Is "Israel" Hatching A Grand Strategy?
"Israel" is falling apart. Or, behind the apparent chaos, is there some plan up someone’s sleeve?
Tens of thousands of Israeli protestors took to the streets of "Tel Aviv" on Wednesday night, only to be met with stun grenades, water cannons, and forceful arrests. Middle-class "Tel Aviv" was shocked and outraged.
The Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, had ordered police to take a harsher line against the protesters. He labelled the Israelis protesting the government’s ‘judicial reform’ as “anarchists,” who have “crossed all boundaries”. The security minister demanded the police “use all means at their disposal” to quell unrest.
Undoubtedly, Netanyahu’s new ministers see the Middle East as ontologically Manichaean -- a relentless struggle between good and evil, in which -- until final victory -- there can be no real peace, only ‘cease-fires’ for tactical purpose.
The "Tel Aviv" protestors, by contrast, support the continuation of the status quo (i.e. liberal occupation). The new regime however views these demonstrators either as simpletons or cowards who all-too-willingly let themselves be deceived by enemy propaganda or as traitors.
Just to be clear, these largely secular Israeli protestors represent the former Ashkenazi professional ruling class who have been deposed by the Mizrahi ‘underclass’ of settler extremists and religious Zionists in the last elections. The latter have been waiting decades to achieve power. Now they have it; they exult in it and are not about to back-off.
As one segment of Israeli society protests amid police repression, another segment, the Settler movement, has been on a rampage. On Sunday, following an earlier shooting of two Israeli settlers in the West Bank, heavily armed settlers stormed the Palestinian town of Hawara in a revenge burn-out of many apartment blocks and some 300 Palestinian cars.
Later, the radical mister, Bezalel Smotrich was wholly unrepentant: “The village of Hawara needs to be wiped out. I think that the State of Israel needs to do that – not, God forbid, private individuals,” Smotrich said when asked why he had ‘liked’ a tweet by the deputy head of the Samaria Regional Council, Davidi Ben Zion, who called for Hawara to be “wiped out today”.
The Opposition leader, Yair Lapid used the loaded term a terrorist ‘pogrom’ to describe the Settler storming of Hawara.
Israeli security forces and the fire brigade stood aside as Hawara burned. It is clear that Smotrich now rules the West Bank. Governmental powers were handed to a body to be headed by Smotrich that make him the de facto Governor in the West Bank.
Then Palestinian unrest -- which has been heating up for weeks -- boiled over on Wednesday in Nablus. In a daylight operation to arrest activists, Israeli forces killed 11 Palestinians and wounded 102 others during an armed confrontation. Soon afterward, a familiar pattern ensued: six rockets were launched from Gaza into southern "Israel", leading to Israeli airstrikes on the besieged enclave early Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, the US wrings its hands impotently. On the night that Hawara was burning, Blinken called on parties “to de-escalate tensions and restore calm”. Really? How? And at the same time, GOP Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic majority leader Chuck Schumer were cordially schmoozing with Netanyahu.
The conventional wisdom in Washington is that picking a fight with "Israel" -- particularly when entering an election year -- is ‘worse than a crime: it’s a mistake’.
Everything will be ok -- the theme goes -- if only Netanyahu can be persuaded by Washington to get a grip on the radicals in his government and compromise with the opposition led by Lapid. However, the prospects of dialogue or reconciliation are almost non-existent.
Blinken’s emollient words won’t do: Ben Gvir and Smotrich are not listening to Netanyahu, who is weak and dependent on such ministers to keep him out of prison on corruption charges. Matters are moving to a climax -- one way or another.
For, what is occurring in "Israel" is a structural and demographical antithetical opposition that has been progressing towards its inevitable explosion for at least the last 23 years -- i.e., from the moment when PM Ariel Sharon made his provocative march on to Al-Haram al-Sharif. It was he who lit the fuse to the radical nationalist movement. Twenty years on: the Settlers and the Religious factions have reached the top -- and plan to remain there.
In the intervening two decades since Sharon’s intrusion, "Israel" has undergone a huge metamorphosis. Under Netanyahu’s premiership, Israel has tacked hard to the Right – both politically and culturally.
Just to be clear, there is a political clash for sure. The Netanyahu bloc is proceeding to gut the judicial system. But, "Israel" has entered into a culturally revolutionary war, too. Smotrich proudly says, “I’m a fascist and a homophobe, but [I] won’t “stone gays” (at least for now).
The Israeli middle classes are on the street but are unlikely to find the inner-resolve for a violent fight. The Mizrahi, the Settlers, and the Religious are itching for one – as the burning of Hawara has just demonstrated.
For, they have a purpose, and it’s not new. Its been mulled over for years. The radicals are quite open about it. And its not just about constitutional change. The Judicial ‘reform’ is the steppingstone to the coming Big Demographic Shock:
The project is to transfer of the bulk of the Palestinian population from the West Bank to east of the River Jordan (i.e. into Jordan itself), and to tie the rights of any Palestinians remaining west of the River to whatever sovereign entity emerges as successor to the Hashemite Kingdom (see here for a piece by Ali Shihabi, a close adviser to MbS, from last year – “The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine”).
How is this ‘project’ to be triggered? A provocation at Al-Aqsa, perhaps? Ben Gvir ascends to Al-Aqsa vowing to rebuild the Third Temple in its place, or the West Bank spontaneously explodes. Some pretext is necessary to trigger this project -- but first the judicial reform must be completed that empowers the state to take ‘exceptional’ decisions without judicial review, and further dis-empower Palestinians.
It seems that Ariel Sharon was prescient: He foresaw that a weakening United States likely would be paralyzed, and unable to act. He might yet be proved right. But any threat to Al-Aqsa will cause ructions across the Islamic world and some form of military response. Washington may not want a regional conflict -- and certainly not one involving Iran which might destroy "Israel". But does Team Biden possess the energy or the will to stop the Settlers? They are ruthless and fanatical.