Thoughts from Jeff Halper, and his theory on the last strategy by Sharon of regionalism
Let us begin with the good news: 2014 will likely mark the beginning of the end of the Israeli Occupation – although its final demise and the emergence of something new and just will need our focused and strategic intervention.
The linear process in which we have been trapped these past three and a half decades reached its dead end long ago, certainly by 1999 when Ehud Barak effectively ended the Oslo “peace process,” but it has taken until now for that fact to manifest itself politically. The imminent failure of the Kerry initiative has finally made it clear that the process of systematically eliminating the two-state solution through ever-expanding and more permanent “facts on the ground,” initiated by Begin and Sharon in 1977 but pursued with equal if not more vigor by Labor governments, has achieved its goal. All the more so since the interminable “peace process,” beginning in Madrid in 1991, the dead horse still being pushed by Kerry, has finally rolled over.
At the end of a linear process two things can happen: the status quo is simply frozen in place indefinitely, which is what Israel is hoping for (the status quo, of course, being one of continued Israeli expansion and Palestinian confinement) or the whole process collapses, opening up new, previously unacceptable, possibilities. The first, I believe, is impossible. Not only has civil society resistance to the Occupation turned the Israel-Palestinian conflict into a truly global issue, at the level of the anti-apartheid struggle, but the concurrent shift in public opinion world-wide is beginning to trickle up into the governments and corporate headquarters. Israel faces only increased isolation and sanctions; it cannot normalize its Occupation or make it disappear from political view. Which leaves us with the second: collapse opening up new possibilities.
The failure of the Kerry initiative will trigger two fateful consequences culminating in a collapse of the status quo. First, Israel, arguing that it has “no partner for peace” and must therefore take unilateral acts to protect itself, will likely annex Area C, the 62% of the West Bank under full Israeli control today, and the site of the settlements. (Israel, of course, has already annexed East Jerusalem, and Netanyahu refuses to allow Kerry to even mention Jerusalem in the “framework” agreement he is drafting). With that Israel expands from 78% onto 85% of historic Palestine and locks the Palestinians into impoverished and disconnected enclaves – although, to make its annexation more palatable, Israel could “generously” concede strips of Area C so as to make the Palestinian “cantons” (as Sharon called them) a little more contiguous. With the two-state solution thus irrefutably dead and no further “peace process” in the offing, the Palestinian Authority would likely resign or collapse, an act that could well force Israel to reoccupy the Palestinian cities of the West Bank and, inevitably, Gaza as well.
This chain of events, I would submit, will create an intolerable situation, forcing the international community to act, with or without the US. With the air finally cleared of the two-state solution and faced with raw occupation, the only option for resolving the conflict, a one-state solution, will finally emerge into the light. Here is where Palestinian civil society must assert its agency, its will. Backed by us, critical Israelis and masses of people abroad, it must put forward a plan for an inclusive, democratic and (I would add) bi-national solution to the conflict before Israel and the US attempt to impose something far worse. The struggle for a just, workable and lasting peace does not end with the fall of the Occupation; that merely presents us with an opportunity we cannot miss. The danger is real. How many times have unjust regimes collapsed or been dismantled only to be replaced by a regime equally bad, if not worse. That process of strategizing what follows on the imminent collapse is urgent, but it must be led by our Palestinian partners. ICAHD remains ready to support that effort.
If the good news that the Occupation may finally be collapsing propels us into strategizing over what follows, the bad news is that Israel has already globalized the Occupation – that is, it is successfully marketing the weaponry and modes of control, a Global Matrix of Control, developed and tested on the Palestinians. Our vision and resistance must expand from Palestine on the ground to the “Global Palestine” that is emerging.
This is what Sharon grasped in the last year or so of his conscious life. Always a grand strategist, he did not “disengage” from Gaza because, as some have suggested, he finally understood the limits of military power, but the opposite: he saw that, for the price of Gaza and most of the West Bank, Israel could become a regional power rather than merely the ruler of Judea and Samaria. This, he finally realized (in my view), when reconsidering the Arab Peace Initiative he had so contemptuously ignored when it was offered unanimously by the Arab League in 2002 (in the midst of Operation Defensive Shield), and then rejected outright. Having largely exhausted the Occupied Territory as a laboratory for new weapons and tactics of control – Operation Cast Lead in Gaza would be the last major “experiment” – he understood that Israel had much more to gain as a regional hegemon able to both flex its political muscles and freely export its military and security products. He thus initiated a process, cut short by his stroke, which might well have led to the end of the Occupation, the price he knew Israel has to pay for normalization with the Arab League.
Smaller thinkers like Netanyahu will settle for less: continued control of the Palestinian territory and a lesser role as de facto hegemon in the Middle East. For Netanyahu believes – and he may be correct – that occupation or no, formal acceptance by the conservative Arab regimes or no, Israel can continue to mark
Looking up from the Occupation at Global Palestine brings the conflict home. No longer are the Palestinians the sole victims, but literally “we are all Palestinians,” for it is us who are the end-recipients through our own armies, security agencies and police forces, of the weapons and modes of control tested in the Palestinian laboratory. Even if the Occupation does end and, through Palestinian, Israeli and international agency, a just solution emerges, a militarized Global Palestine will continue to terrorize our lives. We need to multi-task, to grasp and resist the globalization of the Occupation just as we resist and resolve the Occupation itself.
Those are some of my thoughts at this juncture. In the name of the entire ICAHD family, I want to wish you all well in the coming year and assure you that ICAHD will remain a strong and strategic voice in the dramatic months that will follow.