million dollar question about Arafat "unable" or
rather "unwilling" to stop the violence? is unthinkable
about Israel, since, unlike Arafat, it is in full control of its
forces. Therefore, it is now evident that Israel has never been
"willing" to respect its Tenet commitments. All national
and international television networks covered the agreed-upon retreat
of Israeli tanks, but media-critic Aviv Lavie of Haaretz
(18.6) published the following revealing
evidence, given by an Israeli reservist posted near Nablus:
"On Thursday the armoured units in the Nablus area were
changed. We arrived in the afternoon and around two, we moved our
tanks into position. After we were organised, the unit we replaced
pulled out. There were cameramen there. They photographed the tanks
moving out of position, but didn't shoot us taking up our positions.
It gave the impression that there was a withdrawal, while in fact
nothing changed. At seven we heard on the radio news that the IDF
had withdrawn tanks in the Nablus area and we all burst out laughing."
Note that the Thursday mentioned was June 14, the first day
of implementation of Tenet’s plan, and the pseudo-withdrawal should
have been the "demonstrable on-the-ground redeployment [that]
will be initiated within the first 48 hours." Israel
thus breached the agreement from the outset.
Barnea, a senior and well-informed political journalist for Israel’s
largest daily Yedioth Achronoth (June 15), concludes convincingly:
"For Sharon, at least, it is not a cease-fire but the opposite:
the [Tenet] declaration freed Israel from its previous commitment
to a unilateral cease-fire. From now on, if there is a terrorist
attack, the government will be free to react militarily, and to
strike hard. The cease-fire actually prepares the ground for the
renewal of fire."
WILL GO TO WAR?
the ruling Israeli junta described in Part
One of this article now seems even closer to War. As for the
content of Israel’s war plans, I hope to say more about it in a
future column. Without getting into details here, their objective
is clear: crushing the Palestinians morally, physically and demographically
in order to secure the future of the Israeli occupation and the
settlements. We have mentioned
earlier that the overwhelming majority of Israelis support freezing
the settlements. A recent academic survey reported in Haaretz
(June 10, missing in the English edition) reveals that even among
the settlers’ population, 31% of the youth (aged 14-18) wish to
leave the territories; 82% believe that settlements will be evacuated.
Alongside the vociferous settlers who spur Sharon to go to war,
there are other settlers who publicly demand financial help to leave
their houses and return to Israel. Those who can, leave.
Occupation thus looks more and more like a malignant obsession of
the military-political junta, supported only by a small minority
of the citizens. Furthermore, Israeli society is deeply divided
– not only around the issue of Occupation. It is divided between
Israeli Arabs and Jews; between orthodox and so-called secular Jews;
and, last but not least, it is divided economically between the
haves and the have-nots. The question is: in such a divided society,
does the junta have an army behind it?
Center for Strategic Studies in Tel-Aviv University – a seemingly
academic institute in which retired officers dress their ideology
in scientific robes – has recently stated that the regional balance
of power clearly favours Israel. This is true as far as the Israeli
air force is concerned, but Israel’s intentions in the Occupied
Territories require much more than a mighty air force. Slicing the
territories into dozens of pockets, hunting the Palestinian leadership
or a large-scale ethnic cleansing and mass deportation cannot be
achieved from the air alone, nor by the professional but small Israeli
death squads. It requires an army; and the army cracks.
effects of the economic gaps are rather obvious. If you take a person
who earns $15,000 a month (Israel's upper tenth) and another who
earns $600 a month (lower tenth) and put their sons in the same
tank, it won’t work. If one reservist comes to the base in a limousine
while another has to give up a weekend’s leave because he cannot
return on time by bus, you cannot run an army.
Arab-Jewish tension within Israel may seem insignificant for the
army: Israeli Arabs are not conscripted anyway. But it isn’t quite
so: certain Arab minority groups – mostly Druze and Bedouin – play
an important role in the army, where they are offered an economically
viable way of life, once traditional occupations (agriculture, pasturing)
are no longer possible (Israel confiscated most of the Arab-held
lands). The Bedouins, at least, are fed up with fighting other Arabs
in the name of Israel. "In the November 2000 draft, only
22 Bedouin joined the IDF, compared to 80 in 1999. The figures were
no better in the March draft, and it seems the Al-Aqsa Intifada
has all but halted the draft of Bedouin into the IDF,"
printable version of this article
was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and has grown up in Israel.
He has B.A. in Computer Science, M.A. in Comparative Literature
and he presently works on his PhD thesis. He lives in Tel-Aviv,
teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature in Tel-Aviv
University. He also works as literary translator (from German, English
and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth
Achronoth. His work has been published widely in Israel. His
column appears monthly at Antiwar.com.
State of the Army, Part Two
Settlements, Killing Peace
State of the Army, Part 1
Left Sells Out Peace
divisiveness of the orthodox/"secular" Jewish religious
gap is much more significant. Ultra-orthodox Jews are, in a distorted
way, the avant-garde that undermines the army’s claim on the nation.
In its first years, Israel exempted ultra-orthodox yeshiva students
from service. But 500 students in Ben-Gurion days have now become
about 30,000 men. They are not pacifists and are often ultra-nationalist,
but they do not serve.
antagonism towards this sector is even more important than its exemption.
Some upper-middle-class "secular" Israeli Jews portray
the ultra-orthodox as "parasites," due to their higher
birth rates ("making children to get social security")
as well as their being exempt from service. The populist party Shinuy
is the spearhead of this anti-orthodox campaign, which spices the
universal hatred of the rich to the poor with localised anti-Semitic
flavours, but also the left-liberal opposition party Meretz
(under Yossi Sarid) is very efficient in instrumentalising anti-orthodox
sentiments to deflect resistance to Occupation. The result is a
growing awareness of the disproportionate division of the military
burden among Israeli men in general. There are now several organised
groups of reservists who loudly demand a fairer division of the
burden as well as better conditions (financial and other) for reservists.
Their public outcry culminated in mass demonstrations last April.
It was cunningly silenced by the political system using common techniques
(red tape, split resistance into warring factions, etc.), but the
growing awareness of the unfair burden gives even more legitimacy
to those who avoid military service, which is no longer considered
a compulsory national rite.
soldiers openly refuse. Yesh
Gvul – an Israeli peace group that supports soldiers who refuse
assignments of a repressive or aggressive nature – says some 200
soldiers have refused to serve in the territories since the
Intifada broke out. The army tries to keep public attention away
from the embarrassing issue, so only 11 of them have served time
in prison. "The refusal among today's generation of soldiers
to serve in the territories is far more legitimate in local political
discourse than it was in the past. The IDF seems to be avoiding
confrontation with dozens of reserve soldiers who are going this
route," writes Haaretz columnist Joseph
soldiers – supported for example by New
Profile, "Movement for the Civilization of Israel"
– use any pretext at hand to get out of military service. Haaretz
Magazine has recently printed a report on soldiers who fake
health problems (from headache to intentionally breaking one’s
own leg): two thirds(!) of the reservists are released for reasons
of health, in what is described as a "booming industry of
exemptions and releases based on lies and overlook on all levels."
report on the annual meeting of senior reserve officers with the
Chief-of-Staff (Haaretz, June 11; again, missing in the English
edition) says attendance to the meeting dropped 75% compared with
last year. The officers who did come described the ever-growing
difficulty of convincing reservists to go to the Occupied Territories.
(The number of reserve days has risen from 17 a year in 1999 to
about 40 this year.) "The entire reserve array in a state
of explosion; it’s a fact that cannot be ignored," warned
one lieutenant colonel, a parachutist.
SAD HAPPY END?
junta, however, seems to be doing just that: ignoring. There is
no sign that it realises how strong the resistance to the military
service is. "Do not believe the reports in the media; I
visit reserve units every week, and the situation is better than
reported," said Chief-of-Staff Moufaz just a few hours
before the above-mentioned meeting. A follow-up on the reservists’
protest of last April (Haaretz, June 10; once again, not
in the English edition) shows that only a single minor financial
demand was met; all the others were either postponed indefinitely
or rejected by the government. "The senior regular officers
have internalised the message of the Chief-of-Staff: lip-service.
‘We appreciate your efforts so much’, ‘it must be difficult for
your wives at home’. On the ground, very little has changed."
And Deputy Minister of Defence Dalia Rabin-Pelossof (daughter of
late PM and General Rabin: the dynasty rules) blindly claims that
"the biggest problem is the attitude towards truants."
Israel’s ruling junta is very likely to go to war – with the Palestinians
or with some Arab states too – but it might go alone. Some reservists
may refuse, but most of them will do anything, from physicians and
psychiatrists to flights abroad, just to get away. Many of those
who go will be ill-motivated and poorly trained. Just like in Lebanon,
their lost lives, and the public protest that will follow, may finally
show Israel the way out of the Occupied Territories.
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