Palestine-Israel - Capitalist "peace*" to replace settler colonialism

Two States, of whatever type, will not resolve 100 years of Zionist atrocities against the Palestinians - even a solution that does not include the continued dominance of the Israeli State over a Palestinian State...

Long long ago, there were three main trends in the settler colonialist movement called Zionism.
There were the extreme maximalists, called the revisionists, who dreamed of "two banks to the Jordan - this and that are both ours". Then there was a more realistic trend, which dreamed "only of the West Bank". Both held the notion of "a land with no people for a people with no land". Though not declaring it aloud, they wished to get rid of the indigenous Palestinian people - by any means possible. There were also the "leftist humanists", who were uneasy about the theft of the West Bank from the indigenous Palestinians, and dreamt of a bi-national state dominated by the Jewish community.

The 1947 partition plan by the UN enabled all three trends to get about 75% of the West Bank - with nearly no Palestinians, who had been driven out. The fact that about 25% of Palestine was left out of Israel and the non-expulsion of the Palestinians in the Triangle and the Wadi-Ara regions, were the results of agreements achieved mainly before the war with the Jordanian and Egyptian regimes, who were still under British hegemony at the time.

The 1967 war enabled the Zionists to advance their dream, but though they got all the land, with the Sinai and the Golan Heights as an added bonus, they could not get rid of most of the Palestinians (though they tried and even started transfer of Palestinians to Jordan - the other side of river, it soon ended with only partial success (about two hundred thousand) due to international and US pressure). More subtle pressure (which continues till the present) had only a marginal effect on the growth of the Palestinian population - a demographic time bomb that was for sure going to explode the Zionist dream of a Jewish democratic state in the whole of the West Bank.

The failure to get rid of the Palestinians and their rebellion, combined with international pressure, has long signalled - since the late '60s - that there would have to be some compromise. However, the extreme right refused to accept a reality which contradicted their dream. Most of the more realist, were aware that some compromise would be needed but wanted to delay it as much as possible in order to get a better bargain for a minimal retreat and maximal compromise of the Palestinians, thought that time is on their side and many of them are still hoping it is still so.

Matspen (**), who were the first to get a serious grasp of the fact that the Zionist project was one of settler colonialism, predicted that the reluctance of the Israeli Zionist ruling elite (settler projects, bureaucrats and capitalists) would not consent to a solution that let the Palestinians rule over 25% of the land, or even only the more densely-populated areas, as an independent state. This because such a state would limit the options to settle the less-populated Palestinian areas and build a sovereign entity (state) that would be in a position to demand more retreat, the return of refugees to the areas of Israel rule, and compensation for the theft of the 1948 war.

At the time, we saw no capitalist option for ending the 1967 occupation. Neither was there any big interest among a significant section of the Israeli ruling elite, nor was there any serious effort from the direction of the great international powers. There was not even any significant power of resistance from the Palestinians, that could force a retreat from the Palestinian areas conquered in 1967.

We predicted that only a social revolution of an anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist nature in the whole region, putting an end to all the states in the region, could put an end to the settler colonialist advances and to the suffering of both the Israeli Jews and the Palestinians.

At that time, we did not find a two-states solution possible or the call for it to be a worthy one. We did not see any change in the balance of forces that would force the settler colonialist bureaucratic-capitalist ruling elite to retreat.

Our objection to two states as proposed by some was not because we wanted to abolish all states... nor because we did not see it as an improvement over the continuation of occupation and the intensification of the settlers' intrusion into the occupied territories. It was because we thought that the probability of such a "solution" materializing - even if people struggled for it - was even less realistic than social revolution in the whole region (and the world).

The last 30 years have brought about two main changes. First, the composition of the ruling elite of Israel has changed drastically. The relative power of the settler colonialist bureaucracy diminished. The capitalist elite has increased immensely, and within it those who have less to gain from the settler colonialist project and more to gain from peaceful capitalist globalization have started to gain power. Change in the big power interests has changed too. The first intifada before Oslo, and more so the second intifada that harmed Israeli economy contributed its share too.

The Oslo agreement (more so than the peace with Egypt which resulted in the retreat from Sinai) marked the beginning of the shift in power. It involved a temporary compromise with the old Palestinian leadership, who seemed to be willing to compromise more than the local Palestinian rebels.

Rabin's change of mind when he was prime minister, by agreeing to discuss and reach an agreement with the PLO (leading to the Oslo accord), was the beginning of a retreat of the old settler colonialist elite in the face of pressure from the emerging "globalized" capitalists. But it was a temporary compromise, as the settler colonialist elite and partners (military and some capitalists) were not defeated.

The second Intifada resulted from the failure to achieve a stable compromise between the Israeli ruling elite and the Palestinian elite. The damage it inflicted on the Israeli economy, and on the prestige of the settler colonialist-dominated capitalist ruling elite, opened the way for a shift in the balance of power between the various sections of the Israeli ruling elite and to more compromises.

The main expression of the new balance of powers and interests is that most of the ruling elite and their supporters are by now ready to retreat from most of the West Bank. They are even ready to let the Palestinians have a sovereign state. However, both for bargaining purposes and because of conflicts within the Israeli ruling elite, the most probable compromise on the agenda is a Palestinian state with the borders of the separation fence, with the annexation of the three big settlements blocks (and parts of Jerusalem).

The latest development in the Israeli Palestinian conflict has been the removal of the Jewish settlers and the Israeli state forces from the Gaza Strip. This was possible only because the more extreme settler colonialist part of the Israeli ruling elite was defeated. Before the power defeat came their ideological defeat when they were pushed into claiming that in a peace agreement they would agree to some retreat from "holy Jewish parts of the land of Israel".

The gradual shift in the power balance within the capitalist ruling elite was expressed also when the efforts of supporters of the extreme settler colonialists failed in their efforts to oust Ariel Sharon from the head of the ruling party because of the retreat from the Gaza Strip and his consent (in principle) to the establishment of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza.

With the present balance of powers, the agreement to the establishment of a Palestinian state (or an agreement on a timetable for it) will still take at least a year to two years to materialize. It will take time to conclude the bargain and to see how the two sides can force it on their populations.

The dynamic of the change of power balances on the Palestinian side, and more so within the Israeli elite, make a more precise prediction pure speculation.

=================================== * Two States, of whatever type, will not resolve 100 years of Zionist atrocities against the Palestinians - even a solution that does not include the continued dominance of the Israeli State over a Palestinian State. It will be just a kind of compromise between the much stronger Israeli ruling elite and a weaker, corrupt Palestinian elite. However, it will put an end to the more acute atrocities of settler colonialism against the Palestinians in the occupied territories. Presenting it as such is the best way for anti-authoritarian anti-capitalists to explain our principled approach to such an option. Presenting the concrete offer of "two states" as a solution and not as a partial retreat of the Jewish settler colonialist project in Palestine just serves to nourish illusions and give credit to the reactionary ruling elites of both sides. The old call, "down with the occupation" is still the best one around.

** "Matspen" was the name of the journal of the socialist organization in Israel but was the name most people used to refer to this organization. Established in 1962, it was the first principled anti-Zionist organization on the Israeli left. It is an anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist revolutionary organization and was most active and significant in the political arena in the late '60s and throughout the '70s.

Ilan October 2005