Well-known Palestinian writer and journalist Antoine Shelhat says that Israel is heading into its Parliamentary elections with a greater commitment to the policies of annexation, expansion and aggression, which will not cease even for one day.
Shelhat’s comments come as part of a study he conducted as an Israeli affairs expert, published in a journal which is targeted by Israel. He is prevented from traveling outside the country for six months when he writes, with the accusation that his departure from Israel would be a security threat.
The writer says the two-state solution remains on the agenda only as rhetoric. Israeli policies of land confiscation and settlement expansion have not ceased to destroy any possibility of a viable Palestinian state.
The policies reinforce the Israeli state while breaking the West Bank into cantons, destroying any possibility of the emergence of a viable Palestinian state that is able to survive independently.
In his study Shelhat adds what Israeli journalist Gideon Levy in the daily Ha’aretz referred to regarding ‘the birth of a new national consensus in Israel.’ It seems that is all about settlement activity. At the same time analysts and public opinion surveys indicate a possible movement to the left and a majority that supports a Palestinian state and settlement evacuation. However in reality there is a palpable shift to the more extreme right as the programs of the major parties, being Kadima, Labor and Likud, right, center and left, seem to be completely united around a consensus of keeping the large settlement blocs that break up the West Bank in Israel hands.
Even the Geneva Initiative, which is considered a “generous position” by the Israeli official and popular points of view, again reroutes Israeli borders to take more Palestinian lands and include the Ma’ale Adumim Settlement. This settlement is major and is now splitting the north from the south of the West Bank and the West Bank from Jerusalem. Shelhat adds that Levy also says that “one wakes up in the morning to suddenly discover that the development of this right wing consensus is not completely clear.”
Israeli political analyst Alof Bintat has a similar take on what he refers to as the ‘bulldozer extravaganza’ of Palestinian land confiscation and destruction. He says in an article, “Those who consider that Ariel Sharon has become has become some sort of leftist and has begun to pay attention to Palestinian rights after the Gaza withdrawal plan, will have committed a grave mistake.”
According to the study there is another consensus in Israel which puts forth the necessity of a demographic separation from the Palestinians without using a just and lasting solution. That is, without withdrawing to the 1967 borders and without the Right of Return and Jerusalem as capital, which are all components of international law. Most of the talk today suggests little difference between what is referred to as the right, the center, and even the left. And on the eve of the elections it is clear that the Israeli parties have the same plan when it comes to Palestine, even raising the question as to whether the Meretz party itself is still on the left, until recently considered its most prominent symbol.
The Meretz electoral program supports the racist “Law of Return” for “any Jew to settle in Israel” while denouncing the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return because they fear it will threaten the “Jewish character of Israel.” Meretz also agrees with another national consensus which says that negotiations with any Palestinian government need not happen before they meet a number of preconditions, among them being the “recognition of Israel, uprooting terrorism, and respect for agreements signed with Israel.” The party also has embraced a third national consensus around unilateral steps, with the small difference that its support for such steps come under the rubric of ending the occupation because it is to the advantage of Israel.
The writer Shelhat notes that what stnads out in all of the electoral programs is the emphasis that “Israel’s Jewish character comes before any other consideration.” This position is supported by internal considerations and particularly the declared position from some regarding Arab citizens inside Israeli borders to expel Palestinians from the southern “triangle” area under the slogan, “territorial exchange.”
Shelhat ends his discussion saying that Israel is now committed more than at any other time to prepare for its Final Status after the elections, which was initiated by Ariel Sharon and was made clear by his unilateral disengagement from Gaza plan. In order to achieve this it appears that everything is now on the table, particularly the refusal to recognize the human rights of the Palestinian people and their right to their own land.