The Leader Israel Deserves

The second Lebanon War of summer 2006 threw a dark shadow over the government of Ehud Olmert and his party, Kadima. For the first time, Israel got to know what it’s like to cower helplessly under barrages of rocket fire. The 4,000 Katyushas that rained on Galilee for 33 days rubbed in the feeling of failure. The air force could not stop them. The government could not protect or supply its citizens. It left them to fend as best they could, ruled by the wails of sirens. 

The Mecca Charity Show

At first glance, indeed, the Mecca Agreement may seem a great wonder, considering what we published here two months ago. We divided - and still divide - the Middle East into two axes. One included the US, Saudia Arabia and Fatah, and the other included Iran, Syria and Hamas. Under these circumstances, how was agreement possible? The answer lies in a temporary conjunction of interests between Saudi Arabia and Iran. When we unpeel a few layers, however, the dovish feathers fall away: the Mecca Agreement is a mere time-out - not the basis for a new beginning. 

Two Civil Wars with Brakes On

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was once the mother of all problems in the Middle East. Today it is one among many. For this demotion we may largely thank US President George W. Bush and his war in Iraq. Apart from splitting that unhappy country into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish sectors, Bush’s war has changed the geopolitics of the region. The Iraq of Saddam Hussein used to be the area’s major power, but today it is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran. Saddam was a secular dictator who represented Arab nationalism; Ahmadinejad represents Shiite fundamentalism — and his country, of course, isn’t Arab. 

Lebanon II: The Wider Picture

The ramifications of Israel’s second Lebanon War should be gauged against the background of the dramatic events that the region has undergone in the last three years: the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Hamas electoral victory, and changes in Israel’s political economy. These events, in turn, should be viewed against the political vacuum created by the fall of the Soviet Union. The vacuum has been filled in two very different ways: 1) by the neo-liberal conceptions of the global capitalist regime, and 2) by Islamic fundamentalism. The Organization for Democratic Action (ODA-Da’am) opposed the war in Lebanon. 

The Conflict Cannot Wait

America’s entrapment in Iraq creates a vacuum through the Middle East. The way out of that war has become the great question of US politics. Mid-term Congressional elections are due on November 7, 2006, but whatever the result, President George W. Bush will be a lame duck. If he boldly signals a change of direction (for example, by firing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld), he will lose all credibility. On the other hand, if he doggedly “stays the course,” he will appear as a man out of touch with reality, unfit to lead his nation or the world. Either way, Bush’s lot will be that of the leaders his policy helped bring down: Asnar in Spain, Berlusconi in Italy, Blair in Britain. 

The First Post-Zionist War

Three weeks after the cease-fire, the political situation in Israel may be described as one of imminent collapse. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz, and Army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz have fallen to the depths in public opinion. A full 63% of the people think Olmert ought to resign; 74% want Peretz’s head, 54% Halutz’s. Israelis live today with a sense of failure. They search for the source of the “lapse” (mekhdal) - a term much used to describe the disaster of October 1973 (the “Yom Kippur War”). A protest movement of reservists has arisen, divided between those who demand a State Commission of Inquiry and those who call for resignations. 

Democracy Can't be Hijacked

Ten months after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, its army has re-entered the Strip, while in the West Bank it has arrested the bulk of the Palestinian government: 64 legislators, cabinet ministers and officials, members of Hamas all. The pretext was a raid led by the Hamas military wing on June 25, in which two soldiers were killed and one captured. In Israel’s view, the event gives it an excuse to create a new political reality, nullifying the Hamas victory in the January elections. In certain respects, the Israeli actions are reminiscent of Operation “Defensive Shield” in 2002. 

Election Backlash: Iraq, Palestine and Israel

The phrase “democratic elections” can be misleading in its positive connotation, especially when the countries where the elections take place are embroiled in conflict. In the Middle East, during the past six months, we have witnessed three sets of elections. Each has further entangled an already complex situation. There were the Iraqi elections in December 2005, then the January 2006 elections for the Palestinian Authority (PA), and, in March, the Israeli elections. In the first two instances, the voting took place during or just after a bloody war; the elections aspired to usher in a new era of conflict resolution. 

Editorial: A misguided conception

The illusion of Oslo has been replaced by a new illusion of unilateral separation. If Oslo disregarded issues that are central to the Palestinian people, the unilateral agenda disregards the Palestinian people itself! It is as if we’d returned to the days of Golda Meir, who used to ask with wondering eyes, “Is there a Palestinian people?” The new Israeli consensus, applauded by so many, is founded on the notion, “What we do not see does not exist,” or on the campaign slogan of former PM Ehud Barak, “Them there, us here.” The trouble is, those whom we don’t see - those who live “there” - are a people besieged, without sources of livelihood, without control of territory, and under a crumbling local regime. 

Unilateral Give, Unilateral Take

In days of yore, when right-wing thugs shouted “Arik, King of Israel!” leftist leaders grimaced in disgust. On Sunday, February 20, however - after the cabinet approved “Arik’s” Disengagement Plan - Labor ministers beamed with smug satisfaction. They had all they could do to keep from shouting, “Arik, King of Israel!” Sharon has begun to accomplish for them what the Oslo Accords never dared to broach: dismantlement of settlements. On that festive Sunday, few wanted to be reminded that after approving disengagement - practically in the same breath - the government decided to build its notorious “separation barrier” on a line that will unilaterally annex, in effect, 7% of the West Bank.