With Ariel Sharon still in critical condition, Israelis went to the polling booths on 28 March, more in trickles than in droves, to decide which of the seasoned zionist-fascists on offer would oversee the coming years’ brutality against, and repression of, the Palestinian population.
Although no party was able to win anything like a clear majority, Sharon’s new Kadima – now headed by Ehud Olmert – came out on top, winning just over a fifth of the seats in the Knesset. Next came Labour, with 15.1 percent, followed by Shas, with 9.6 percent, followed by Likud (who dominated the previous administration), with 8.9 percent.
Voter turnout was 62.3 percent, a record low (significantly lower than the 75 percent turnout in the recent Palestinian parliamentary elections, in spite of the array of dirty tactics used by the Israeli state to prevent people voting in the latter).
Olmert – made in Sharon’s mould
Olmert’s credentials for the job of Prime Minister of a maniacal, genocidal, racist state are impeccable. A right winger even in Israeli terms, he is the son of one of the founder members of the Irgun, a Jewish terrorist militia responsible for a number of massacres of Palestinian Arabs (including the notorious Deir Yassin massacre of April 1948). Until the recent formation of Kadima, Olmert had spent his political life as a leading member of the ultra-zionist Likud party. From 1993 until 2003, he was Mayor of Jerusalem; in this position, he spearheaded the drive to surreptitiously increase Israel’s control over East Jerusalem (the Arab area of the city, occupied by Israel since 1967), enforcing demolition orders against Palestinian homes and promoting building projects for Jews.
As you would expect from a ‘hardliner’, he has historically opposed any compromise with the Palestinians, even where such compromise has clearly been in the long-term interests of Israel. For example, he opposed both the 1978 Camp David accords with Egypt and the 1993 Oslo Agreement.
What the Israelis voted for
The Palestinians demonstrated in their recent parliamentary elections that they are frustrated with the so-called peace negotiations, which for some time had yielded nothing but one-way compromises from the Palestinian leadership. Equally, the mood of the Israeli population has been steadily shifting since the commencement of the second Palestinian intifada (uprising), with the question of the occupation becoming more of a ‘pressing issue’ now it’s not just somebody else’s kids dying. A substantial portion of the Israeli population has come to accept that there is no way forward for either side without the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Sharon’s break with the hard-line, right-wing Likud Party and his formation of Kadima reflected an understanding on his part that:
i) the occupation is losing support in Israel;
ii) despite Israel’s numerous and desperate attempts, the Palestinian resistance cannot be crushed;
iii) consequently, the Palestinians will have to be given at least a sop, in order to give Israel some respite and to (hopefully) divide the Palestinians;
iv) his Likud backers would never go along with giving anything back to the Palestinians.
Sharon’s idea of unilaterally drawing ‘final borders’ is one that had resonance with a significant section of Israeli society. As one voter said: “I believe in the path for peace, and I believe that the Palestinians must have their own land to build their state, and this is why I voted for Kadima.” (Cited in BBC News Online)
The reality of the ‘final borders’
The reality of Sharon’s plan for ‘unilateral disengagement’ has meant, so far, a very limited withdrawal from Gaza (Israel still maintains overall control over airspace and borders, and has continued to conduct assassinations and raids within Gaza), along with the strengthening and expansion of settler strongholds in the West Bank, eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem, and continued building of the so-called ‘green line wall’, which has already made deep incursions into pre-1967 Palestinian territory, especially in the area surrounding Jerusalem, where Israel’s ‘side’ has been extended to include the massive settlement of Maale Adumim, which during the Gaza pullout was being championed by Sharon.
The ‘permanent borders’ imagined by Sharon and Olmert feature a land-locked West Bank broken into several pieces, without any part of Jerusalem, without the fertile Jericho Valley, and very possibly without Jericho itself, with Israel controlling all borders. Such borders will never be ‘permanent’, however, because they will never be accepted by the Palestinian people. As Palestinian Authority prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh said, “We will obviously not prevent Israel from withdrawing, but this doesn’t mean that we consider the borders they set to be those of the Palestinian state.” (Ha’aretz, 27 March 2006)
A nominal statehood is not a goal of the Palestinian national struggle. The Palestinians have compromised on their ultimate goal of a democratic, secular state based on the whole of historic Palestine in order to pave way for a medium-term solution of two separate states living alongside one another. However, no Palestinian who values his reputation will accept the kind of state that the likes of Olmert have in mind. If Israel refuses to understand this, then it will have to learn whilst running from the bullets of Palestinian fighters’ AK47s.
That large numbers of Israelis do understand these facts is underlined by the poor election turnout and the pitiful number of votes for a winning party (21 percent).
Hands off Sa’adat
With the smell of elections in the air, Olmert decided to flex his muscles on 14 March, ordering a raid on the Palestinian prison complex at Jericho in which Ahmed Sa’adat, Secretary General of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and one of their three recently-elected representatives, was being held. In the course of the nine-hour siege, a number of Palestinians were killed, and Sa’adat and five of his fellow detainees kidnapped by the Israeli army. Earlier in the day, the ‘neutral’ American and British monitors whose job it was to supervise the detention of Sa’adat and his five comrades had abruptly left their station, presumably having been forewarned by the IDF that the raid would take place. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned Britain and the US for withdrawing their monitors, and said that they bore “full responsibility” for the raid.
Sa’adat has been in Palestinian custody since early 2002, when Israel demanded he be detained in connection with the killing of cabinet minister Rehavam Ze’evi in a Jerusalem hotel in 2001 (this was one of the most successful and high-profile acts of the Second Intifada, and a response to the targeted assassination by the IDF of former PFLP leader Abu Ali Mustafa (although to our knowledge nobody was ever detained in connection with Abu Ali Mustafa’s killing)). Although the Palestinian High Court ordered his release, Israeli officials said he would be killed if he was freed, and the Palestinian cabinet blocked the release.
We demand the immediate release of Comrade Sa’adat, just as we demand the release of Comrade Marwan Barghouti and, indeed, all Palestinian political prisoners.
The most pertinent and meaningful effect of Israel’s cowardly, bully-boy tactics will be to further steel the Palestinian resistance and accelerate its return to armed struggle, as the Israeli state has shown yet again that the only language it really understands is that of violence.