Israel in crisis – the beat of the drum changes

As Israel sinks deeper and deeper into crisis, US imperialism has been forced to search for other points of support in the region.

US imperialism's failure in Iraq is clear even to US president George Bush, now responsible for the destruction of Iraq, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and at least 3,160 American solders since the beginning of the war in March 2003.

Meanwhile, the political crisis in Israel grows with every passing day and the instability of the entire Middle East deepens, causing panic amongst the Arab ruling class as well amongst their counterparts in Israel. The US is now seeking desperately to cut its losses and get out of Iraq as soon as possible.

The Iraq Study Group

The Iraq Study Group, headed by Bush family friend James Baker, has called the situation in Iraq "grave and deteriorating" and openly explained that the approach of the Bush administration is not working. The study group has called for fresh diplomatic efforts in the region and recommended that the US military withdraw by spring 2008.

For a time Bush paid no attention to this report. However, with the failure of the most recent US military operation, and as Israel is not in a position to attack Iran or Syria, despite their hints to the contrary, the war drums in the US have changed their beat.

It was only a few days ago that US officials exclaimed that Iran was seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Bush declared that all options were open. They accused Iran of supplying deadly weapons, including advanced technologies for the most lethal form of roadside bombs, to anti-government forces in Iraq. They also accused Syria of providing bases for anti-Maliki forces and allowing weapons to cross its border.

It was also only a few weeks ago that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert rejected the idea of making any deals with Syria, and openly admitted that the US was also opposed to such a deal.

However, the UN Security Council deadline for Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment has just expired, and the US, unlike on the eve of war with Iraq, wants the Council not to permit a US attack on Iran, but to expand the limited sanctions imposed on the country.

It seems that Bush, however, may not have read the small print at the end of the report, which stated that despite the 79 recommendations, there was "no magic formula" for success. It would seem indeed that the imperialists are very good at creating problems but very poor at solving the mess they create.

The beat of the drum changes 

This did not escape the attention of Sheikh Mohammed Bashar al-Fayadh, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni Arab group which is accused by some of having links to anti-government forces, who criticized the report and raised doubts about whether training and equipping more government security forces in Iraq would actually change anything.

Speaking on Al Jazeera, he explained that the 79 recommendations, in their entirety, gave precedence to US interests over those of Iraq and sought "guarantees for an exit without paying heed to preventing a civil war from breaking out".

Dancing to the new tune, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, in remarks prepared for a senate commission hearing said: "We hope that all governments seize this opportunity to improve their relations with Iraq and to work for peace and stability in the region." She said that US and Iraqi officials agreed that success in Iraq "requires the positive support of Iraq's neighbours". She then added that "I am pleased to announce that we are also supporting the Iraqis in a new diplomatic offensive: to build greater support, both within the region and beyond, for peace and prosperity in Iraq," she said.

Speaking about the shift in policy in the US, Tony Snow, White House press secretary, told reporters that the Bush administration is "happy that the government of Iraq is taking this step and engaging its neighbours. And we also hope and expect that Iran and Syria will play constructive roles in those talks."

Syria, so we are told by Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebarion, "agreed to join U.S. and British representatives to discuss the Iraqi security crisis at a regional conference March 10 in Baghdad." He added that the government would issue very soon a formal invitation to Syria and to the five permanent U.N. Security Council members - the US, Britain, France, Russia and China

He was very happy to announce that the government of Iran had also agreed to participate in the meeting. The rulers of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey and Kuwait were also invited, along with the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Needless to say, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who receives his orders directly from Bush, will send the U.N. envoy in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, to attend the conference.

The official Syrian news agency, SANA, has confirmed that Syria will attend.

A foreign ministry official told SANA that, "talking with the United States about Iraq is a partial step in the right direction. All the problems in the region are interlinked."

Farouq al-Sharaa, Syrian Foreign Minister, told a political conference in Damascus on February 27, "We are not so arrogant to say that Syria and Iran can solve Iraq's problem... The entire international community may not be able to solve it. But let them [the Americans] be a little bit modest and accept whoever has the capability to help."

The rulers of Iran, who only a short time ago were dressed up in their anti-imperialist costumes and stated that Tehran "was not interested in discussions before US troops pulled out of Iraq", have now changed their tune. Larijani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said it was important to involve Iraq's neighbors in any such process. "We believe Iraq's security is related to all its neighbouring countries, and they have to help settle the situation," he said, "In order to help resolve problems in Iraq, Iran will do its utmost. We will attend the meeting if [we reach the conclusion] that it is in Iraq's interests."

Israeli imperialism

The governments of Syria and Iran are happy to help the American imperialists at a time of grave crisis - after all a good friend is a friend in time of need. What they are hoping for is that the US will come to rely on them to secure its control over the Middle East. In reaction to this, the ruling class in Israel, which had been pushed to the sidelines on this issue, is becoming hysterical.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said: "It would not be appropriate for Israel to formally respond to what is ultimately an internal American report."

However, some Israeli commentators are very concerned that the US will try to resolve the Israel-Arab conflict in order to stabilize the region and improve its situation in Iraq, which could mean that Israel is put in an awkward position by their ally.

Akiva Eldar of the Haaretz daily recently wrote that despite the recommendations that the US should involve Syria and Iran, these countries "have no interest in helping the US leave Iraq easily without making them pay a political price".

What he means by that is that Israel will have to pay the political price by withdrawing from the Golan Heights and from most of the territories occupied in 1967. Even more significantly, Israel would no longer be the main force imperialism relies on in the region, a role it has enjoyed for many years.

In order to ensure that the flames of nationalist hatred between Muslims and Jews spread, the Israeli government is continuing with the excavation work near the disputed religious site in Jerusalem known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

The work, which began with an archaeological dig earlier in February, has sparked protests by Muslims throughout the Arab world. The site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the gold-capped Dome of the Rock is Islam's third holiest shrine, and Muslims fear that Israel is planning to damage it.

The Israeli government claims that the aim of the dig is to safeguard the area and ensure that subsequent renovations will not damage any archaeological artifacts found at the site.

However, there is a long history of conflict between Muslims and Jews over this site. The most well known conflict took place in 1929 and led to a week of a bloody communal fighting and killing.

In February 2004, excavation work carried out by Israeli authorities led to the collapse of part of the path leading to the Al Maghareba Gate, one of the mosque's main entrances. It is the same place where the second Palestinian uprising erupted in September 2000 following a provocative visit by Ariel Sharon.

In January this year, Israel revealed a project to set up a synagogue next to the Al-Aqsa Mosque's Dome of the Rock. This led to a warning from Israel's close friend, Jordan's King Abdullah II, who warned against "any attack on Islamic sites" in Jerusalem and condemned Israeli attempts "seeking to change the nature of these sites and erase their Muslim character".

The Jews believe that the site is what remains of Solomon's temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. However, it is more likely that Solomon's temple was located south at the Gihon Spring. As a matter of fact no one knows for sure where the real temple was located. It was not until the 16th Century that Jews began to pray at this site.

The political atmosphere is already charged. Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, has organized protests at the site and police, after arresting him, banned him from the area for more than two months.

The role of Hamas

The Israeli government is becoming increasingly worried about the growing acceptance of Hamas by Russia and major European states, following the Mecca agreement leading to a Palestinian "unity government" composed of Hamas and Abu Mazen's Fatah group. Hamas is now doing its utmost to show it readiness and willingness to join Iran and Iraq in preserving the imperialist order. Whether US imperialism will be impressed or not is a different story.

Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas, in his visit to Russia to get support for an end to the financial blockade imposed by the European Union, the US and Israel on the Hamas-led Palestinian government, called upon Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian territories. While this is not a clear recognition of Israel, it implies a readiness to do so. When asked whether Hamas was prepared to recognize Israel he replied: "First of all, Israel has to end its occupation of Palestinian territory and put an end to the suffering of the Palestinian people."

The Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Radwan, said: "We have not given up in any way our position regarding the territory of Palestine," he said. "We are willing to consider the possibility of a long-term hudna [cease-fire] if the Zionist enemy releases Palestinian prisoners and the refugees return to their homes. No more. The Mecca agreement has to do with the government, not Hamas," he added.

Another spokesman of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Fauzi Barhum, said that, "Hamas has decided to show a political horizon, but our position is clear. All the land of Palestine [from the sea to the river] belongs to the Palestinians and Israel is the enemy. However, our political horizon offers a hudna for 15-20 years, in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state based upon the 1967 borders, the return of the refugees and the release of the prisoners."

In simple words, the unity government in which Hamas is a leading partner is ready to end the armed struggle in all its forms (mostly individual terror) against Israel and recognize Israel de facto, but not officially.

The Putin government, even prior to this visit, had called for the international financial blockade to be lifted while demanding that the new Palestinian government recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

At the Moscow press conference at the end of the visit, Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said that Meshal had promised an end to the Qassam rocket attacks against Israel. Calling on Hamas to use its strength to end the violence against Israel, Lavrov said that "we have received confirmation that such steps will be adopted."

This visit was attacked by Olmert, who said: "This is not the international community's stand and it's not the Quartet's stand."

However, since the power-sharing deal worked out this month in Saudi Arabia some EU countries have changed their stance towards Hamas.

Jacques Chirac, the French president, for example, has said he would ask the EU at a summit in March to recognize the Palestinian unity government

The crisis in Israel and Peretz's binoculars

The Israeli government may be very upset but it is not in position to do much.

Following the defeat in the war against Lebanon last summer, every passing day exposes the depth of the decay of the Israeli state. Every day a new story of government corruption, whether involving parliament, the taxation system, or the police is revealed to millions of Israelis on their TV sets.

The most recent story revealed by Channel 10 is that Olmert granted personal benefits to Likud activists in 115 cases while he served as Labor, Trade and Industry Minister in 2005.

Another recent story is that Knesset Member Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu) withdrew her candidacy for the post of Tourism Minister following recent revelations of her disabled status, for which she receives benefits on the grounds that she is unable to work more than four hours a day. This was added to a scandal surrounding her false claims about degree qualifications.

And as for the condition of the Israeli army - the latest news story about Peretz's binoculars tells the whole story in a graphic way. Media photographers caught the War Minister examining the military strength of Hezbollah in Lebanon by looking through a pair of binoculars - with the cap still on. With the cap still on and unable to see anything, he began mumbling that he could not see that Hezbollah had recovered from the war. This story, more than any other, captures the depth of the crisis in Israel.

Halutz, the Chief of the Army during the war, was forced to resign and was replaced by Aschenazi, a man of similar caliber, who a few years before the war lost three soldiers to kidnapping while serving as the General in charge of Israeli troops on the border with Lebanon.

Similarly, the Chief of Police was forced to resign against the background of allegations of connections between high-ranking police officers and organized crime. The present candidate for the position of Chief of Police is suspected of the same sort of corruption.

The situation in Israel, politically and militarily, is one of the reasons why Bush has been forced to seek the assistance of Iran and Syria. With Israel in crisis and becoming increasingly unstable, US imperialism is forced to seek out other points of support.

The class struggle

While scandals involving the capitalist class and its political servants in Israel are exposed daily, the workers, who are rapidly losing faith in the system, are preparing for struggle.

While we are informed of economic growth, based on the super exploitation of the workers and large-scale privatizations, many in Israel are sinking into poverty. Last week, under pressure from local authority employees who had not received their salaries for months, the Histadruth leadership announced that it was going to declare an unlimited general strike this week.

However, they promised a strike but did not promise to keep their promise. At the last minute the strike was betrayed and canceled, once again, by the right-wing leadership of Histadruth. The lesson is clear: the working class will not be able to fight back without removing this block. The workers need a leadership different from the bureaucrats in fancy suits and expensive cars.

The existing leadership of Histadruth, the friends of the bosses, is not the friend of the workers. Many workers are coming to understand this and are getting very angry. On this basis, the class struggle will erupt sooner rather than later.

This struggle is not just a concern for the local authority employees. It is a question for the entire working class. Teachers, for example, earn less than 50% of the average wage, which in itself is very low. The same is true for large numbers of workers in factories and offices. There are families with two salary earners who are still living under the poverty line. It is also a question of privatizations, namely the giving away of public property to the rich families for pennies. These privatized firms are firing workers and raising prices.

In this situation the struggle of the workers of the Israel Electric Corporation against privatization can act as a catalyst in the coming wave of strikes. This coming wave must be turned into a 24-hour general strike as a first step in the struggle against the capitalist system itself - a system that condemns the majority of people, Arabs and Jews, to live in poverty and to be used as cannon fodder in the wars and occupations of the ruling class.

The struggle of the workers in Israel must be linked to the struggle of the workers and poor across the entire region against the imperialists and their servants. The only way out of this bloody trap is the socialist transformation of the capitalist. In the Middle East, the only program that can bring an end to misery and war is a socialist federation, which would include a federated workers' state of Arab and Jewish workers in this country.

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