Getting depressed about Israel...

Well, it’s so easy to do. It’s been a while since I blogged about Israel; over a year it would seem looking back at all my posts tagged Middle East. It seems the rest of us have become taken up with the US elections and the credit crunch that we haven't had time to think about the wading through treacle that is Israeli politics.

I've written before about my personal interest in the region. My few months spent in Israel in my twenties, taught me more about different cultures and manners than I had learnt in the whole of my life up until that point put together. I think gruff is the politest way I can describe the manner of the average kibbutznik. I could take it from most, but I did use to wage a war of attrition with some of the teenage boys whom I refused to serve dinner to in the canteen until they said ‘please’. And also that it is perfectly possible for someone to have survived the Nazi occupation of France by pretending to be a son of a local catholic couple in the knowledge that the rest of their family has died in concentration camps and still end up an old letch preying on innocent and trusting female English volunteers by the time they’re in their seventies; suffering being no guarantee of decency (although why I thought it somehow was, I don’t know).

But that was all in the heady, optimistic days of the mid nineties when peace accords were in place where both volunteers and kibbutzniks would work fields side by side with Palestinians who crossed over from Gaza each morning. Where nice, young English girls like me (although I ended up claiming to be Scottish, for reasons I don’t have the space to explain now) could drive tractors in those fields now more used to being a repository for the hand made rockets that have fallen short of the town of S’derot. Ah, S’derot – possibly the most boring place I’ve ever spent a Saturday night. Or at least it was then; now it’s just plain frightening, I would imagine.

At the time, it was my intention to avoid politics; being an International Relations graduate I was aware that I probably knew bugger all about it. And I’m quite proud of my achievement in doing just that. As you can tell, it was a great adventure for me and it created a fascination and a great fondness for the whole of the Levant. I donned my borrowed but very warm old Israeli army parker and travelled to the Sinai and across southern Jordan just weeks after the border has opened with Israel; I was very lucky.

I would not be so lucky now.

I did have hope that Tzipi Livni would provide a new, refreshing approach to peace talks. And indeed I still believe that she would given half a chance. But the difficulties in trying to pull together a coalition in have overcome her.

Truly, how can she sign up to Shas’s demands that negotiations with the Palestinians’ not make any reference to Jerusalem? No wonder, this calm and unruffled woman was driven to exasperation.

Disappointingly I read distaste of, and frankly, a cheap shot at PR systems in some of the commentators’ analysis. But, really? The situation that Israel now finds itself in cannot be laid at the door of PR. If they were to just change the voting system, then all would be alright then, would it? That Israel’s political parties are so fragmented and at the fringes are so entrenched in a lack of compromise is not as a result of PR but as a result of decades of failure of the mainstream parties and the international community to deliver.

Still it looks like she is a leaderwith metal and the Israelis have recognised this given that Kadima's poll ratings have gone up since she called theelection.

I have blogged before about the weakness of leadership in Ehud Olmert whom thought strength was to be found in bullying a neighbour. I also believe the international community has one rule for Israel when it comes to illegal wars and occupying territory that is not theirs and another rule for everyone else. I hesitate toreduce international relations in the Middle East to an analogy of family dynamics but if you let a country get away with breaking the rules for long enough they will assume that they don’t apply to them. There is then no incentive to actually behave within the general rule set out and therefore extreme behaviour succeeds where constraint and compromise doesn’t. And there you have it. There is no need to compromise and apply constraint because war and bullying neighbours has no censure.

On the other side, Palestinians’ have noticed that every time they comply and compromise their dreams move further away. There is no incentive for them to vote for constraint.

My general impression when I left Israel and the kibbutz was that it had the most enormous chip on it's shoulder. This is of course a generalisation and my memories of my time there are extremely fond and so it is not so much a criticism as a comment.

It is hard, given the history of the Jews in the 20th Century and centuries before not to comprehend how they might be so defensive and eager to attack before they are attacked out of existence. especially when there are like Ahmadinejad just a missile's range away.

But, we are all responsible for our own actions, no matter what has happened in the past. Likewise, Israel's politician, of whatever hue, have to start to compromise. To do this they need the help and support of the International community. Not just to validate or to turn a blind eye to the things that they do but to make it clear that they too wil have to stick to the rules.

Some have called Tzipi Livni Israel's Barack Obama, as she too used a narrative of change in her election as leader. Well, whether she is or she isn't, the election of the real Barack Obama to the US presidency could be the bestchance that the peace process has at the moment.

I am hopeful that if Obama becomes president he will pay more attention to the area and the scope for a negotiated peace than his predecessor Bush. In in the mean time I hope the Israeli voters punish at the polls those extreme parties like Shas that have once more put up barriers to peace.

Of course, Israel has a right to self defense! but, the abuse and aggression that Jews and Israelis have suffered from the Nazi regime, European countries and in later years their neighbours do not excuse Israel's actions with regard to the occupied territories and particularly the action of politicians who have very little support but who are prepared to hold the rest of the country to ransom.


wit and wisdom said...
28 Oct 2008, 17:12:00

I share your pessimism. Nothing will change in Israel until it can be clearly demonstrated that change is in Israel's interest.

Sadly that is only likely to happoen when the USA stops fawning over Israel and stops interfering in the region generally.

Like you I am an international relations graduate and I studied this conflict at college. That was 16 years ago now and I hopd I'd see some change.

I'm getting more pessimistic as each sorry year comes to a close.

sm said...
30 Oct 2008, 10:17:00


yes usa has to support both sides not only israel and they should sit and solve problem

and not sell arms to both of them and others nations must follow suit
your both blogs are nice.

see you later

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