After Rabin: Imperialism Still Dictates the "Peace Process"

The recent assassination of Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin highlights the deep divisions in the Israeli ruling class over the issue of the “peace process”. Whilst Rabin’s killer was a member of a tiny organisation of religious fanatics, the ideology which fuelled the assassin is much the same as that espoused by the constitutional right in Israeli politics, namely the Likud Party.

The West Bank

The question of the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967 is particularly controversial for the Israeli ruling class. For the right wing, the existence of the ancient biblical Jewish lands of Judea and Samaria, which lie within the West Bank, provided a mythical and ideological argument to retain the West Bank firmly under Israeli control. This argument conceals more plausible material concerns such as security, as the West Bank protrudes deeply into the territory constituted by Israel’s original borders. From an economic point of view the West Bank is significant. It borders the Jordan, which is the chief water resource of the area and it contains a large subterranean water table which is crucial to Israeli industry and agriculture. The possibility of handing back parts of it to the Palestinians has only been possible because of the new and total domination of Israel’s godfather in the region, the USA.

In government the Likud sought to inextricably link the West Bank to Israel by encouraging the growth of Jewish settlements. This was regarded as preferable to outright annexation which would have created 1 million disaffected Arab citizens and potentially threatened the Jewish majority in the Zionist state. Now the Jewish settlers are the most virulent exponents of anti-Arab racism and Zionist militarism. Despite their limited numbers the settlers are the most vociferous and militant opponents of the U.S. brokered peace deal between Rabin and PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat.

The importance of Rabin was that he understood that the post cold war situation fundamentally affected Israel’s significance in the “New World Order”. As ambassador to Washington in the early 1970s, Rabin promoted Israel to the Nixon regime as America’s best ally against Russian ambitions. After the collapse of Russian imperialism in the Middle East the USA has sought to wind up tiresome local conflicts which serve no purpose within a now undisputed sphere of influence. This is a factor which Israel (largely dependent on US aid) could only ignore at its peril. It was for purely material and pragmatic reasons that Rabin (the ex-army Chief of Staff, who took part in the “ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians at the dawn of Israel in 1947-8. He also masterminded Israel’s military conquests of 1967 and as defence minister in the 1980s ordered the brutal repression of the Intifada) became a reluctant advocate of a deal with the Palestinians. The likelihood of the West Bank being used as a springboard for an Arab military attack on Israel has been largely reduced as Israel has concluded a peace treaty with the bordering state of Jordan and is taking steps towards a rapprochement with Syria. An enfeebled and impoverished zone of Palestinian autonomy or even an independent West Bank is unlikely to cause any more of a security problem than the current sporadic terrorist incursions.

Some bourgeois commentators have made much exaggerated claims for the significance of Rabin’s death. Concerns of civil war amongst the Jewish population have no material substance. The settlers who have the most to lose in the peace process only number about 20,000 out of a population of 5 million. Above all however is the fact that the difference between the ultra-right and the left wings of capital is merely one of degree. All factions of the Israeli ruling class are staunch defenders of the Zionist state, a state which was forged under the aegis of imperialism in 1948 by expelling substantial numbers of the indigenous Arab population. It has to be remembered that, at the present time the Israeli Labour Party has not dismantled a single Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

The Future for the Working Class

Whilst the ultra-right may become a more coherent terrorist nuisance (There is clear evidence that Rabin’s killer was linked to a certain factions of Shin Bet, the internal Israeli secret police) they are too marginalised to constitute a substantial threat to the Israeli state (Shin Bet officers are now undergoing a purge). The new Prime Minister Shimon Peres is the real architect of the “peace process” on the Israeli side so that is likely to be irreversible even if the Likud should win the next election. For the mainstream bourgeoisie the Zionist project has been completed. With the US less likely to continue its past generous subsides the Zionists have to find a more stable means to settle the Palestinian question. This is their rationale for the peace process. The Palestinian bourgeoisie no longer have any serious imperialist backers and so engaging in a peace process which might gain them a tiny statelet as the start of further gains is better than nothing. For both Palestinian and Israeli ruling classes this would allow them the space and the time to concentrate upon the real business of exploiting the working class. It will be the workers on both sides of the divide who will pay the inevitable costs of the reconstruction of the area.


Friday, December 1, 1995

Revolutionary Perspectives

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