. Even if Israel eventually assumes complete control of the Temple Mount (Har HaBayit), the Noble Sanctuary (al-Haram ash-Sharif) or the Al-Aqsa Mosque, there is little that Arab countries or Turkey can do except condemn and deplore. They can take the issue to the UN and let the Palestinians wait in purgatory. Gulf Sunni Arab countries have publicly declared their close relations with Israel in order to counter what they proclaim is a threat to their dynasties and security.
Of course all of the above will take time. There will be more violence in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank and, indeed, in Gaza. But Gaza is now a ward of the UN and international charity organizations, so no one has to worry too much about it until there is mass starvation or no longer water to drink.
As discussed above, East Jerusalem will be absorbed and “managed” by Israel until the Palestinians are subdued, compelled to flee or migrate to some other country or adjust to their fate in Israel. It cannot be ruled out that many of the refugees from Syria now seeking asylum in Europe, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey will not return to Syria. This will leave a lot of empty space and work opportunities for displaced Palestinians. It might be that Europe, the US and international organizations will be happy to supply aid to settle Palestinians in the barren lands of Syria. If so, this too would help to alleviate Palestinian population pressures in a greater Israel to assure the continued viability of the Jewish state. Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett has announced Israel will begin to settle 100,000 Jewish settlers on the Golan Heights, encircling West Bank Palestinians in an ever-tightening pincers of Jewish settlements.
Palestine and Palestinians would then become an imagined place with no Palestinians -- they would become as Israeli officials define them: Arabs. As Arabs they would have no claim to the lands of Israel – however, Jews in the future want to define those lands.
It seems the US is quite willing, even eager, to jettison Palestinians into this space which will then be thought of as imaginary as Palestinians are absorbed into Jewish space.
This became quite clear during Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's visit to the US in late October when he and his team met with US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter. The main purpose of the meeting was to determine the military and foreign aid compensation for Israel as a result of the P5+1 (the UK, France, the US, Russia, China and Germany) nuclear agreement with Iran. The US promised Israel that it would be handsomely rewarded in spite of the ferocious opposition of Israel and US pro-Israel and Jewish lobbies to the agreement, which included Netanyahu's address of the US Congress and his blatant humiliation of the US president even before the nuclear agreement was signed on July 14.
Negotiations between the US and Israel have been ongoing for weeks. They started more intensely when new US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford met with Netanyahu on Oct. 18.
According to respected Israeli journalist Ben Caspit writing for Al-Monitor, Israel will seek $4 to 4.5 billion as compared to the current $3.2 billion a year in order to ward off “Iranian terrorism.”
Even if one accepts the lower figure of $4 billion plus $1 billion for other security-related programs, the compensation package would amount to $50 billion over a period of 10 years or $65 billion over 15 years. Israel's current defense budget is around $15 billion. If implemented, the projected compensation package would pay Israel's defense budget for five years. Needless to say, this would allow Israel to use other funds to complete the absorption of the West Bank and the “management” of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, within pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank.
Caspit reported Israel would demand the following: “receive increased funding for new air defense Iron Dome batteries; enlarge American funding and involvement in the Magic Wand (also called David's sling) system that creates layers of protection from rockets, missiles and ballistic missiles at different heights; purchase another squadron of F-35 fighter jets [wings for the F -35 are already manufactured in Israel by Lockheed Martin]; and receive a quantity of super-penetrating bunker-busting bombs [up to 30,000 to 35,000 thousand pounds in order to destroy Iran nuclear sites if necessary], radar instruments, cyber technologies and numerous additional tools designed to preserve Israel's ‘qualitative edge'.”
This means Israel should have a “qualitative edge” over all the Arab Gulf states that are estimated to have received around $200 billion since 2010. This does not account for weapons they received from sources other than the US. However, unlike Israel, they purchased their weapons systems and other security-related programs. It is implicit in the statements of Carter that the Gulf Arab states are not receiving weapons systems that would provide them with any such “qualitative edge.” Maybe enough weapons to fight Iran but certainly not enough to challenge Israel by any stretch of the imagination.
According to Carter: “The Middle East is going though dramatic changes and experiencing generational crises that threaten Israel from every direction. … [The] United States stands with Israel, and we always will. … [It] is a top priority for America, for our military and for President Obama and me personally.”
Carter's views are close to those of Obama, who has stated on several occasions that US relations with Israel are “enduring, unshakable and sacrosanct,” so the defence secretary and president seem to be on the same page in spite of Israel's attempts to torpedo the nuclear accord with Iran.
It should be clear from the above that any fears over the fate of Palestinians in Israel, East Jerusalem or the West Bank are of little concern to the US.
Robert Olson is a Middle East analyst.