The Israeli “peace process” exists for two reasons: to separate Palestinians from Jews, because the latter are a threat to the Jewish identity of the state; and, to end the occupation because it has become a burden for Israel instead of being economically and morally profitable as it used to be prior to the first Intifada (1987). This rationale applies to all Israeli political parties, ranging from what is viewed as the extreme left to the extreme right. The narrow character of Israel's political spectrum is such that Tom Segev, an Israeli historian, accurately said that the “left (is) behind Sharon” (Ha'aretz, 13 Jan. 2006).
Antwan Shalhat, a political and cultural observer in Israel commented,
"Now at the eve of the Israeli elections it is not an exaggeration to say: there is a Zionist consensus that fits with the main principals of Sharon: more land and fewer Arabs. Such consensus forms the fundaments of all the election programs of all the Israeli major political parties. They spring from believing that demographic separation from the Palestinians is necessary, apart from the need to achieve a durable and just solution. [...] And naturally such a desired separation should include the Palestinians of Israel. (Shalhat Worgift, 2006)."
A consensus exists among Israeli-Jews and the world; to preserve the Jewish character of Israel and reject the return of refugees to Israeli controlled territories. On 1 January 2002 the Israeli Knesset approved the law of “Ensuring Rejection of the right of return Law -2001” which forbids the return of Palestinian refugees to the territories under Israeli control without the approval of an absolute majority of Knesset members, (61 members). 56 Knesset members from of all the Zionist parties voted in favor of this bill (Labor, Likud, Religious parties and the National religious party), 12 members, mostly Arab members, voted against and 3 members abstained.
During the preliminary reading of the bill (17 May 2000) it was said that:
This bill represents a Zionist consensus on forbidding the return of the refugees of 1948 and 1967 inside the sovereign borders of the state of Israel. This bill is above parties. It is Zionist, Jewish, Israeli and historically moral and just. The right of return is the slogan of many Arab Knesset members who wish to eradicate the state of Israel as a democratic Jewish state and to eradicate the Israeli flag, the national anthem and the Jewish nature of the state. Among us there is place for those who desire to live in democracy and equality, while those who desire another national identity can go elsewhere. The Right of Return and the State for its Citizens are synonyms of the desire to destroy Israel.
There is no difference between Israeli parties, other than minor tactical differences to achieving a Jewish and democratic state.
Polls conducted in Israel indicate that the majority of Israelis support the removal of the Palestinian-Arab population outside the borders of Israeli controlled territory or encourage their emigration. Many Israeli parties boldly raise the slogan of transfer as an electoral slogan: among them are Hirut (Kliner), Tsomet, National Jewish Front (Baruch Marzel), National Unity List and “Mavdal” which includes many smaller parties who belong to the national religious current like “Moledet.”
The position of Amir Peretz, the present leader of the Labor Party, towards the Palestinian inhabitants of Israel may seem unusually liberal, as there is an inclination to see Palestinian-Israelis as equal in terms of individual legal rights, but not as a group. Indeed, their equality is conditioned to the definition of the state as first and foremost a Jewish state. This definition thus sets limits as to the attainable level of equality.
Moreover, the position of the Labor Party and Amir Peretz is characterized by a theoretical orientation partially based in Marxist theory, which argues that improving the material conditions of people reduces the value and status of national and other idealistic disagreements and differences. Obviously these theoretical relationships disappear in reality; what remains are the verbal expressions of an ideal.
Shimon Peres, who has held the position of deputy chairperson of the international socialist forum for 30 years, pointed out that the labor Party never was, and never wanted, at any time, to become a socialist party or a socialist democratic party. He also added, “we have no need for Lenin, Marx or Engels. Our positions are inspired by the Old Testament: the Ten Commandments are the most important in the course of human civilization and it is our moral basis. The book of the profit Amos is our social scheme, while the book of Isaiah is the basis of our political aspirations."
It is of no surprise, then, that one sees exclusively material considerations in the outline of the Labor Party’s electoral program when discussing Israeli Arab citizens. The program of the party says:"The labor party will work to make substantial changes in the government’s policies towards the Arab citizens of Israel, by affirming total equality and bridging the gaps between citizens of the state; Arabs and Jews in the fields of education, infrastructure, healthcare and social welfare."
It is also of no surprise that the first article on the Labor Party’s electoral program, spells the title of the state as “a Jewish Democratic state.” The third article is reserved for external and security issues, which affirms a need for political settlement with the Palestinians because it is in the "national interest of the state of Israel." While Labor states it will resume political negotiations, it will also work to complete the construction of the "security wall" within one year, deal "seriously and firmly "with" violence and terror", "maintain the superiority of Israel" and, should "political stalemate prevail," take independent steps to "ensure its security and political interests." Any negotiations will be based on principles of "two states for two peoples," Israel’s annexation of "major settlement blocks in Judea and Samaria," and Jerusalem as the "eternal capital of the state of Israel."
Kadima Party started as a one-man party with Ariel Sharon, but now, includes personalities such as Shimon Perez, Ehud Olmert, T’sahi Hanigbi, Shaoul Mofaz, and Avi Dichter. There is little wonder as to what brings them together: extreme rightist security considerations.
Israeli media published Ehud Olmert’s intention to ignore the Road Map and implement unilateral withdrawal if he wins the elections (Ha'aretz & Yediot Ahronot, 5 March 2006). Olmert declared at the end of February 2006 that he intends to keep occupied Jerusalem, the three major settlement blocks in the occupied West Bank and the Jordan Valley. He also declared that he intends to carry out unilateral withdrawals. In the same context, Shaoul Mofaz, the Israeli security minister, added that Kadima party intends to draw the final border of Israel within two years, with or without the Palestinians.
What does keeping 60% of the West Bank area mean? In Olmert's first TV interview since taking the position of Prime Minister (Israeli TV channel 2, 7 February 2006) he stated: “we will keep the Jordan Valley because it is not possible to give up control over the eastern border of Israel.” He added “our goal is obvious; we are heading towards disengagement from the Palestinians (of the West Bank) and towards drawing the final borders of the state of Israel.” He said also “the borders we are considering are not the borders within which the state of Israel is located now.”
The outline of Kadima's program reads:
The objectives of the government under the leadership of Kadima party are to guard the existence of the state of Israel as a safe national home for the Jewish nation on the land of Israel and give meaning to the national character of the state of Israel, while granting minorities that live in the state, complete and equal rights so that its value as a Jewish and democratic state remains balanced and interwoven.
Kadima's program, however, does not even mention Palestinian-Arab inhabitants of Israel. It clearly does not attach much importance to the needs of 20 percent of the state’s population.
Kadima basic tenets are:
· The people of Israel have historical national rights on the entire land of Israel.
· In order to achieve the ultimate goal of Jewish sovereignty in a democratic state, it is necessary to maintain a Jewish majority in the state of Israel.
· The decisive choice between the desire to enable every Jew to live in any part of the land of Israel or to preserve the existence of the state of Israel as a national home for the Jews requires surrendering a part of the land of Israel.
· Giving up part of the land of Israel does not mean giving up the ideology; it is an act to maintain the existence of a Jewish and democratic state on the land of Israel.
· Drawing the permanent borders of the state of Israel within the framework of a peaceful settlement must guarantee the security and national interests of the state of Israel.
The main principles of any political process are:
"Two national states": Israel’s agreement to establish a Palestinian state is conditional upon such a state being the permanent solution for Palestinians, including refugees. Therefore, the return of Palestinian refugees to Israel will not be allowed.
"Living in security and peace": The future Palestinian state must be free of terror and must coexist in peace with Israel. Palestinians must renounce terror completely prior to establishing their state.
Drawing the borders of Israel is based on the following principle:
· Annexing territories required for the security of Israel;
· Annexing Jewish holy sites, particularly united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel;
· Recruiting the maximum number of Jewish settlers and annexing major settlement blocks.
Benjamin Netanyahu took the leadership of Likud after the party was torn apart by Sharon. The article on “rights” on the electoral program of the Likud includes:
"The right of the Jewish people on the land of Israel is an eternal one that cannot be contested. This fundamental right comes among other basic rights; the right of the Jewish people to live in peace and security, the right of the citizens of the state to live freely, under a democratic system that guarantees the protection of human rights and citizens' rights on equal bases, including the rights of the minorities to live according to their cultural heritage, religion, and language under the hospice of the state."
The article on security reads, "the continuity of the existence of the state of Israel as an independent state in the Middle East depends primarily on its ability to maintain military and political superiority." Preserving Israel's security by subduing any enemy and ensuring its capacity to defend itself during times of crisis is thus a vital rule of any political agreement.
Under the title “Minority Rights”, the Likud states, "if the voices that claim the presence of discrimination were correct, the discrimination would occur because of two reasons. There is widespread corruption among the Arab local authorities and incompetent administration. The executive authorities in the state do not enforce the rule of law nor take any step to correct mistakes." Finally, the Party writes “it believes it is possible to change the present reality and to reduce the alienation of minorities and integrate them into the society and the state, for the welfare of everyone.”
Shas party has undergone deep changes in the past few years. It became a clearly rightist political party after maneuvering between the left-wing and the right-wing for many years. The Party has for the first time published its main electoral program. The introduction states,
"Shas believes that the state of Israel is the state of the Jewish people, and is based on the democratic principles of the Torah of the people of Israel. The party’s aspiration is to gather the Jews from everywhere on earth, to build the Jewish home in a big strong Jewish state, on all of the land of Israel."
The party’s statements clarifies that it respects different groups in the community and encourages tolerance because "peace starts from within, by spreading love among the different groups in the society and through friendly relations with other religious’ followers and respecting their rights." The program adds that Shas works for and aspires to live in peace and security with the neighboring Arab states, based on security. Shas encourages the "development" of every part of the land of Israel: Judea, Samaria, Negev, and Galilee.
The rightist influence within Shas party is clear. It asserts that Shas will not recognize the Palestinian people nor their presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It does not recognize the existence of a Palestinian or Arab minority in the state. It sees them as religious minorities towards which they are obliged to be tolerant based on Judaism.
* Excerpts taken from an article published in Arabic Haq a l-Awdain in May 2006. Nabeeh Bashir is a researcher specializing in Israeli affairs. He is the author of several books, among them “About Judaizing the Place”, “Back to Holy History – Harodism and Zionism” and “Land day” soon to be published.
Worgift Noriet (2006. “In my government their will be a minister with executive authority”, (Ha'aretz 13/3/2006)
Shalhat Antwan (2006). “about Sharon’s legacy” (the Israeli scene, 28/5/2006).