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Netanyahu’s ‘Sunny Days’ have clouds, too

Dec 06,2016 - Last updated at Dec 06,2016

A recent article in The Economist (December 1, 2016) highlighted a number of reasons why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after 11 years in office, is currently ahead of his game and enjoying a “commanding position” with Israel’s foreign policy also basking in “Sunny Days”.

One explanation is that domestically, he enjoys “supremacy” by taming the opposition and slightly enlarging his parliamentary majority.

The “knife Intifada” has fizzled out and the construction boom proceeds normally. Even with Gaza, where Hamas is in control, a state of “cautious co-existence” seems to be the choice of both sides.

Negotiations with the Palestinians are moribund, exactly as the Netanyahu government wants them.

In addition, Israel is not facing any serious difficulties or pressures from abroad. The Europeans are consumed with their own problems and Washington is bracing for a new accommodating administration.

The crisis with Turkey has been sorted out in a very favourable manner for the Israelis and so are relations with Moscow, including the dimension guaranteeing Israel’s concerns with respect to the Syrian crisis.

Furthermore, the economy is thriving, with a boost in technology trade with Asia and Africa, and with the prospect for 3.2 per cent growth annually.

Another important factor highlighted in the Economist is the good relationship Israel enjoys with the Sunni Gulf states, with which it shares a common hostility towards Iran.

Despite the sunny forecast presented in the article, The Economist also highlights the dark clouds looming over the supposedly sunny skies.

Israel is not without its troubles. One comes from within Netanyahu’s own coalition, related to demands for legalising settlements built illegally on privately owned Palestinian lands; the other is related to scandals that erupt “every other week, often involving an aide or a [Netanyahu] family member”.

While it may be true that Israel is “sitting pretty” in this period of good fortune, for it, the way these facts are being interpreted is highly disputable.

It is certainly true that the entire Arab nation is in very bad shape.

The Palestinian leadership is incapacitated and has for long lost its direction.

The so-called international community, including the UN, is, and has all along been, indecisive, if not altogether dysfunctional in dealing with an issue seriously impacting the entire global system in many more ways than the security.

But it is also true that if Israel has any opportunity for a peaceful future, it will not be in a region overwhelmed by chaos, sectarian conflict, war, destruction, hopelessness, injustice and general despair.

Israel is, therefore, deceiving itself rejoicing at the surrounding chaos rather than being seriously concerned about the accelerating deterioration.

Obviously, Israel, which has an invisible hand in all the prevailing trouble, is nowhere near such reasoning.

Israel is racing against time to create more irreversible facts on the ground in the hope that the possibility of sharing the land with the Palestinians, in any shape or form, in the future will be rendered practically impossible.

But the hidden realities defy that.

When Israel built settlements in Sinai after its conquest of the land in 1967, they were meant to stay there forever; but they were eventually evacuated and destroyed by the same hands that built them.

And when the Israelis built settlements and planted illegal settlers in the Gaza Strip, they were also meant to stay and expand all over the strip.

But they were also evacuated and destroyed, simply because the artificially imposed settlers on the rightful owners of a piece of territory known to be the most densely populated spot on the globe could not last.

The Gaza Strip settlers, as aggressors and usurpers and as a racist brand, could not survive or feel safe in an antagonised environment, and therefore had to leave.

As far as Israel is concerned, the realities that prevailed in Sinai or Gaza do not apply to the West Bank. But it is mistaken.

The prevailing circumstances may encourage such thinking, but they will not remain the same forever.

Israel has been in existence for seven decades and has enough power to keep the occupation of Arab lands and to rule over millions of Palestinians.

Facts on the ground have been radically changed.

If Israel is to be faced with any threat, it will not come from invading Arab armies. The threat will be from within.

It will be the consequence of its own racist, exclusionist, aggressive policies that left nothing, absolutely nothing, for the Palestinians.

And it will be due to the peaceful pressure of the mere existence of no less than 6 million Palestinians — if not more — in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, in addition to an equal number of diaspora Palestinians.

If pressure from a massive indigenous population, not war, led to the eviction of Gaza settlers, the likelihood is that similar pressure will eventually have the same effect in the West Bank.

If history is expected to conceal the past and not to allow any reversal of the course of events, no matter how irregular, it may come up with major surprises to the contrary.

History has revised its course in many lands recently, and has actually repeated itself.

Much has changed over the past seven decades, but two things did not. The Palestinians did not forego their rights in Palestine and the passage of time has reinforced, rather than weakened, their resolve to return where they belong.

The other unchanged fact is that the Israelis, despite all their magnificent accomplishments and the powerful state they built, feel neither secure nor assured that they will ever be a normal part of the region.

Rather than using the sun’s bright rays to shine on persistent denial and accelerated aggression, the Israeli government should use them to see the truth.

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