THE ISRAELI ’national unity’ government coalition has collapsed following the withdrawal of six Labour ministers. Elections have been called for early next year.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unstable coalition had been ridden with infighting over budget plans for 2003, mainly over which section of the population should suffer the worst cuts!

Right-wing nationalist parties in the government want more money to go to Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Labour leaders opposed this out of fear for their electoral prospects in the imminent race for leader of the party, rather than from any principled stance (the biggest expansion of illegal settlements took place under Labour governments).

When the coalition collapsed, Sharon desperately tried to form a new one based more heavily on small far-right parties, so his government could finish its remaining year in office but this failed.

Now new elections have been called, as things stand, polls suggest that Sharon’s Likud party is likely to make gains. Such gains would be because ordinary people see no viable alternative at present.

A majority detest Sharon’s programmes of cuts and tax increases but there is no mass workers’ party yet to represent working-class interests and to pose a socialist alternative.

Palestinians’ plight

ISRAELI WORKERS’ anger against the government over the economy has not yet extended to the military conflict. Although most think that negotiations leading to an eventual Palestinian state are necessary, presented with no alternative to Sharon’s policy of brutal force to counter Palestinian suicide bombing missions, they support this policy for now.

The latest suicide attack, in Northern Israel, was the 145th suicide bombing in this two-year intifada. It once again showed, in a horrific way, the Palestinian masses’ sheer desperation in the West Bank and Gaza strip, faced with deteriorating conditions.

Curfews, road blocks, arrests and killings by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) continue on a daily basis. Whole towns in the West Bank are, in reality, huge prison camps with starvation conditions and there are now increasing IDF incursions into the Gaza strip.

The Director of the UN Relief and Works Agency said that a higher percentage of children in the occupied territories suffer from chronic and acute malnutrition than in Zimbabwe and the percentage is similar to Congo.

The latest devastating edicts of the Israeli government are a ban on water drilling in Palestinian areas and an effective ban on Palestinian farmers being able to harvest their olive orchards, on the grounds that the IDF cannot offer adequate protection from far-right armed Jewish settlers.

A violent clash took place recently between settlers at Havat Gilad and the IDF, but generally settlers are given a free hand to harass and sometimes shoot Palestinian villagers. Last month, an entire Palestinian village was forced to flee following attacks by settlers.

Sharon’s policy of increasing the settlements is designed to create ’facts on the ground’ to pre-empt future concessions. PA leaders recently complained to US representatives that they see a ’two-states’ solution to the conflict as being jeopardised by new settlements.

Continuing resistance

FOR REPRESENTATIVES of the Israeli capitalist class, nothing they do in this bloody conflict will provide peace and security for Israelis. A lengthy period of re-occupation would be very expensive and lead to an increasing number of IDF deaths.

A recent mass breaking of the curfew in the West Bank town of Nablus, with thousands risking being shot, showed the Palestinians’ will to fight back and their feeling that they have nothing to lose.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organisation has recently decided against suicide bombings of Israeli civilians, but these continue to be carried out by militias such as Islamic Jihad, and Fatah-linked militias have now turned to increased attacks on Jewish settlers.

Neither would a future attempt by representatives of the Israeli capitalist class to enforce a unilateral separation of the territories from Israel or expel Palestinians from the territories altogether, be any solution.

Will there be another ’peace’ deal? At present, Sharon is rebuffing proposals by the US regime to set more talks in motion and the Palestinian masses have little appetite for a new version of the failed Oslo agreement. However, at some stage a new deal could be signed and lead to an ebb in the conflict, but it would not be a deal that will satisfy the Palestinians’ aspirations for their own state and decent living standards.

A genuine Palestinian state would be seen as too great a security threat by the Israeli capitalist class and in any case, world capitalist powers would not be rushing in with adequate resources to ensure its development.

No capitalist solution

A SOLUTION that offers a decent future to the Palestinian and Jewish masses can only be provided on the basis of working class people taking matters into their own hands and ending capitalism in the occupied territories and in Israel.

Only on a socialist basis, with the construction of a socialist Palestine and a socialist Israel as part of a socialist confederation of the Middle East, can a ’final settlement’ be reached that will end future bloodshed.

Maavak Sozialisti, a growing Marxist organisation in Israel, affiliated to the CWI (Committee for a Workers’ International), is promoting socialist ideas in all its activities.

Consisting mainly of young activists with great energy and determination, Maavak Sozial-isti is taking the vital first steps towards the building of a real alternative to the present nightmare situation in the Middle East.

Workers face economic crisis - worst recession in 25 years provokes strike wave

SOME JOURNALISTS have suggested that greater defence expenditure is the cause of the present economic crisis. It has increased by around $2 billion a year, so it has certainly worsened the public debt (standing presently at 103% of GDP). But the economy was already in deep crisis before the second intifada broke out.

The worldwide bursting of the ’dotcom’ bubble hit Israel very badly, as hi-tech industry had been the engine of economic growth, accounting for 70% of exports. A combination of the economic crisis and military conflict has led to a two-thirds collapse in foreign investment and a halving of tourism.

With unemployment at 11% and rising, young people are not looking forward to the future. Many question the point of higher education as a large number of educated people are on the dole. The saying going round is that "it’s only worth getting a degree because the queues for graduates in the unemployment offices are shorter"!

Strike action

ISRAELI WORKERS were told by their bosses and government that while the Palestinian Intifada continues, now is not the time to take action and that nothing new would be offered as a result of it. However, workers made it clear that they are not willing to go on suffering from what is the worst recession in Israel for 25 years.

Four weeks ago, mounds of rubbish piled up in the streets of cities and towns across the country, stinking in the hot sun. This was the most visual sign of an indefinite strike of municipal workers, struggling against a wage freeze which has meant their pay has not kept up with inflation.

Government workers took ’go slow’ action at the same time, also demanding improved wages. The action is continuing as no agreement has been reached on cost-of-living allowances in the private sector.

Committee for a workers' International publications

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