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Why Israel’s violence in Gaza and the West Bank should be no surprise

June 22, 2024 at 7:24 pm

A view of a collapsed building after an Israeli attack on the Shati Refugee Camp leaving 42 Palestinians, including children dead in Gaza City, Gaza on June 22, 2024. [Ayman Alhesi – Anadolu Agency]

The year 2024 marks a dramatic year of protests against Israel’s war in Gaza with charges of genocide, from college campuses to marches in London, Berlin, New York, Melbourne and cities worldwide to the Irish Parliament, where Ireland joined Spain and Norway in recognising Palestinian statehood. As it stands, 144 of the 193 United Nations (UN) member states now recognise Palestine as a legitimate state.

Despite all of this, Israel’s campaign of ethnic cleansing surges on in Gaza and the West Bank. As Israel leads Gaza into ruins that can only be described as catastrophic, and the West Bank is under siege by Israeli forces and settler-colonialists empowered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hawkish right-wing government, much of the world stands by, unable to slow the torrent of destruction. Starvation, targeting of civilians, false imprisonments with evidence of rape and torture and the blockade of essential aid have continued despite recent criminal indictments brought against Israel by the International Criminal Court prosecutor.

The war crimes Israel committed in the 2008-2009 assault that killed 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians and 13 Israelis, including three civilians, resulted in the Goldstone Report, which detailed the excesses of Israel’s forces against the civilian population. Repeated in 2014 during Operation Protective Edge, at least 2,200 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, with 65-70 per cent listed as civilians. In contrast, Israel lost 67 soldiers and six civilians (including one Thai civilian).

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What these brutal attacks signify is a structural, coordinated effort to dissolve any hope of normal life for the Gazan population. Blockades, shortages of supplies and goods, limited availability of electricity, potable water, medical care and a 44 per cent unemployment rate rendered Gaza nearly unliveable before 7 October, 2023. Orchestrated campaigns of ethnic cleansing started over 15 years ago and have now finally come to a head.

In their prolific attack on Gaza and relentless assault on the West Bank, Netanyahu and his supporters are adhering to a playbook written by his party. The Likud Party, which first took power in 1977 under then Prime Minister Menachem Begin, articulated its platform very clearly regarding the Palestinians. As a result, under Begin, illegal settlements in the West Bank rapidly expanded. That same year, Ariel Sharon promised a plan to settle two million Jews in the West Bank by the year 2000. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, by the recent uptick in West Bank violence and the carnage in Gaza, along with bold new plans for even more illegal settlements.

The 1977 Likud Party platform

The Likud Party was initially a coalition formed across the political spectrum in 1973 (hence, the Hebrew name Likud, which translates to “the consolidation”). After Begin was elected to lead the party, it favoured the political right. Likud formalised its ideological platform once the party gained political power and legitimacy. The platform is organised into the following four sections.

Israel’s territorial claim

The first section, entitled “The Right of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel”, contains two paragraphs. Paragraph “A” outlines the boundaries of Israel, claiming that Israeli sovereignty exists “between the Sea and the Jordan”. With this assertion, Likud established that it never intended to follow any part of a treaty that would provide autonomy to Palestinian people, let alone statehood, land rights or right of return.

Paragraph “B” reiterates the implausibility of a “Palestinian state” by claiming it: “Jeopardizes the security of the Jewish population, endangers the existence of the State of Israel, and frustrates any prospect of peace.” When Likud claims that any Palestinian state is a threat to peace, it doesn’t mean a threat to peaceful coexistence with the Indigenous Arab population, but rather with neighbouring Arab states.

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Occupation and state treaties

The second section of the Likud platform, entitled “Genuine Peace-Our Central Objective,” also contains two main paragraphs.

Paragraph “A” contends that the Likud government: “Will place its aspirations for peace at the top of its priorities” and “Act as a genuine partner at peace treaty negotiations with our neighbours.” The party is again addressing its allies in Egypt and Jordan, as opposed to the stateless Palestinian population, who it established has no rights or claim to the lands from the river to the sea.

The right to settlements

The third section of the platform is simply titled “Settlement”. Here, Likud states its intent to inhabit all parts of the land it claims as Israel (territories from river to sea). It affirms that Israel will: “Help every group and individual in the task of inhabiting and cultivating the wasteland.” The wasteland is presumed to be any area of Palestine it deems uninhabited, whether cultivated or otherwise owned by Palestinians. Therefore, property owned by a Palestinian family for generations can suddenly be confiscated for settlement land.

Stance against the PLO

The final section of the Likud Party platform is entitled “Arab Terror Organisations” and targets specifically the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), claiming: “[the PLO] Is no national liberation organization but an organization of assassins.” It then promises the Likud government will: “Strive to eliminate these murderous organizations,” pre-empting any possibility for peaceful negotiations and placing any opposition it deems terroristic as a target for elimination, whether Hamas or, as we’re seeing now, the Palestinian Authority, which is currently cut off from funding. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, has been added to a terrorist list and cut off from funding by the US and other Western governments (although some have recommitted).

Moreover, any agreements reached with the PLO by the Labour Party, most notably the Oslo Accords of the 1990s that recognised the PLO as the Palestinian government, the Likud, by default, had to be rejected. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing extremist for signing the deal that had already been condemned by many Palestinian advocates. Rabin’s intentions were questionable, although he had promised to secure peace. He had served as chief of operations during the 1948 Nakba and led the campaign in the 1967 war.

Future prospects for Gaza

While the Likud Party has had seeming moments of moderation with the implementation of Oslo and the evacuation of Jewish settlements in Gaza, it never did so without sabotaging any prospect for peace. Oslo was mired in uneven trade-offs and contingencies without clear roads to attaining a Palestinian state. The retreat from Gaza led to an all-out blockade, known as the world’s largest open-air prison. By 7 October, 2023, 80 per cent of Gazans depended on international humanitarian aid. Judging solely by Israel’s actions, Gaza was never destined to sustain itself.

Netanyahu sees the opportunity to grab land throughout the West Bank in the fog of the Gaza war. He’s already promised 3,400 new homes as payback for 7 October, even though the incursion came from Gaza.

Flimsy promises by the US Government for the return and rebuilding of Gaza also fail to ring true when juxtaposed with the Likud Party platform. Israel’s devastating campaign in Gaza provides little hope of return for the Palestinians, whose entire cities and villages have been levelled to carnage and debris.

Already, fanatic Israeli extremists are celebrating a return to Gaza and the rebuilding of settlements abandoned in 2005. Former Trump presidential aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner assessed the land as valuable beachfront property. With no day-after plan and a war fuelled by Netanyahu’s will for political survival, it’s easy to draw the line from the Likud Party to an Israeli re-occupation of Gaza. Far-right activists have already attempted to establish one in Northern Gaza.

As in the West Bank, a future Israeli occupation may confine Gaza’s Palestinians to pockets of land surrounded by settlements, as has been its strategy on the West Bank: each enclave strategically disconnected from the other, with checkpoints, arrests, settler-colonialist violence and all the hallmarks of occupation.

In September 2023, Netanyahu held up a map titled “The New Middle East”. The map displayed a solid blue Israel stretching from the Mediterranean to Jordan within a green matrix of select Middle Eastern countries, with no Palestinian territory in the West Bank or Gaza.

Netanyahu’s map reflects what has been the Likud platform for over 45 years. The Likud Party promised no compromise in its claim that the Zionist state exists from river to sea, and Netanyahu seems intent on fulfilling that pledge.

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