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Middle East Tension Continues Prior to Israeli Elections

The Mid-East in Flames: Behind the Rhetoric (part I)

29 November 2000

A territorial struggle can often last for decades. Spilling over into a new century gives it special significance. Playing out with an ancient biblical motif makes it unique. These descriptions characterize a Mid-East conflict that does not belong in a 21st century setting. The Mid-East struggle between the Israelis and Palestinians has elements of ancient tribal warfare -a nomadic tribe moves into the area of another tribe, usurps its land, and then proceeds to cleanse the land of its original inhabitants. On the way to fulfilling this simple ancient custom, the 21st century usurper uses only modern weapons. The usurped partially uses biblical weapons.
Behind the illusions that lead to delusions, media interpretations and double-speak, each of the contestants has definite objectives and strategies for achieving these objectives. After almost a century of direct conflict, the strategies have taken fruit and achieved some objectives. The successes and failures of the strategies can be delineated. The delineation serves the purpose of clarifying the results of decades of conflict. The results indicate the direction the international community must take to prevent the Mid-East struggle from causing grief to the entire world.

A 3-part article presents a behind-the-scenes reality of the Mid-East conflict.

Part I : Objectives and Strategies
Part II : Successes and Failures
Part III : Involving the International Community

Part I : Objectives and Strategies

Through the years, changing circumstances modified Israel's objectives. The Zionists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries planned to establish a community where Jewish people, who refused to lose their identity to the emancipation afforded them in democratic states, could maintain their Jewish heritage. The vacuum created by the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the award of Palestine to a British mandate changed the perspective. Initially, the British welcomed Western Jews who could speak English and administer with Western principles. Soon the Jews realized that they could control many aspects of the area of Palestine and more easily invite other immigrants. The Zionists initiated the path toward establishing a state. The tragedy of WWII further emphasized the legitimacy of their objective and made it more acceptable to the world community. The 1947 UN proclamation that established the state of Israel legalized Zionist ambitions. Only after the state had been created and the government faced its problems and responsibilities, did Israel formulate objectives to achieve a goal -changing a state to a formidable nation.

Israel's Primary Objective

The primary objective of the state of Israel has been to secure its territory from being compromised by external and internal hostile forces. The hostile forces are manifold.

Externally, the principal hostile forces are the Arab nations that could invade Israel, such as Syria, Iraq, etc. They also include other nations of the world, Arab, Moslem and Western, which might approach Israel's policies as aggressive and dangerous to world peace. The Western nations affected by the terrorism generated from the Mid-East conflict could conclude that a furthering of Israel's defense capabilities is counterproductive to the welfare of their own societies. Israel also perceives hostile forces to be groups either friendly to the Palestinian cause or antagonistic to the creation of a unique Jewish state.
Internally, Israel views the Palestinian people as the most hostile of enemies. By its actions, Israel has demonstrated it considers its own Arab citizens as a hostile force. And not only its own Arab citizens. Israel fears clashes between racial, religious and class elements within its Jewish constituency could destroy the unity and fabric of Israeli society. Other great threats to Israel's security throughout recent decades have been the demands of its economic system. Security costs detract from economic progress. Economic failure could generate a security failure.

Israel has taken no chances. Through shrewd strategies, it has neutralized every available antagonistic base and attempted to smother or compromise each perceived threat.The Strategies
To contain the threat of internal insurrection, Israel developed military strength that is equipped with the latest advanced weapons, including atomic. In order to financially support these military developments and prevent economic collapse, it appealed to the world community, especially the United States and Germany to provide sufficient funds. By highlighting past discriminations against Jewish people and the Holocaust, Israel generated sympathy and received great amounts of monetary and material contributions, including advanced weapons.

By creating a network of media supporters in the West and influential supporters in the U.S. Congress and Western nation parliaments, Israel neutralized critics from Arab states, the United Nations, and other Western Nations, such as Greece and Italy, and dampened the fervor of groups that protested against its actions.

The principal Palestinian threat has been fought with force. Similar to United States' expansion from its infancy until it reached coast-to-coast, Israel built semi-fortified settlements, which continually encroached on the West Bank and were followed by military roads and military encampments. A network of secret security forces has been established to infiltrate Palestinian groups and counter insurgency. Despite Israel's stated intentions, the history of the last ten years indicates that Israel, by military intrusion into the West Bank, Gaza and Palestinian East Jerusalem, has impeded communications and contact between Palestinians. This has been done in an attempt to prevent any hope of creating both a viable Palestinian state and a unified military threat.

Anticipated threats to security by Arab citizens of Israel were initially reduced by the removal from Israel of 750,000 Arabs after the 1948 war and another 400,000 after the 1967 war. It did not matter if these expulsions were enforced or voluntary; Israel did not permit the return of those who left. To justify this proposition, Israel once again used the strategy of soliciting worldwide media support and an emotional attachment to the Holocaust to convince the world that it had been constituted as a Jewish state and that a large Arab population would interfere with its ethnic identity. During the first twenty years of Israel's existence, it contained its Arab citizens by quasi martial law. Later strategy separated the Arab and Jewish communities, such as in Nazareth. The more isolated pockets of Arab life facilitated Israeli patrol and control. A series of laws prevented the Arabs from purchasing property, made it possible for them to lose their property if they went abroad, denied them the normal social and educational opportunities given to other Israeli citizens, and seized their lands for "construction of military bases." In short, Israel's strategy to contain possible security threats from their Arab citizens has been to intimidate them, to subtly coerce them to leave, and to subordinate their economic strength.

The other internal threat, namely the antagonisms between Jewish communities, have been managed by the usual strategy that nation states often use -an appeal that the external threat demands unity and compromise. By subtly granting special privileges and some power to extremist groups, such as the ultra-orthodox, the government has been able to temporarily maintain internal order.Other Israeli Objectives

Creation of a Jewish state

The creation of a Jewish state has been both an objective and a strategy. Claiming Israel as a Jewish state has allowed Jewish persons from mainly North Africa and the former Soviet Union to migrate to Israel and populate it. The immigrant population is needed to counter the growing Palestinian population, operate the new settlements that displace Palestinian populations and increase its military prowess. Contributions from Western nations and Jewish individuals have been used to finance both the immigration and the immigrants' initial adaptation to their new country.

Creation of an Industrialized State

Modern Israel strategically departed from the agricultural economy fostered by the early Zionists and pursued the development of a high tech industrial base. This type of economy partially relieved the scarce water and land pressures that could bring stagnation to the Israeli economy. It also assisted in the development of high tech weapons for the military. As in previous infrastructure constructions, Israel solicited financial support from Western nations, especially the United States and its stock market, to facilitate the transition to a new industrial base.

Through its association with the Western world Israel has turned its back on the Arab world and aims to be included as a partner of the European nations and recognized as one of their Mediterranean countries. The principal strategy to accomplish this has been to try to gain admittance to the European Common Market.

Palestinian Objectives

Similar to the Zionist experience, the Palestinians modified their strategy according to the circumstances. Unlike the Zionists, they did not have unified commands to dictate nor a coordinate strategy and their policies were reactions rather than actions. After Arafat established the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1962, the Palestinians had the opportunity to formulate common objectives and strategies.
Their initial objective was simple: To overthrow the state of Israel and establish a Palestinian nation. The strategy was also simple: (1) the use of terrorism to identify their cause to the world and solicit support from the world community; (2) the use of the same terrorism to weaken Israel and convince the Arab nations that Israel could be defeated by military action.

The strategy had some success. It enabled the Palestine Liberation organization to receive world recognition and eventually evolve into a Palestinian Authority.

After evolution to a Palestinian Authority (PA), the Palestinians changed their objectives. These objectives are restrained by the fluid nature of the PA and its control.

The present principal objective of the Palestinian Authority is to establish a viable state on the entire West Bank and Gaza. The strategy to accomplish this has been to trade recognition of a state of Israel that has its borders based on the pre-1967 situation for recognition of a Palestinian state that includes the entire West Bank and Gaza. The mechanism for implementing this strategy has been a peace initiative based on the Oslo meeting.

Another objective is to have the parts of Jerusalem and the Old City in which the Palestinians and the Moslem Authority have legal ownership established as the capital of the new Palestinian state. The strategy: convince the Arab and Western worlds to enforce UN Resolutions, such as Resolution 242, that denounces as illegal Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem and the Old City.

With these strategies in place for several years, their effectiveness can be measured.
Part II of the series will examine the effectiveness of these strategies.

© The News Insider 2000

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