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Too Little Too Late

"As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish or non-democratic" "If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."

These were the odd words spoken by Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, during the Herzliya Conference yesterday night. The event forms part of the annual national security convention in Israel and was attended by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Barak's choice of words and his apparently blunt warning to his country has been perceived as an admission of the gravity of the current deadlock in the peace process. But despite articulating a belief in the necessity of a peace deal pursuant to the two-state solution, such declarations are at obvious and unequivocal odds with the unyielding policies of his government. This is no doubt yet another Israeli propaganda smokescreen for the benefit of the international observer and aimed at stemming its growing global condemnation and its swiftly diminishing claim to moral legitimacy in the wake of its brutal assault on Gaza. Needless to mention Barak's colourful history and the individual role and responsibility he has for that war.

This belated call for Israel to demarcate its borders while it defiantly continues in the expansion of its illegal settlements, the primary impediment to the resumption of meaningful peace talks, on the very land upon which any future Palestinian state is supposed to emerge is baffling. Indeed the time of the two-state solution has well and truly passed. Israel's continued colonial policies in the Palestinian Territories it has occupied since 1967 has completely violated its territorial integrity. From the forceful annexation of East Jerusalem and the exclusively Jewish settlements and system of bypass roads which deprive Palestinians of 40% of the West Bank, to the 'apartheid wall' which divides what remains into cantons and delineates areas from which Israel can withdraw without relinquishing control over key water resources, a viable state is now untenable.  Israeli historian Ilan Pappe views such a proposition as 'either a pathetic illusion or a cruel joke.' And this is in addition to the systems that have been put in place over the years to ensure political, economic and cultural subordination to Israel and the caveat that any future Palestinian state be de-militarised
Barak's statements seek to placate the right and left of the argument within Israel itself while offsetting calls for the creation of a secular, egalitarian Israeli-Palestinian state. Highly problematic though it may be, the idea is gaining increasing acceptance among Palestinians and Jewish intellectuals alike. This would no doubt mean an end to Israel as a 'Jewish State'. Not just in the meaning that they would forfeit the demographic battle but also that Israel could no longer be a state which privileges Jews by law, over and above its other citizens, and regulates this racism through acts of parliament and other means. A 'peace deal' now may be the only foreseeable method of securing Israel's future as a 'Zionist, Jewish and Democratic State.' Notwithstanding the definition of the 'Jewish state' and that of a democracy are mutually exclusive.
The suggestion that the inability of Palestinians to vote in some future situation is what will lead to Israel becoming an apartheid state is derisory. In the Palestinian territories, Israel is a colonial occupation. It follows naturally that it would be inherently discriminatory. In addition however, its systematic and institutionalised practices and policies of oppression which aim to maintain racial domination have unmistakable similarities to that of the Dutch Afrikaners in South Africa. From separate roads, iniquities in infrastructure, housing and health care, legal rights, access to land and resources, the creation of ghettoised prisons, ethnic cleansing, house demolitions, targeted assassinations, imprisonment and torture of political opponents, collective punishment and the use of excessive force against civilians all point to a reality far more sinister than the inability to vote.
Yet, Barak is correct in that Israel is not an apartheid state. It is a Zionist State. The key difference being that in South Africa during apartheid, the regime was willing to concede portions of the land as 'belonging' to Black people. These cantons or Bantustans were officially considered sovereign states. However, a sacred principle of Zionism asserts that the land of Israel 'belongs' only to Jews. A point that Barak did not neglect to mention in yesterday's conference. This would mean that to grant Palestinians autonomy or sovereignty in any part of the 'Historic land of Israel' would violate this principle.
It is difficult to visualise the kind of Palestinian state Barak proposes should be established on land he and his government believe belongs by right to Israel. It is difficult to understand calls for action that come when it is simply too late. It is difficult to conceptualise the notions of peace, justice, equality, freedom and democracy held by a man who props up an occupation and who oversaw the brutal slaughter of over 1,400 people, the majority of whom were women and children. It is difficult to trust the words coming out of such a man's mouth.

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