Israel: In the aftermath of the war in Lebanon – the crisis deepens

The crisis of the Israeli state is deepening. The rats have begun to abandon the sinking ship and are calling for the heads of Olmert and Peretz. Keen to save face and remain in power without having to face fresh elections, the ruling clique are prepared to sacrifice the current administration in order to form a new war cabinet.

When the latest war between Israel and Lebanon ended after 34 days of bloody fighting, the head of the US empire, President Bush, declared in a news conference held at the State Department that Lebanon was a front in the "global war on terror", equating Israel's battle against Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon to the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Bush explained that the conflict was a victory for his administration's policy of encouraging democracy in the Middle East, and that it was a defeat for Hezbollah, discounting the claims of victory issued by the militia's leader. (CNN, August 14, 2006).

Olmert and Peretz
Olmert and Peretz

We can agree with Bush that the war in Lebanon was part of the war against Iraq, and was part of the plan to force the interests of US imperialism on the Middle East. But as to the question of who won the war, the Winograd commission - appointed by the Israeli government to investigate the conduct of the Israeli government and army - has a very different opinion, as can be seen from the report that it issued. The report said in black and white that the responsibility for the failure of the war lay with Olmert, Peretz and Halutz.

The report accused the Prime Minister (for now at any rate), Ehud Olmert of "very severe failures in judgment, responsibility and caution in going to war last July." It added that Peretz is unfit for the job of Minister of War and that the head of the army, Dan Halutz, who in the meantime resigned and went to Washington to study at the expense of the tax payers, used these two to force the will of the generals on them.

Winograd, reading a 12-minute summary of the report, said: "We establish that these decisions and the way they were taken suffered from the most severe failures. We put the responsibility for these failures on the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the Chief of the Army. If any one of them had acted in a different, better way, the decisions and the way they were made in the period in question, as well as the results of the campaign, would have been different and better".

The aim of this report is to find a better team to lead the new dirty war that will take place this or next summer. Since these particular servants have failed the Israeli and the US ruling classes, the response is akin to that of the Queen of Heart's in Alice in Wonderland - "off with their heads".

As soon as the report was released all of the111 Zionist members of Parliament who supported the war agreed with the report's findings. Even members of the coalition parties joined in the calls of "off with their heads". Some of them even resigned from their sinking ships in a show of a respect for the ruling class, and in order to be able to join the new war government at a later date.

Last Tuesday, the Labor Party's Secretary General, Eitan Cabel, resigned from his post as Minister without Portfolio and announced that he would convene the party's central committee in order to discuss Labor's withdrawal from the coalition. War Minister Amir Peretz, however, under intense pressure from within his Labor Party in the wake of the Winograd Commission, considered submitting his resignation as Defense minister, perhaps within the coming days. However, he will probably stay in the government as Minister of Finance.

If Cabel's move were designed to turn the Labor party into a party of the opposition fighting for the interest of the workers and the youth, it would be a correct step - as the reformist policy of entering a bourgeois government always ends up in a defeat for the working class. However, his move in actual fact aims to seek a new arrangement of class collaboration. The right-wing leaders of the party will be more than happy to enter a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu, if general elections are forced upon them. This would be a new war government which, at the same time, would attack the workers and the students.

The Likud, now in opposition, wants a new general election, while the gang in the government want to remove Olmert and Peretz. They also want to convince Olmert to stand down and allow someone else from his party take the reigns. This would allow the ruling clique to stay in power without having to face general elections.

Last week a mass rally, which hardly concealed its support for the Likud, calling for the resignation of Olmert and his government, was held in Tel Aviv. The demonstration was organised by Uzi Dayan, a former general, and military reservists demanding a better team to lead the new war. In an attempt to attract as many people as possible, the organizers decided that politicians would not speak at the rally. However, they called all politicians interested to come and protest, even if they would not be able to speak.

It was impossible to call upon Likud politicians to speak, as opinion polls show that the majority of Israeli people do not support any of the bourgeois politicians. However, of all of these rotten politicians it is Benjamin Netanyahu who is the most popular, with 20 percent support.

A poll conducted by Haaretz-Dialog and directed by Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University 24 hours after the release of the Winograd report, shows that 40 percent of those asked favor new lections. This is especially the case amongst right-wingers.

The poll found that between 10 and 17 percent of respondents prefer that the current Knesset - only 14 months old - continue in office, and that the government be changed and headed by Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice-Premier Shimon Peres or Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni. Only nine percent of those polled actually supported the current government.

Shamelessly, the "left" party Meretz, supported the rally and the "leftist" singer Aviv Gefen agreed to sing and Yakir Aviv, Chairman of the Hebrew University Students' Union, at a time when students are fighting government plans to raise tuition fees, agreed to speak at the rally - knowing full well that a Likud government would act no differently towards students.

While it is in the interests of the working class to remove the current gang in power, we cannot support another gang led by Likud. And while the war between these two gangs is going on, the students in Israel have escalated their struggle. Last week, thousands of students in red shirts and carrying red flags demanding free education, clashed with the police as they tried to block the entrance to the Ayalon freeway after burning tires and blocking roads leading to the University. Many students were brutally beaten by the police and 32 were arrested.

The militant mood of the students was reflected even in the Technion in Haifa, known as a stronghold of conservatives. The leaders of the student union had to reverse their decision to back out of the strike, after many students were upset by the decision, arguing that it was liable to end the entire struggle without it having accomplished anything. The right-wing leaders had to give in as a poll showed that over 80 percent of Technion students supported the strike.

The brutality of the police handling of the students should be compared with the very polite way the police dealt with the settlers when they were removed from Gaza. While the settlers compared the police to the Nazis and threw stones and dangerous objects at them, the police were under strict orders not to use any force against them. This of course is not the only difference. This police violence against the students raises the question - what is the nature of the bourgeois state and whose interest does it serve? Clearly for any thinking person, the answer is clear -the ruling class and its oppressive order.

While the settlers were paid very generously, the government wants to raise tuition fees by 20 percent, which will make higher education the privilege of rich families only. The students cannot win this battle alone. To win, it is necessary to form a mass united front with the organized and unorganised workers, teachers, parents, and high school students as recently happened in France and Greece. They must not only link forces but raise demands in the interests of the workers and the students - demands such as: Free education from kindergarten to completion of high education and a minimum salary of 5000 Shekels per month, the nationalization under democratic workers' control of factories and other institutions such as banks and ports as well as the national airline under democratic workers' control.

To divert the anger of the Israelis from the growing crisis of the state, the Israeli security apparatus is trying to turn this anger against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, who during the dirty war against Lebanon opposed the Israeli war machine. They have focussed on Azmi Bishra and his party, Balad, which demanded the transformation of the Zionist state into a state for all its citizens, both Jews and Arabs. He has been falsely accused of spying for Hezbollah during the war against Lebanon and even of directing their missiles against the civilian population - including the Arabs. Most Arab Palestinians in Israel understand what is behind the false accusations and have rallied in support of Azmi Bishara. Last Saturday a large rally of 7000 was held in Nazareth in his support.

Unfortunately the leaders of Hadash, Hinin and Barke, have damaged the campaign to defend the Palestinians in Israel by calling on Bishara to return to Israel and face a trial because "if it is true that he broke the rules of the game, the state has the right to punish him".

Last week the Security Service held a closed meeting for Jewish journalists only to advise them on how to present the case to the public. This brings to mind the Dreyfus affair in France at the end of the 19th century. Dreyfus, a French Jew, was a graduate of the elite Ecole Polytechnique, and a career artillery officer, a high rank for any military personnel. After the French defeat in 1871 at the hands of the German army, the Third Republic was into a serious and ongoing crisis.

In October 1894, Alfred Dreyfus was arrested and later charged with passing military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. He was convicted of treason by a military tribunal in December 1894 and imprisoned on Devil's Island, a prison island in French Guyana. The conviction was based on false accusations. A hand written list which he had allegedly handed over was declared to be in his own handwriting.

Behind the hysteria against Dreyfus stood the reactionary circles of the capitalist state, including General Auguste Mercier, the Conservatives and the Church, seeking to prove that the Jews were a fifth column.

While bourgeois journalists like Theodor Herzl, who at the time of the trial was the correspondent for Vienna's liberal newspaper Die Neue Freie Presse, believed the accusations, as Amos Elon showed in his book Herzel. The socialist movement led by Jean Jaurès and intellectuals such as Anton France and Emil Zola understood what was behind the campaign against Dreyfus and organized a political defense campaign.

Zola later on paid for this with his life as he was poisoned, most likely by an agent of the same reactionary circles.

Most importantly, it was Lenin who explained the revolutionary crisis in France caused by the Dreyfus Affair, which served to expose all the contradictions of French society. Lenin explained that such a crisis could have had revolutionary consequences, even leading to the overthrow of capitalism in France.

The political crisis of the Israeli ruling class has put an end to the Saudi "peace" plan backed by the US, which the Arab rulers hoped would save them from uprisings. Even if the Israeli ruling class had considered under pressure to take part in such a farcical procedure, they could not have done so in practice, as what they need is a new war cabinet.

In the meantime Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has said in a speech aired by Hezbollah's al-Manar TV, that he admired Israel's ability to criticize itself and learn from its failures. He is basically saying that he "respects" Israel for recognizing that it was defeated by his guerrilla army during the 2006 war in Lebanon. "Even though they're our enemies, it is worthy of respect that the political forces and the Israeli public act quickly to save their state, entity, army and their existence in the crisis," he said.

Clearly his speech was addressed to the supporters of the Lebanese government - that let Hezbollah fight Israel alone. However, what he failed to address is the fact that he let the largest demonstration in the history of Lebanon against the government to dissipate because he wanted to enter a coalition government with Seniora - refusing to overthrow his government.

Clearly the masses in the Middle East want to fight back. The best manifestation of this desire is the heroic struggle of the workers in Egypt (please see Unprecedented strike wave of Egyptian workers and The Egyptian workers are not alone! Solidarity needed). What is needed is a revolutionary leadership that will lead these struggles through to the victorious socialist revolution, which will see the creation of a socialist federation of the Middle East delivering the masses of the region from unending misery and wars.

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