The full-blown Zionist project is over. Even Israel’s prime minister admits it, writes Abdallah El-Ashaal*
At a meeting of the Israeli cabinet on 15 September, Ehud Olmert, the prime minister who soon afterwards stepped down, made an earth- shattering announcement. The long-held Zionist dream of a Greater Israel, a country running from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, was no longer feasible, Olmert admitted.
In the Arab world, two interpretations have long persisted of the Arab-Israeli conflict. One is that the Zionist scheme is making inroads inside and outside Palestine, with the full backing of Washington, the endorsement of Europe, and the compliance of Arab governments. This interpretation accounts, at least partly, for the gushing forth of resentment in the region over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. But one mustn’t forget that many Europeans, and even some Israelis, expressed sympathy for the suffering of Gaza, an area that is on the verge of becoming a collective grave by the admission of UN reports.
The other interpretation is that despite Israel’s tight grip on the land of Palestine, the Zionist dream is running into major hurdles both on the international and regional levels. Israel’s war on Lebanon in 2006, in particular, has left it a host of internal and external problems. Even in the US there are signs that US policy in the Middle East, and especially its relations with Israel, are going to be subject to closer scrutiny than in the past.
Furthermore, Israel has fallen into a leadership crisis since the disappearance from the scene of Sharon, the last of Israel’s historic leaders. As a result, Israeli policy has become rather erratic, with reckless leaders, such as Tzipi Livni, taking over. The woman who may replace Olmert as prime minister, and that rose to power in the ranks of the intelligence services, has a track record of alienating Egypt and has even offended President Hosni Mubarak on occasion.
As the world braced itself for a possible Israeli attack on Iran and wondered about Israel’s involvement in the Russian-Georgian crisis, Olmert changed the subject. Those Israeli leaders who had hoped for a Greater Israel were mistaken, he said. And unless Israel moves ahead with a two- state solution, Israel may end up becoming a bi- national state.
“For 40 years, I believed that the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean was all ours since in every place there that is excavated there is evidence of Jewish history. But finally, after a lot of suffering and misgivings, I came to the conclusion that we need to share the land with whom we are residing, if we don’t want to become a bi-national state,” Olmert said.
A two-state solution would bring the majority of the Palestinians “on our side” against the “extremist minority”, he added. Does this mean that Olmert is finally admitting that brute force alone cannot give Israel what it desires? And how many Israeli leaders share this view? His words echo, in a roundabout way, the opinion Ben- Gurion expressed long ago in his memoirs: namely, that the Arabs are not going to bow down to the Zionist scheme.
Over the years, Israel has driven a wedge between Arab governments and resistance groups over the best way of dealing with Zionism. Its success is remarkable in today’s Iraq, where Israel has helped the US from the start and then cultivated friendships in the Kurdish area. True, an Iraqi parliamentarian who visited Israel of late had his immunity revoked. But some people do not rule out Iraqi government recognition of Israel in the near future.
Olmert’s views may not be popular among the Israeli political elite, but by most accounts the Zionist project is grounding to a halt. Olmert’s call for quick action on negotiations with the Palestinians contrasts sharply with the way Israeli politicians used to approach the question of peace.
How should the Palestinians react to such a statement? Perhaps they shouldn’t rush into anything too fast. Absent a fair deal, they must hold their ground. Otherwise, they would risk turning Israel’s moment of weakness into one of victory. Things will start moving forward only once more Israeli politicians embrace Olmert’s view. The bottom line is that Israel must stop giving the Palestinians hard time and start enlisting Arab help in creating a Palestinian state. To this day, Israel wields too much power over Arab governments for things to go back to normal.
Olmert’s parting words may turn out prophetic. Born out of a sense of superiority, Israel’s Zionist dreams are being shattered one after another. But is Israel ready to move on? When it is, it will be the beginning of a new era.
The Zionist Plan for the Middle East
Translated and edited by Israel Shahak
contributed by UP
In his Complete Diaries , Vol. II. p. 711, Theodore Herzl, the founder of Zionism, says that the area of the Jewish State stretches: “From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.”
Rabbi Fischmann, member of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared in his testimony to the U.N. Special Committee of Enquiry on 9 Jul y 1947: “The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt up to the Euphrates, it includes parts of Syria and Lebanon.”
Association of Arab-American University Graduates, Inc.