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Signs of major crisis in Israel

It is no exaggeration to say that Israel is facing a major crisis, the causes of which go back to the creation of the state in 1948. Actions taken by successive Israeli governments to stabilize the state over six decades have added to the crisis. Israel was founded on Palestinian land through the dispossession of Palestinian people and from the very beginning it appeared as if the state was in the ascendant, especially after victory in the Six-Day War in 1967. Politically, the Camp David agreement of 1977 added to this perception. Today, however, the picture is not so clear.

Signs of the Israeli crisis emerged during the first intifada (uprising), which started in late 1987. This saw a change in the nature of the conflict between the Israeli project and the Palestinians. As a result of this shift the ugly face of the Israeli occupation was exposed for all to see, including the illegal settlements and flagrant violations of Palestinians' human rights. The revolution in communications technology has contributed to the easy dissemination around the world of information about Israeli atrocities.

Resistance against the military occupation of Palestine evolved in the years that followed the first intifada, with a second uprising in 2000 and then open military confrontation between Israeli and the resistance movements in southern Lebanon and Gaza. Israel, for the first time in the history of its conflict with the Arab world, failed to achieve its goals, and it was defeated not by national armies but by grassroots resistance movements.

In the immediate aftermath of World War Two and the obscenity of the Holocaust, Israel was able to draw on massive sympathy in Europe and America for Nazi crimes against the Jews. More recently, though, the Zionist state has been unable to cover up its vicious practices and now finds itself at odds with public opinion around the world, which sees the horrors of Israeli military action against civilians in southern Lebanon and Gaza for what it is; aggression not self-defence. The image of Israel, nurtured so carefully to portray a democratic state that respects human rights, has been tarnished. One opinion poll revealed that the majority of Europeans regard Israel as the biggest threat to world peace.

Israel's crisis is becoming ever more serious, with unconditional support in western capitals losing its previously guaranteed status. For the first time in the history of American-Israeli relations, senior political and military leaders in the US have referred to the negative effect of Israeli actions on US interests. The US position on illegal Israeli settlements has encouraged the Europeans to step up their rhetoric against Israel; "illegitimate" has been used by European officials to describe settlements in recent weeks. The use of forged EU passports by Israel's Mossad secret service has increased discontent with the state. All of this is putting pressure on Israel's political leadership.

The recent agreement between the main Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza to stop firing rockets into southern Israel is a shrewd political decision that removes the "victim" excuse for Israeli "responses", which have helped Benjamin Netanyahu's government to deflect criticism and ease the pressure from Washington and Europe.

In terms of relations with the wider world, Israel's settlement policy and repressive practices have isolated the state from Turkey, once a key ally in the Middle East; the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a stern critic. The Israeli Foreign Minister's description of the Turkish Prime Minister as "another Chavez and Gaddafi" is a reflection of how tense the relationship between the two countries has become. Statements by King Abdullah II of Jordan may lead to a serious review of the relationship between the two countries and Mauritania has cut relations with Israel.

This may well be a turning point in the rise and possible fall of the state of Israel, forcing a revision of the state's position in the international community and causing it to be held to account for its policies and actions. A commentator in Britain has said that Israel is now being treated "as an adult"; that requires adult actions and accountability. The latter is long-overdue.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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