Israel: Beware of Demolitions and the Ides of March

Prof. As’ad Abdul Rahman

Israel is preparing itself for general elections in March next year and each major candidate whose eyes on the position of the prime minister of Israel is also getting his cards ready to play the cards that might win him the race. The whole elections seem to be a referendum on whether Prime Minister Netanyahu stays in power or retire for good.

Before, Netanyahu had the “Iranian card” to play which has been rendered useless after the last meeting of the five plus one group with Iran. The group seemed to have reached agreement on all the technical points, but had one issue to be resolved which is the lifting of sanctions which Iran demanded to be revoked entirely upon signing, while the United States wanted to phase them out. A very intelligent compromise was reached to extend the talks (which have practically ended) for ten more months, while releasing $700 million of Iranian frozen funds every month. In connection with this, it is worth mentioning that other sanctions enacted by the UN Security Council and the European Union against Iran that will run out by the end of next July will never be renewed. That leaves the American sanctions to be lifted by the end of the same month when an agreement will be signed. If Congress decides to phase them out, so be it, while all other sanctions would no longer be in place and American interests as well as companies would only be punished in this case and Rouhani (the moderate Iranian leader) could truly declare, along with the European Union, victory.

The new card chosen by Prime Minister Netanyahu to play now to appease the colonial extreme right -wing in Israel is that involving the   demolition of Palestinian houses. The very well-known Israeli scholar Yossi Mekelberg who is also the Director of International Relations and Social Sciences Program at Regents University, London, was contracted by the American news agency CNN to produce a documentary on the subject. He commented that “Israel’s destruction of attackers’ homes is illegal, deplorable and counter-productive.” Mekelberg said: “the immorality and the illegality of house demolitions should serve as an overwhelming reason not to resume this abysmal practice which should be condemned by all.” In this regard, according to Israeli human rights organization, B’tselem: “between 2001 and 2005, more than 664 Palestinian houses were demolished in the occupied Palestinian territories during the second Intifada”. The CNN program stated that: “Any demolition of houses is regarded as a grave breach of The Geneva Convention and could potentially lead to a war crime charge against Israel.” Indeed, the counter productivity of such “abysmal practice” has been defined in close meetings between security and intelligence experts from the western world and their Israeli counterparts. They consider that this collective punishment of the Palestinian people could only produce an extreme sense of revenge which could be catastrophic to Israel. The possibility of the next round would come from the Palestinians of the West Bank, not Gaza. The most feared scenario is the “lone wolves cells” which do not belong to known Palestinian organizations launching mortar rounds hitting the very heart of Tel Aviv from areas in the West Bank which are only few miles away in distance.

Another card in Netanyahu’s hands is his almost sure alliance with Natalie Bennett, leader of the right wing religious party the ‘Jewish Home’ who looks to become the prime minister of Israel. Bennett is also the head of the extra parliamentary movement called ‘My Israel’ which advocates “opening wide the door to build settlements in the West Bank.” He opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state when he once told the New Yorker magazine in 2013 “I will do everything in my power to make sure they (Palestinians) never get a state.” Along these lines, Bennett’s plan for a “political settlement” is for Israel to “unilaterally annex Area C, authority over the Gaza Strip should be transferred to Egypt, and Area A and Area B would remain with the Palestinian National Authority, but under the tight security umbrella of Israel Defense Forces to ensure quiet, suppress Palestinian terrorism and to prevent Hamas from taking over”, according to Jewish Week quoting him on January 25, 2011. In a statement to the Washing Post in 2013, Bennett said that “terrorists should be shot without delay and I already killed lots of Arabs in my life and there is no problem with that.”

A possible spoiler is emerging from the Likud heart that is Moshe Kahlon whose parents immigrated to Israel from Libya. He “tried to improve the financial situation of the economically disadvantaged sectors of Israeli society” when he was a minister of welfare and social services. He broke down the monopoly of cell phones when he served as minister of communications. Kahlon broke from Likud because “Likud has been taken over by right-wing extremists”, according to Haaretz and is expected to gain 10 seats with his running mates, Yoav Galant and Meir Dagan. Kahlon could tip the balance because the middle right and the leftist coalition between Labor ( Isaac Herzog) and Hatnua Party (Tzipi Livni) are expected to  win 24 to 26 seats, few seats more than Likud.

Let us wait and see what the omen of the “Ides of March” will bring to Israel in the midst of the demolition of Palestinian homes and ‘the cut throat’ elections?