Paradigms are fractured beyond the imagined; perhaps irreparably
What would now persuade frightened Israelis to agree to a sovereign Palestinian State? What other than a humiliating defeat for the entire resistance ‘front’ would persuade the latter to accept a Greater “Israel”?
The paradigm of Western ‘invincibility’ has taken quite a beating: First in Afghanistan, and then more substantially in Ukraine – where NATO’s ‘clay feet’ were exposed to the world.
With the Fukuyama ‘End of History’ tail-wind behind it, the authority of Western elites has been sustained through a self-righteous global moral superiority: Anti-communism and subsequently post 9/11 Islamic ‘terrorism’ became an important political resource on which the ruling strata could draw. It also endowed the élites with a sense of cohesion.
But most important of all, it provided them with moral legitimacy.
Today, Western élites are continuously confronted with the loss of their authority (i.e. the advent of multipolarity), and are searching for a new ‘legitimacy’, as the World turns its back on exceptionalism and its ‘with us, or against us’ binary substrata.
Then came 7 October.
The Israeli paradigm crashed — both in its external, and internal manifestations of ‘deterrence’.
Jabotinsky’s “Israel” was to be a ‘nation-state’ with all the power of the 19th century model (Jabotinsky drew for his Iron Wall (1923) thinking on the ‘Young Turks’ enthused with the Western nation-state for its core zeitgeist).
So, if the current trauma in the West in respect to its defeat in Ukraine is profound, you have, I fear to add, not yet seen the ‘half of it’.
The 7 October events broke the ‘deterrence myth’ — putting the West in uproar.
“This is the most important point — ‘our deterrence’”, a senior Israeli war-Cabinet member said:
“The region must quickly understand that whoever harms Israel in the way Hamas did, will pay a disproportionate price. There is no other way to survive in our neighbourhood than to exact this price now, because many eyes are fixed on us and most of them do not have our best interests at heart.”
The Israeli ‘paradigm’ thus hinges on the State manifesting overwhelming, crushing force directed to any emerging challenge to it. The US and Europe, having ordained a state (UNGA Resolution 181), then insisted that “Israel” possess both the political leading-edge (in the Oslo Accords, all strategic decisions lay with “Israel” uniquely) and, equally, that it have the military ‘cutting leading-edge’ over all its neighbours, too.
Oslo, in other words, was predicated on building a strong 19th-century-style nation-state — one having invincible deterrence.
Despite being presented as such, this is not a formula by which any sustainable peace accord by which the division of Mandate Palestine into two states can be reached. Parity between the two parties was by definition excluded: One would possess overwhelming force; the other would be disarmed. And “Israel” always went for more.
And further, under the Netanyahu government, “Israel” has been moving closer and closer to an eschatological founding of “Israel” on the (Biblical) ‘Land of Israel’ — a move that expunges Palestine. It is no coincidence that Netanyahu flourished a map of “Israel” during his recent UN General Assembly address, in which “Israel” dominated from the River to the Sea — and Palestine or Palestinian territory was non-existent.
Oslo, as it were, effectively became an instrument of stealth; a quiet political Nakba — settlements expanded, and any putative Palestine became ever more attenuated.
To understand the Western angst – and sense of existential crisis – it should be understood that “Israel” was viewed in London and Washington as the microcosm to the Western hegemonic macrocosm. “Israel’s” deterrence was Little NATO to the deterrence of NATO invincibility — writ large.
And then Hamas smashed the paradigm. The deterrence paradigm had failed.
The risk here clearly is that a weakened White House will over-react in order to show that (against all the evidence) it is not weak, but rather is still the hegemon, by throwing its weight around — possibly at Iran. The US is sending aircraft carriers and attendant vessels, plus huge convoys (100s) of heavy-lift cargo planes loaded with bombs, missiles and air defences (THAAD and Patriot) not only to “Israel”, but also to the Gulf, to Jordan and Cyprus. Special Forces and marines are being deployed too. This is provocative. The US effectively is sending a veritable full-scale major war Armada.
On the other hand, the anger across the Region is real and threatens ‘moderate’ Arab leaders, whose room for manoeuvre is now circumscribed. It would seem that the mood of the Arab sphere is different, and resembles more the 1916 Arab Revolt that overthrew the Ottoman Empire. It is taking on a distinct ‘edge’ as both Shi’a and Sunni religious authorities state the duty of Muslims to stand with Palestinians. Jews across the Western world are horrified at the 7th October killing – but more aghast at its implications for Israeli deterrence.
In other words, as “Israel” becomes plainly apocalyptic (Netanyahu in his speech spoke of ‘ripping out evil’ from the world), so the Islamic mood is turning eschatological too. Recall President Erdogan’s warning of the conflict evolving into the ‘Crescent versus the Cross’.
The dichotomy and polar passion is set to spike (if not explode) as the incursion into Gaza reaches its crescendo. A Region, hot with anger, is mobilising against “Israel”. And the Western world is threatening retribution for any new fronts that might open.
What to do?
The default move is to call for a two-state solution. States must, of course, have a diplomatic public stance.
Fine, so long as it is understood that this, more likely, can only serve as ‘an emotional venting mechanism’. The two-state formula simply is not realisable in our present moment of heightened passions (if it ever was). The more basic question is whether a two-state solution is a solution at all. In the last ten years, the Israeli electorate has shifted far to the Right. Ministers in the government now seek to found “Israel” on the ‘Land of Israel’.
What — other than a humiliating defeat — would now persuade frightened Israelis to agree to a sovereign Palestinian State? What other than a humiliating defeat for the entire resistance ‘front’ (now labelled as the ‘Axis of Evil’ by some in the West) would persuade the latter to accept a Greater “Israel” after witnessing the destruction of Gaza? The US lacks the means to twist Israeli arms to this extent — that would run totally foreign to the grain of US political culture.
No. The job ahead is to try to contain the conflict from overflowing out from some well-defined course ways.