Israel/Palestine: Cracks widen in Sharon’s camp

PUBLIC SPLITS have emerged amongst Israel’s ruling class as Ariel Sharon’s right-wing coalition government continues to repress Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza strip.

Four former directors of Israel’s notorious state security organisation, Shin Bet, have publicly condemned Sharon’s policies which they say threaten the very existence of Israel. They call for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and evacuate the Jewish settlements there.

Their outspoken attacks are significant because all four have been associated with repressing Palestinians through assassinations, closures of towns and cities and roadblocks.

They condemned Sharon’s refusal to discuss with Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and for deliberately wrecking the US, EU and Russian-backed ’road-map’ peace plan by his insistence that the Palestinian Authority suppress the Palestinian militias before progressing along the road map. "It is an excuse for doing nothing", said Avraham Shalom, former Shin Bet director.

The so-called security fence, which according to the United Nations will adversely affect up to 700,000 Palestinians, also attracted some heavy criticism. "It creates hatred, it expropriates land and annexes hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to the state of Israel," said Shalom.

This criticism follows a similar rebuke from the current chief of staff of the Israeli army, general Moshe Ya’alon, who said the strict closures on Palestinian cities was counter-productive as it fuelled widespread anger.

In Israel, recent newspaper adverts have promoted a ’Geneva Accord’ – a new peace initiative by Israeli and Arab intellectuals, opposition Israeli politicians, senior Palestinian officials and Swiss diplomats – which Ariel Sharon dismissed as an "illusion". The accord calls for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza strip with Jerusalem a shared capital city. In return the Palestinian side has agreed to forego the right to return to Israel of Palestinian refugees.

On a capitalist basis – where the ruling classes exploit labour, maintain inequalities and annexe land and water resources – such an initiative is an illusion. Nonetheless, it is another indication of political divisions in Israel and anger at the failure of the Sharon government.

Growing hatred

THE PALESTINIANS’ misery and therefore their hatred towards Israel, is likely to grow following the International Committee for the Red Cross’s (ICRC) decision to end its emergency food programme in the West Bank.

The ICRC say the economic collapse there is the direct result of Israeli military closures and roadblocks and that, as the occupying power, it must provide for the Palestinians’ economic needs. If other aid agencies follow the ICRC and leave, the Israeli authorities could face a $1.1 billion a year bill.

This would deepen the economic recession and budget deficit within Israel. Already the Israeli ruling class is trying to make the country’s workers pay for this crisis and the escalating costs of the war through layoffs, cuts in wages and pensions and privatisation measures.

In turn this has provoked widespread strikes by public sector workers in defence of jobs and conditions. Only the courts and a timid leadership of the Histadrut trade unions have prevented a general strike movement developing.

Sharon’s failure to militarily crush militant Palestinian nationalism, the splits within the Israeli ruling class and the class struggles within Israel show that the situation is crying out for a socialist solution – to end repression, capitalist exploitation and landlordism.

This requires the building of mass socialist forces based on the workers and oppressed, both within the Palestinian areas and within Israel. Members of Maavak Sozialisti, the Socialist Party’s counterpart in Israel, are striving to achieve just such a movement.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, the cwi in England and Wales

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November 2003