Translated from Gegenstandpunkt: Politische Vierteljahreszeitschrift 4-2019, Gegenstandpunkt Verlag, Munich

Israel 2019
An exemplary imperialist democracy with a Zionist mission

A number of things can be observed in and about Israel in the course of the year 2019. Taken alone and and even more so taken alongside each other, some of these phenomena rank among the customs in all established democracies of the West, which Israel decidedly is part of, some of them are due to the populism increasingly widespread in the West, and some of them are rather unusual in Western nations.

There is an election in the springtime and another one in autumn. Before and in between, there is an election campaign that is generally considered to be not only a tough one and even dirty, but in which the competitors accuse each other of endangering the political existence of the state and even the physical existence of the people. Mutual accusations of anti-Semitism and Nazism are part of the repertoire of insults. Also interesting and not so usual is the spectrum of parties that are up for election and the selection of topics they put out for self-promotion. The long-standing leader of the venerable right-wing Likud party and present prime minister declares that if he is voted out of office, Israel will fall into the hands of left-wingers who make deals with the Arabs, which everyone rightly sees as a warning against the downfall of Israel as the home of the Jews. He poses as the sole guarantor of the security of Jewish citizens — and everyone finds it perfectly normal for him to support this claim by being willing to go to war, even and especially with Iran, the power portrayed as the greatest threat. The only doubt anyone has about this is that raised by his rivals from the second largest party: they claim he doesn’t have the competence for the task, only they do — especially since this party, calling itself after the colors of the national flag, is led by three former military chiefs, with ex-functionaries from the military and secret services in the second leadership tier. Otherwise, one hears about smaller parties labeled with interesting attributes such as national, religious, national-religious, Russian, Sephardi-Orthodox, or Ashkenazi-Ultraorthodox. The coalition talks, conducted in public with fierce insults, teach the observer that matters such as how far Sabbath rest extends and how binding it is, whether ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students should be conscripted, how much authority Orthodox rabbis have when it comes to all kinds of questions of civil status law, how to deal with Arab Israelis and Arabs in the occupied territories, how to treat Hamas in particular, Palestinian organizations in ‘the territories’ in general, and other such things are obviously very hot potatoes on which the nation’s existence and unity or division and downfall depend.

Alongside an election campaign lasting almost three quarters of a year, Israel also has a working world where money is made. An especially large amount of money is made in the areas of a national high-tech capitalism, whose blossoming Netanyahu[*] praises himself for as if he had personally welded it together. One of the things one hears about this achievement is that the majority of citizens have nothing to do with it, either as workers or as profiteers. Instead, the majority working outside the profitable and comparatively lavishly paid start-up world cause their state the usual problems of a capitalist underclass — and a few more problems than the usual average of the relevant OECD statistics. A particularly poor population can hardly pay the high prices for the most basic necessities, hang around in particularly bad schools to a particularly large extent, and are therefore particularly stuck in their lower social ranks…

In addition to the particularly pronounced social miseries that are usual in capitalism, however, there are lively goings-on in and between the numerous parallel societies that are defined both ethnically and religiously. Thus, one hears of a small orgy of violence between the police and young people from the Ethiopian Jewish minority. Ultra-orthodox women are allowed to earn money, in workplaces set up especially for them, of course. In the Arab community there are more murders than ever before, which gives rise to a moderately heated discussion about how much this is due to their bleak economic situation, their being concentrated in areas with poor infrastructure, their penchant for clan-based gang crime, or the notorious unwillingness of the predominantly Jewish police and judicial authorities to perform any of their official duties in this milieu at all. Other cultural highlights include the debate on whether it is not time for women to be given separate public-transport compartments again, and the European Song Contest in the most homosexual city in the eastern Mediterranean.

The singing contest is only very slightly disrupted by a rocket and artillery battle happening at the same time for several days between the Israeli army and Hamas, the ruling party in Gaza. The course of this battle proves to those who like to see it this way that the Israeli missile defense system is working better and better. Others note with satisfaction that the increasingly unbearable misery of the people of Gaza apparently puts so much pressure on Hamas that it thinks it can only use the diversionary tactic of launching a little missile terror against Israel. And yet others are outraged at the insolence of that gang of Palestinians and blame it on the Prime Minister, who has clearly not wiped them out yet.

In addition, the Israeli army is pushing its participation in the war in Syria with ever new rocket and aircraft attacks on Syrian, Lebanese, and Iranian positions or what it passes off as such. In the diplomacy that accompanies these war actions, the Israeli political leaders insist there can be no compromise with the Tehran regime, which they claim is out to annihilate Israel, while at the same time they seek agreement and coordination in a quite business-like way with the leaders of Russia, with whom they enjoy the finest relations at the same time, although Russia cooperates with Iran in many matters involving the use of force.

Alongside this, settlements are being built in the West Bank, Palestinian houses are being demolished in East Jerusalem, and more and more new laws are being passed that formally or informally place the Arabs in the Israeli land-grabbing areas in a worse position than Jews. When this is criticized, especially by foreigners, especially when bad words such as ‘apartheid’ or ‘racism’ are used, Israel brands it politically and now also by law as anti-Semitism, which it is keeping a watchful eye on throughout the world.

And so on.

Obviously this is all part of the national cause of Israel.

I. A modern, capitalist success story

The one outstanding success that Israel has achieved under Netanyahu’s leadership — a leadership he himself likes to call “tough, smart, and strong” in a nod to his friend Donald Trump — consists in the current civilian condition of Israeli society, which in several respects can only be called solid.

First of all, in economic terms: the state is now living well on the results of private money-making in its country.[1] As far as its nationally significant results are concerned, this money-making is now taking place, no longer predominantly in agriculture,[2] but in the areas of industrial production and in the service sector. In addition to an internationally important diamond industry,[3] Israel today has a number of global players in a few crucial areas, which is why the Likud leader and all supporters of his politics feel justified in speaking of Israel as a — no: the “start-up nation.”[4] This is true in that this increasingly important component of the Israeli economy actually looks like a small — but not that small — edition of its American counterpart, which is known to have brought forth the “start-up” species. The reason is that it arose and keeps growing as a branch of the American tech industry: large U.S. companies are opening branches in Israel with their access to the U.S. financial market and taking advantage of the mixture of relatively cheap local conditions, ‘liberal’ economic and trade legislation, and thoroughly reliable political climate.[5] Conversely, homegrown Israeli companies, which are usually located around the state institutions promoting science and technology and, above all, the military-industrial complex, procure the necessary capital on the American financial market.[6] And quite often, if their products appear promising, they are bought up by financially strong foreign — again mostly American — companies or merged with other companies with the aid of American investors.

Then in social terms: the Israeli people are now completely separated and partitioned into all the social characters that populate modern capitalism. What that means for this nation in particular is that, in addition to an elite consisting of private business leaders, which is growing for the time being but by its nature fairly limited in total, the majority of people have to make ends meet by working in the private and few remaining state enterprises which cost out everything according to capitalist financial accounting, and in largely poorly paid jobs in state services. Apart from a few better-paid jobs to be had in wonderful new start-up capitalism,[7] this means that most people have to work for absolutely and relatively low pay.[8] In compensation, the relatively and absolutely high prices for food and a number of consumer goods, as well as the massive increase in rents that came with the vaunted economic upswing, mean that life is becoming less and less affordable for ordinary Israelis, so there’s no risk of running out of fun at work. Which is important because working today is significantly different than it was a few years or decades ago.[9]

None of this just somehow ‘happened’ but is due to the determined and persistent work of Likud, so Netanyahu’s self-praise is definitely justified in this respect, too. Even before the beginning of Netanyahu’s political career, his party always stood for a critique of the social-democratic character that the Zionist founders of Israel had given their new state at the time. They were inspired by the idea of a socialist people’s home for the Jews of Europe above all, in which the achievements of modern agriculture and industry would benefit the people, whose usefully organized work for the whole was intended to be the foundation of the nation.[10] Following on this idea, they had pushed ahead with founding the state and organizing its development — with a centralized industrial and agricultural policy including a rigid foreign-exchange and protective tariff policy, the creation of comprehensive social welfare and security, state-supported accommodation and care for immigrants including large housing programs, etc.

The socialist Zionists’ formative program for state-building and society was always viewed by the Likud party — the successors of the wing of modern Zionism known as “revisionist” — from the point of view of the costs it involved for the national money economy. Since the time Likud first came to power in the 1970s, it has programmatically worked on this contradiction in accordance with the guideline that the soundness of state finances, established and secured by a flourishing economy of private money-making, has to be the basic condition of all public assistance for the people and therefore the primary state goal taking precedence over all welfare-state efforts.

Applying this standard of success, the record of success at the time Likud first took power looked correspondingly gloomy.[11] The Likud politicians blamed the monetary collapse and mountain of national debt on the unproductive welfare-state services; they had no criticism of what the already immense, constant military costs and periodically incurred, gigantic war costs contributed to this record. For the Likud leaders and their coalition partners, with their firm standpoint of responsibility for the capitalist basis of all national aspirations, this also made clear what the decisive means of success for rectifying this crisis was: to increase the capitalist efficiency of national labor, which, as things stood, meant above all making the working and non-working population cheaper across the board.[12] Netanyahu later inherited this policy as finance minister and prime minister and updated it in crucial respects. In his term of office there have been some essential reforms resulting from the realization that national economic success requires more than absolute cheapness of the people. Successful national capitalism — so the prevailing wisdom — also needs all sorts of freedoms for capital that were long denied by the socialist founding heroes. There must be the freedom of investment, mobility, and financing both nationally and across borders, as well as the freedom to gain hold of land. Once converted to market-economy reason, the political elite did not wait for capital — what capital should that have been anyway? — to seize all the new opportunities on its own initiative. Instead they got busy, as in any capitalist country. With a gigantic program for privatizing companies and services previously operated by the state and, to no small extent, also by the largest trade union, Histadrut,[13] they ensured that this capital actually existed in the country. The ever new rounds of privatization still going on today are accompanied by the targeted promotion of ‘technologies’ that are said to be ‘key’ to successfully utilizing the world market. Finally, it should not be forgotten that Netanyahu’s Likud also backs a tax policy that carefully distinguishes between those incomes the state may levy plenty of taxes on and those that should be burdened more cautiously or not at all.

That the Israeli polity has normalized into a perfectly ordinary capitalist monster so smoothly is proof of the success of the Likud line before and since Netanyahu in political/moral terms as well. Netanyahu can build on and politically exploit the fact that his predecessors made a path to success out of completing the nation-founding project to end up with a straight-up capitalism. Reorientation of the former socialist/social-democratic establishment was ultimately not very painful and not very long, and now this path is anchored and recognized as without alternative in the entire political class, with a few marginal exceptions. Above all, the people and their (newly formed or now fully developed) social factions have successfully been taught this reason of state as the decisive yardstick for their social aspirations towards each other and towards the state. The hardships of the national money economy and its support by the state are, as elsewhere, written off as ‘downsides,’ and no one sees them as a reason to object to the nation’s business-promoting policy, which in Israel, too, is downplayed as ‘liberalization.’ There is no longer any social resistance from below. A few minor parties have become the acknowledged representatives and cautious advocates of the concerns being left behind. If they make an issue of ‘social ills’ at all, it is under completely different aspects than social ones. As a consolation, those affected can hear that the nation’s economic success, which does not benefit them, is due to them being such a fine breed of people, the envy of the world.[14] The fact that in Israel, too, money is the real community, and an important part of the moral community, is finally also reflected in Netanyahu’s country by a morality of the nation’s leaders that has matured into the proper bourgeois brand. Israel’s leaders make use of all the forms of corruption common in bourgeois states and a few less common ones to manage the lofty mission of keeping the country on course economically and in all other respects, while keeping their own party in power against political competition and keeping themselves personally in the money. Benyamin “King Bibi” Netanyahu is known to embody this particular aspect of modern Israel’s political culture quite strikingly himself, so that what seems like three-quarters of the sharp-criticism department of public opinion centers around holding him unsuitable for the highest executive office because of his affairs that keep the judiciary busy — whereby what they really mind is that the judiciary is keeping him busy and “distracting” him from the ruthless handling of power that this fine state and good people can surely expect of him.[15]

In all these respects, Israel is thus a normal location for globalized capitalism by early 21st century standards, and markedly successful at it. This makes it all the more striking that ‘political life’ in Israel does not typically revolve around the usual questions — from minimum wage to digitization — all concerning the never-ending gearing of a nation to compete with its peers for the world’s monetary wealth.[16] This is only partly due to Likud’s success in making its program for a national location for capital the nation’s non-negotiable consensus.

II. A unique reason of state

The decisive reason is that the parties admitted to political competition in Israel’s democracy and members of the public differ, part ways, and fall out with each other over other elementary national issues, namely, over the fundamental constituents of every nation-state: people and territory. This nation houses, alongside an agreement on the capitalist path to success, a most decided dissent about which people constitute the nation and which territory belongs to them. The party landscape is shaped by which version of the Zionist state-founding idea each party advocates. This indicates that the political standpoint of Zionism from which and with which the Israeli state was founded has not been settled even seven decades after the state was founded and although it has been completed by a successful capitalist transformation program. Instead, Zionism continues to influence the political community to this day, and this, too, is embodied by Netanyahu’s Likud and its coalition partners.

1. People

The most recent legislative feat in this regard by Netanyahu’s party and its partners[17] was to adopt the so-called “Nation-State Law.” With the status of a basic (constitutional) law, it legally sanctions the Jewish character of the State of Israel: exclusively Jews are entitled to find and practice their “national self-determination” in and through the State of Israel.[18] This caused a sensation and a lot of controversy because it meant those parts of the political establishment in power were touching on the contradictory ambiguity of Israel’s reason of state and spurring it on in an unambiguous way. On the one hand, Israel is basically ‘complete’ as a polity. It has a public power committed to managing and taking care of the antagonisms of a competition-based bourgeois society, a power that maintains sovereign rule over the material and living inventory on its territory and enters into all kinds of relations with other sovereign state powers on that basis and for that purpose. On the other hand, the political consensus between people and rule is not prepared to accept that as the last word when it comes to this state taking this population as its people. With the Nation-State Law, the state officially declares that the resident population, struggling every day to succeed individually in competition and thereby proving their worth quite exemplarily as a modern, capitalist people on the whole, are not equal to the Jewish people, who the Israeli state is supposed and wants to be there for. The new law also makes it clear, and elevates to the status of an official foundation of society and its political power both domestically and abroad, that this inequation is a double one. Not all of the state’s citizens, though equally subject to the law and endowed with rights, are regarded by the Israeli sovereign power as its Jewish national people: “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” And at the same time, a great number of Jews living outside Israel with other citizenship are legally incorporated as members of this Jewish people who are merely in exile, and are given the “natural” right to “return home” to “their nation-state”: “The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles.”

Other modern nation-states also embrace the idea of a pre-state ethnic community existing separately from and beyond all the real conditions that a state power imposes on people, who then get to cope with them as best as they can. There, too, this idea is cultivated by all sides and taken extremely seriously as the unifying national bond between the various factions of the people and between the people and their rule. People’s lives, which play out within the bounds of the rules laid down by the authorities, and which demand of most people a great deal of readiness to adapt and to do without, appear in the ‘light’ of this idea as the fulfillment — good or bad — of what people expect, entirely of their own accord, from the state authority, which they recognize as theirs. Every nation can also come up with the corresponding images — taken from the spheres of religion, history, culture, sometimes also ‘blood’ … — for this lie that is so necessary for the functioning, the ‘cohesion,’ of the polity in view of the hardships ensuing for those willing to submit. But while in other countries the moral collective of the people is an inflated version of the real bunch of citizens and thus more or less covers the same people, in the case of Israel and the Jewish people the two diverge programmatically. All those of Jewish faith and/or Jewish descent are per se the people of Israel, regardless of how many of them and which other people live in Israel as its citizens — and vice versa, regardless of where and how citizens with these ‘Jewish identifying features’ are native to some country in the world. This makes it clear what the mission of the state is: to bring together the Jewish people and the Jewish state, in addition to fostering a capitalistically constituted state materialism. In principle, the project of giving the “homeland of the Jewish people” a state existence is not complete until every last member of the Diaspora has ‘come home,’ just as, conversely, the presence of non-Jewish people in Israel as such waters down the state’s claim to serve a religious/ancestry-based ethnicity. And that necessarily collides with the fact that the state power rules over people who are quite different in religious/ethnic terms, all of whom it subjects equally to its law that regulates and makes useful their material antagonisms based on and determined by the capitalist character of the national mode of production.

Accordingly, the Nation-State Law,[19] which is highly controversial in Israel itself, represents a step forward in the contradictory relationship between the two sides, without resolving it either way. The law explicitly distinguishes between Israeli citizens of whatever nationality and religion on the one hand and Jews as the state’s people proper on the other. The latter can and are supposed to regard Israel as their state, considering themselves the ones it is serving by virtue of their religion/ancestry, without the others just as explicitly being excluded as not belonging or actually deprived of their civic rights. At the same time, the dispute about the law shows how little the two go together. The opponents of the law point out, not without good reason, that even though its provisions do not prescribe any legal discrimination (to be implemented through further legislative measures) to the point of excluding or even expelling non-Jewish Israelis, they certainly provide the abstract constitutional legitimation for just such a policy — and are meant this way at least by the hardliners among the supporters of this law. Conversely, it is fairly dishonest of the protagonists of this law to defend it by saying it does not explicitly make anyone worse off — and in the case of Arabic even stipulates the opposite — and really only evens out the “imbalance” they have long lamented between Israel’s character as a Jewish state and that as a democratic state. Apart from the fact that this ‘evening out’ consists in the word “democratic” not being mentioned a single time in the law, they are being dishonest above all since they are the ones constantly harping on — like Netanyahu himself — that “the Arabs” shouldn’t also claim Israel as ‘their’ state when they already have twenty-two states in the neighborhood to choose from; or — like Lieberman’s[**] party Yisrael Beitenu — openly putting out scenarios in which Israel should rid itself of a large part of its Arab minority in the course of future territory swaps; or — all together — calling for non-Jewish Israeli citizens to take special tests of their political views or binding oaths of allegiance. The eloquent assurances that the law basically doesn’t change anything do not mean that nothing is supposed to change. Furthermore, they are only honest in that the Nation-State Law is legitimizing a whole area of — legal, quasi-legal, or simply factual — discrimination against the non-Jewish, especially Arab, population that has been going on for some time.[20]

At the same time, the agreement within the right-wing to ultra-right-wing camp especially with regard to the Arabs did not keep its various exponents from fighting fiercely with each other even in the case of the the Nation-State Law. This points to a not-inconsiderable side contradiction of Israel’s advanced self-definition as the state of the Jews = Jewish state.[21] Thus the party of former Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman massively opposed the law in its early versions because it contained passages stipulating that Israeli jurisprudence should draw on Jewish law in the absence of clear regulations and precedents. Lieberman saw this as an attempt to transform Israel into a halakhic state instead of a Jewish one.[22] His resolute opposition to the Nation-State Law is thus directed against defining what is Jewish about Israel by way of religion. In fact, in Judaism the two belong together. God made his covenant with the people of Abraham, which everyone finds certified by his missing foreskin as long as he is the son of a Jewish mother. And insofar as the Israeli state claims to be the state of the Jews and thus a Jewish state, it itself stirs up the question of what that is actually supposed to mean and what role religious belief plays. So it is contradictory but also consistent that this question so relevant to citizenship and civil status has always been left to orthodox rabbis to answer in Israel.[23]

Soviet-born Avigdor Lieberman and his party are exponents within the dispute that rages between those who otherwise agree that Israel should by no means be there for all citizens equally. He radically advocates a straight-up nationalism, free from any religious idealization that only the rabbinical elite can validly interpret through scholarly debates and that entails all kinds of additional rules for a pious life. Lieberman sees the religious foundation of statehood as an additive that is not only unnecessary but contaminates the Jewishness he identifies with professing the right to a Jewish state. Because the devout version of modern Israeli patriotism includes the negative element — Arabs definitely do not belong — Lieberman is firmly convinced that the Nation-State Law discriminates against the good Israelis among the non-Jews. He cites in particular “our friends the Druze,” whom he tellingly credits for not being real Arabs but above all for having proven themselves to be loyal Israelis of genuine mettle through their military services in fighting the Arab enemies. That is why he agitates against using genetic testing in unclear cases to verify the natural Jewishness of aspirants to citizenship according to Halakhic standards.[24] But this is what the religious Orthodox parties want, insisting that Israel must be the state of the chosen people, according to their interpretation of the holy scriptures and legal literature of course. That in turn brings them into conflict with those whose definition of people and state is also inspired by religion but who belong to the older non-Orthodox or newer reformist Jewish denominations.[25] There are also the secular, extreme right-wing parties such as the Union of Right-Wing Parties, or the ultra-nationalists around Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett who were part of the government until recently: they are not necessarily interested in religion as such but definitely welcome it and its agitators as a symbol of lived Jewish exclusivity.[26]

Another prominent case in the dispute over the relation between the nature of the Jewish people and the nature of the state, which also divides the right-wing camp, is conscription as a key point in the question of what role the ultra-Orthodox crowd should play in Israel. Israeli youth are supposed to do quite a bit of military service — 36 months for all men except Arabs, 21 months for all women except married ones — and only the ultra-orthodox students of the Talmud schools are officially exempt. For the State of Israel with its extensive needs for military force, this is a no small loss, especially since ultra-orthodox Jews do not compensate for this privilege by providing all the more services in other areas that matter materially to the state. They contribute comparatively little to the capitalist success of the nation, because they mainly focus on their pious living, studying scripture, and bringing up their not inconsiderable offspring accordingly.[27] Public affairs interest them in only one respect, but they are all the more ardent about it: invoking not only their sacred texts but also the Jewish character of the state that is now enshrined as a Basic Law, they demand that everyday life be governed by religious commandments. Wherever they make up the majority of inhabitants they utilize the powers of the municipal councils as far as possible, not shrinking from physical violence when something in public life goes against the Halakhic grain — from posters to fashion to ambulances violating the ban on switching on lights on the Holy Sabbath. This has now led to cities and towns in Israel becoming more and more distinct — as the election results quite accurately indicate — as either ultra-orthodox religious or less to non-religious, because more and more secular people are migrating from Jerusalem to the area around Tel Aviv, for example. Their political representatives, however, do not want to leave it at that, and rant against the ultra-orthodox as useless and brazen parasites living off Israel’s prosperity and strength. From the point of view of the state as a whole — which again Netanyahu also stands for — the special status of the strict believers entails a permanent material and political cost, which even grows due to the above-average birth rate in the ultra-orthodox community. But it is one that must be paid: precisely because they ignore the state’s materialism and the demands it places on the people, they are the living consequence and attestation – now almost a millionfold – that Israel exists for all Jews and only for their sake, hence having the highest right, in fact every right, on its side.

2. Land

The dual nature of Israel’s reason of state also affects the second constituent of the nation, its territory. In this respect, too, modern Israel has inherited and further developed the paradox of Zionism — an idea to found a bourgeois state while being inspired by religion/ethnicity.

This can likewise be seen in the mixture of agreement and disagreement between the dominant Likud and its smaller current or prospective coalition partners — the Nation-State Law again being the relevant example of the moment. The very cunning formulation, “The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established,” gives the pre-state claim to the land of Israel as the “homeland of the Jewish people” the status of a supreme state law. This sanctions the element of identity — the State of Israel has the highest, namely historically ‘founded,’ people’s right on its side. But it fundamentally also sanctions non-identity: that this state is located with its territory “in” the historical homeland of the Jewish people codifies — enabling fuller formulation in any direction — that the two are not the same, but that it is entirely and exclusively at Israel’s discretion to define the circumstances under which the two coincide, i.e., above all the relevant borders.[28] This is the key issue in the quarrels about how to interpret the legal clause promoting Jewish settlement in relation to the Israeli heartland or the occupied Palestinian territories, and about how the nationalist imperative to separate from the Arabs as much as possible fits in with the other imperative to annex as much as possible of the claimed territory when they are — also — living there, etc.

The political program was born in the 19th century to provide a “country” for the Jews scattered throughout the world, who were defined as “a people without a country.” This program fixated very quickly (not from the start) on the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan and has been known since then as Zionism.[29] Only then was the exclusion of Jews from the national societies where they lived finally transformed into a religiously and historically based claim to a territory for a Jewish people defined in terms of religion/tradition and ancestry. The élan of their early activists when it came to working and putting up a fight, the donations of money from the Jewish communities morally called upon, and the calculations of a few key imperialist powers actually gave rise to a state with territorial bounds. In view of the military and economic situation, the status of the population, and world politics, Israel’s early political establishment was able to live with the internationally allowed and recognized borders by and large, for the time being. With or without citing the religious promises and historical ‘facts,’ they accordingly set about consolidating their state and settling the Jews streaming in from other countries within these borders . The claim that the Jewish people were entitled to much wider borders on the basis of rights higher than the earthly ones set by force and recognized by the other leading powers was marginalized, but never died. How could it? After all, it is a contradiction to officially cite Jewish faith and cultural traditions as the raison d’être for one’s state and then water down one’s claims to define a Land of Israel only by one’s own standards due to the given situation in terms of international power and law, instead of making these claims the sole practical guiding rule for one’s own use of force. Particularly the national-religious settlers have found this discrepancy intolerable and always remonstrated with their governments about it — to the point of effectively revoking their civic loyalty. At the same time, they have only been combated by these governments very half-heartedly; even by the so-called “doves” holding the view that the state’s need for land was basically satisfied; and even when those settlers have felt entitled to organize themselves more or less and actually flout and fight state institutions and their directives. Not surprising, since the representatives of public order, once prominently belonging to the Labor Party and its political milieu, also saw that the land-grab activists were pursuing precisely the program Israel owes its foundation to, as evidenced by all the founding stories and myths: it is the right and duty of the Jewish people to conquer the land they are entitled to through their own collective work and the necessary collective force, to take productive possession of it, and to protect it from any competing claims. The settlers certainly have little to worry about when the “hawks” of Likud and its coalition partners are in power, because these politicians quite fundamentally see how productive the settlers’ continued, religiously inspired ambitions to take possession of all of Eretz Israel are for their own national calculations with the conquered territory. Whatever these may specifically be — more land that more of their own people have militantly conquered, settled, and liberated from foreign Arabs is always a gain that provides the freedom to annex it permanently, use it as a bargaining chip, etc.

3. Use of force

a) Origin, substance, and contradiction of Zionism as a reason of state

All ‘questions’ concerning people and land are questions of using force — there was never any delusion about this among the practitioners of the Zionist state-founding project, unlike their theoretical forefather and doyen, Herzl.[30] There is no difference in this respect between Israel’s founding and existence and every other state’s. Founding a state results from the organized use of force, and it can only be maintained on the basis of the force it uses to exclude all others from its territory and to subject those living on it to its rules. The validity of these rules depends primarily and lastingly on the state’s monopoly on the use of force, which it therefore jealously claims and guards.

But this is exactly where both the Zionist will to found a state and the actually existing state of Israel are special. The nation that was being given its own statehood was not a crowd who saw themselves all as victims of a ‘foreign rule’ where they were living, that had to be thrown off and replaced by a rule ‘of their own.’ The ‘Jewish nation’ the Zionists had in mind consisted essentially of citizens who were ostracized (sometimes legally but always morally), in other words living as second-class modern citizens, in all manner of states, especially all European states. As modern nation-states were being founded, Jews found themselves faced with increasing hostility through the respective nationalisms, which led to them being defined and persecuted as an alien minority that disturbed, in fact destroyed, the national polity.[31] The Zionists drew their momentous lesson from this intolerant standpoint, which had been cultivated everywhere in civilized Europe with its well-known devotion to enlightenment and humanism since the ancient Greeks. They interpreted the result that all individual or collective attempts at assimilation[32] had previously failed as a necessity that lay in the special nature of their protégés. The rest of the peoples in their national polities were on principle and forever incompatible with Jews, so that the prime, crucial thing that all Jews had in common, what forged them together into one people, was their worldwide persecution. Consequently, this Jewish people did not assert itself by fighting one or another particular state rule and the national racism of its patriotic followers, but by fighting all of them always. What is necessarily true of every people — that it is the product of rulers’ use of force — was initially declared by Zionists negatively and defensively to be the raison d’être of an absolutely necessary state power for those they defined as a people without a state to call their own. What they really had in common — regardless of Bible or matrilineal descent — was the force universally used against them as Jews. So it was their state’s undeniable right and permanent task to forcefully safeguard their existence as Jews against enemies defined as universal and irreconcilable.

This radically negative starting point, which saw itself definitively justified by Hitler’s monstrous program of completely, physically exterminating European Jewry, had the positive prospect of a modern nation-state itself. This was to be a state shelter for the Jews who were scattered around the globe, globally and constantly threatened with annihilation, and from now on defined positively as a people: as the basis of their state power and object of its protection. This has determined the Zionist ‘project’ ever since: its internal constitution, its relation to those already inhabiting the Middle Eastern region, as well as its relation to the rest of the world. For the state being founded to take possession of the land and be consolidated, the very first thing needed was the action of the immigrating population to conquer and settle the land as a prerequisite for productively utilizing it. In turn, the first and last purpose of this productive utilization was to secure the land seizure and create the material basis for defending and expanding it. And with this dual service for the new state power by its human base, as armed troops and as workers — embodied in an exemplary manner in the soldier-farmer on the kibbutz — the Zionist state procured the capacity to serve its base of settlers by defending them – that is, itself – against the perpetual hostility of non-Jews toward Jews.

This program made itself rightful as it was implemented. Claiming land for Jews to settle on necessarily meant fighting those already living on the land and somehow making a living on it. Whatever — provisional — arrangements the Zionists made with the political and legal masters of the area, the resident Arabs had to be driven out if it were to be really Jewish land — and that is still true today. Taking land means taking it away. Productively utilizing land means destroying it as the basis for others to live on, and vice versa.[33] So the principle of ‘Jewish labor’ has always had a double character. Along with its — now completed — function of teaching and disciplining the Jewish newcomers to be a productive breed of people able to defend themselves, it has also brought about the economic separation of the resident Arabs from their land, i.e., showed them by economic means that Jews have the higher rights. At the same time, the national/ethnic incompatibility of the new state has had on its side the superior capacities of a modern mode of production imported from Europe, coupled with its upholders’ nationalistic eagerness to work and make sacrifices. This, as mentioned, was not an ephemeral phenomenon relating to the state being founded and ‘excesses’ that always involves, but rather a constitutive element — that has if anything become increasingly apparent as such to this day — of how the defensive Zionist objectives were realized as their own state power. The claim to Palestine/Israel for a Jewish nation-state is fundamentally incompatible with the existence of the Arabs living there. The “Western,” namely, bourgeois make-up of the protective homeland for Jews from all over the world, when it is imported, destroys the existing ways the native population live and produce, and is thus itself a means of pushing through this exclusive claim. And it morally certifies the Zionist state project from the very beginning as to how much it is in the right: the militancy of Zionist newcomers is justified by the hostility they are met with by the native Arabs, and the Arabs’ material inability to do anything about the Jews appropriating their land gives the Jewish settlers confirmation that the presence of native Arabs on a piece of land by no means makes it Arab land.[34] The other way round, the newcomers’ presence in the country entitles them to apply any relevant cultural achievement to the “some hundred thousand Negroes of no value,” whose ancestors made the mistake of settling on the land that Zionism claims as a shelter for the Jews from their Western compatriots and the rest of the world.[35]

The establishment and development of the Jewish state also led to development of hostile action against the wrong people in the country, which now starts out from the Zionist state agenda. Typical treatment of the Arab population is to drive them away physically, exclude them by law, cut off their economic means, to the point of making it policy to starve them out in the Gaza Strip. The justification for this is like an ultimatum, being based on the shelter logic: if the physical existence of the Jews depends on the survival of their state, then the state can on principle not tolerate the presence of foreign people. Then demography is a time bomb that can only be got rid of along with those who are causing it. In actual practice Israel always gets itself into this danger whenever and wherever it seizes further territory on which Arabs happen to have always been living.

Israel’s standpoint of needing to existentially assert itself in perpetuity has found confirmation time and again in the surrounding Arab state powers. To them, the Zionist polity was from the beginning an intrusive alien element in the middle of a region that, along with its population, they saw as their collective property, as the basis of a great Pan-Arab power about to be founded itself. They saw it as an outpost of continuing colonial domination by foreign powers and huge obstacle to their emancipation program. Although this project never got beyond its internal contradiction — between national sovereignty and pan-Arab claim — it went far enough to establish quite some brotherhood in arms against the Zionist enemy, through which they thought they could attack the both traditional and newly established domination by the Western powers. This included joint defeats.

Israel has never pushed for anything like “peaceful coexistence” with this questionable front. It has answered their powerless militant attempts to eliminate the anti-Arab “alien element” with increasingly powerful militant intransigence. It wages an offensive kind of defensive battle that has increasingly divorced itself from the real danger from its opponents. It claims to be in a permanent state of siege, which it is in reality imposing on its hostile neighbors. This is supposed to back up its self-image as a safe haven for the Jews of the world, and justify the fundamentalist standpoint it practices, by which every bit of violence by its opponents is declared a question of national survival.

The Zionists’ founding idea was to found a Western society for a completely new settlement of people defined in ethnic/religious terms so as to exclude others, on a territory inhabited by a native population and already ruled by state powers. Israel’s above-described policy has transformed this idea into the lasting contradiction that is the State of Israel, between the “normality” of a competitive capitalist society under the aegis of a state with global political ambitions on the one side, and the permanent state of emergency of having to establish state and people through constant, active readiness for war on the other side. It remains the task of all Israeli politics to make the two sides of this contradiction productive for each other.

The two sides coincided in the phase before and during the actual founding of the state: the newly settled Jews rallied behind the Zionists with their labor-movement socialism. Under their leadership and with the appropriate slogan “Settle — Work — Watch,” the newcomers could be organized as a militant collective of modern citizens, as working militiamen of their state, united in the will to use Zionist force as their first and decisive means for national life. In the pre-state bodies and institutions, the worker-Zionists had the means to actually turn the crowd they were leading — by allocating land, procuring and distributing credit, building an education system, even seeing to all matters of military force — into a people that had to, was able to, and wanted to pursue their material reproduction only as a fight to assert themselves against the Arab natives and their various rulers, that is, as the establishment and reproduction of their own state force. This culminated in the War of Independence from 1947 to 1949. It began as an armed conflict between Jewish and Arab militias and then turned into a proper war between state powers: the now-founded Israel and a not very determined coalition of Arab states. Israel came off as the winner. On the territory intended by the UN, along with some land conquered beyond it, the Zionists of the left-wing Mapai and Mapam parties went from being leaders in founding the state to ruling democratically over a people of money-earning citizens, whom they molded into the basis of their socialist state. On the one hand, the Israeli state project looked very similar to the many states founded after World War II[36] — a party with a socialist ethos using its power to establish a political system useful to the people and their material and moral needs, and conversely to thereby make the people useful and productive for the state, so that the unity of the two makes the nation big and strong. On the other hand, this project was special in two respects. In contrast to their colleagues gaining independence in the rest of the post-colonial world of newly-founded states, the Zionists not only knew how to invoke the people’s will for the rule of their state, but were able to rely on it in practice and make use of it because it actually existed. And the new state’s raison d’être was also distinctive. Winning the war waged half against the resident Arab population and half against the neighboring Arab states by no means ended this double enmity but rather institutionalized it permanently. Despite expulsion and flight in the hundreds of thousands, the population of the new state now included those who were alien to the core people as defined by the whole founding doctrine, but were nevertheless subject to the new state power. So the state had to somehow fit them in, subordinate them, or make them scarce. And the states opposing the founding of the Israeli state were not prepared to recognize the new sovereign despite their defeat in the war they fought to prevent it, but could only be forced to accept its existence by military force in the following wars. This already convinced the Zionist Socialists under Ben-Gurion when the state was founded that only military superiority combined with readiness for war at all times would be able to secure the existence and success of their state project.

b) How the contradictions of the Zionist state project have unfolded through its success

It is ironic, but necessary, that the very success of the Zionist state founders has caused an increasing rift and antagonism between the two elements of their Zionist project that were from the beginning the essence of the war-proven unity between the Israeli people and Zionist rule. Politically, this has taken the form of a permanent struggle over the identity and orientation of state power, with proper lively participation of the people. All the unclear aspects and unfulfilled claims to integrate or separate out sections of the people and take possession of land have become objects and cases in the dispute as to how complete or incomplete the state authority should define itself. This dispute has never broken apart the national link, however, because both sides draw on the same national success, taking it as confirmation of their respective positions.

What made the above-mentioned conflicts between the social democratic governments of the early decades and the initially marginal crew of national-religious settlers so hateful and bitter was not that they disagreed about this or that settlement project or assault on Arabs. Their mutual hatred was due to the fact that the settlers — at first as an independent radical minority against the national consensus — personified the standpoint, contained in the reason of state itself, that the founding claims were incompletely fulfilled, i.e., the enmity towards the Arab adversaries was unresolved and could not even ever be resolved due to its fundamentalist nature. And they put this standpoint into practice against the majority faction that was pressing for bourgeois-civilian normalization and an end to the founding phase, i.e., that represented the other side of the state agenda. With all the fervor of rulers who considered their own possession of state force to be the consummate fulfillment of the Jewish people’s demands for good rule, the politicians regarded the settlers as a “cancer in the body of Israeli democracy”[37] — on the one hand. On the other hand, it was the mainly social democratic, secular state itself that fought its 1967 war of conquest, thereby opening up for the religious settlers, but above all for itself, the territory and arena for arguing about what to do with the gains in land and people, how to deal with them temporarily or permanently, in other words, how the Israeli state authority should ultimately define itself and its purposes. So it was definitely no coincidence that this last major military coup of the socialist founding generation’s also heralded the disintegration of the Zionist common ground it had shaped. In view of the brilliantly successful conquest by which the Israeli military had powerfully demonstrated its superiority over the cordon of hostile Arab states, it seemed downright absurd to treat the offensive as a merely temporary action, the conquered territories as a mere bargaining chip for a peaceful compromise with the neighbors. What until then had appeared on the scene merely as the fundamentalism of a few rabbi-led NGOs now became the state authority’s own agenda. It feeds off the continued offensive for its Zionist mission to found a self-assertive state, that is, off its militancy serving this agenda, the superior militancy of a regional power toward all enemies.

What has actually worked out are territorial gains and the destruction of the hostile Arab front, and the Zionist polity is successfully on track to becoming a state power that commands a high-level national capitalism and claims the status of a respected dominant regional power. But what does this mean? On the one hand, and for one side, it follows that Israel can afford and should have long since begun to pursue a policy of normalization in terms of civil relations at home and pragmatic alliances and enmities abroad, i.e., what is known as “peaceful coexistence.” On the other hand, and for the other side, the same success is regarded as a triumph of consistently keeping up an irreconcilable stance or, vis-à-vis the powerless Arab hostilities, offensive militancy. This success demands that the occupation of territory, the attracting of Jews from all over the world, the policy of total military deterrence, with occasional bombing to destroy enemy activities next door, not only be continued but escalated. What is required is a policy of using force as if the state had to be constantly founded; this is the way, and the only way, for capitalistically produced wealth to be used appropriately, and in a truly productive way for the people.[38]

The enemy Arab states had no choice but not to recognize the violent establishment of the state of Israel, but Israel aggressively turned this non-recognition against them, making its own military superiority and the unpredictability of its strike the highest virtue.39 It first viewed the conquests that accompanied and followed the founding of the state strategically as temporary land gains that it was prepared to give up ‘in exchange for peace,’ which actually only happened once with Egypt with regard to the Sinai Peninsula, which it conquered in 1967 and vacated in the course of the separate peace treaty of 1982. But this view was increasingly replaced by the now fully established standpoint that the additional acquisitions are far too valuable, and above all the Arab opponents far too weak, for land to be restored to them as a concession for peace.40 Thanks to its superiority, Israel no longer needs to make any such concession.[41] Even the center left with their will to stop founding the state and settle all open territorial and national claims once and for all have lost all semblance of readiness to make concessions much less relinquish anything to the enemies. Even and especially the leaders of these parties insist that their military careers and expertise guarantee their political credibility. These days, they only accuse the right-wing Likud and its leader Netanyahu of having failed to utilize Israeli superiority to finally make a real job of eliminating all real enemies and potential threats; this is, for example, their main criticism of Netanyahu’s dealings with Hamas active in the Gaza Strip. However, there is no question of failure or weakness here: in the sure knowledge of being able to crush Hamas at any time if they wanted, the protagonists of Netanyahu’s line can actually think of reasons not to do it — for the time being.[42]

The two consequences or readings of national success are irreconcilable — and at the same time compatible with each other, even productive for each other. It is part of the success of the nation’s weapons and capital that, although the polity’s militancy, its violence-laden irreconcilability, does disturb civilian life, it does not hinder it at all. It is even productive for the morals of a nation caught up in gainful capitalist activity in that it accustoms people to accepting the state’s readiness to fight as the decisive condition for their existence although it threatens their lives again and again. This militancy tends to morally discipline the competing individuals, committing them to the standpoint of the national community. And whatever constructive regional policy is on the agenda can only gain credibility through the nation’s repeatedly demonstrated, ever-ready will to use force. The other side, the fanaticism of continuing an offensive struggle for existence, is never satisfied with the successful accumulation of military and capitalist successes, but it draws all its power from them. So it cannot get around coming to terms with the ethos of a “civil society” it vilifies as “cowardly” but also has a certain degree of recognition for: its own élan depends and thrives on the performance of those who already have enough to do trying to make money.[43]

The democratic constitution that the founding-generation Zionists gave their state has ensured up to today that the dispute over the raison d’état of the permanently unfinished state entity is carried out civilly: as a competition between parties. These each separately represent the diverse or even antagonistic demands made by and on the state, form changing coalitions to give the state its orientation, and teach the people with their different factions what they are allowed and supposed to ask of it. That is why the socialist era of Zionism, after it had done its job, did not need to be ended by a putsch — the usual procedure in southern latitudes — but could give way quite civilly to a democratic shift to the right.


A modern European colonization project in Western Asia — not, however, as the work and for the benefit of a Western motherland, but rather against all the claims of the modern powers that had long since divided the territory among themselves; a modern, bourgeois nation-state — not, however, as the national emancipation of some group of people living in some place, but rather first having to be settled on territory long since inhabited by others by people who go on permanently being imported from abroad; a state with territorial bounds and exclusively responsible for its own people — but at the same time claiming to be the protective power for all Jews living in the whole world; a state power that defines the threat to its existence as one that can never be eliminated once and for all, and acts accordingly — but at the same time successfully organizes a civilian capitalist domestic life and conducts foreign policy as a regional power with imperialistic ambitions: all that defines this state’s need for force. The extent of the need is determined by its claim to autonomous, in that respect superior force against every real or imaginable hostility. From the outset and continually thereafter, this need therefore exceeds all the autonomous capacities of the Israeli body politic.

III. The “unique alliance” with America and its progress under Trump

1. Completion of the Zionist success story: the USA commits (itself) to its role as protective power for the Israeli state’s permanent founding

a) The unique alliance with America and its basis in global politics

Because the need for force to comply with this reason of state and its success has from the outset exceeded the autonomous capacities of an Israel that has planted itself among hostile neighbors and acts as the protecting power of all Jews, Israel has needed protection and help from other, more potent powers since its establishment as a state. And not only the way that the new founding of any state within the modern imperialistically developed world depends on the interest of an already established imperialist power in a new local rule. The perpetuated, sweeping program of self-assertion, the claim that the safety of all Jews worldwide is identical to the intactness of the State of Israel, likewise make a permanent affair of the gap between the force Israel needs for asserting its ‘right to exist’ against those already living on the land it claims and their protective state powers, and the means it has for using force. Consequently, its claims have not simply required the support of some better power, but of the imperialist world power par excellence — the USA.

What some celebrate as a unique and unshakable friendship, and others criticize with all the features of a conspiracy theory as a small settler nation instrumentalizing American power through the Zionist lobby in the USA — the present state of affairs is indeed an imperialist alliance with a special quality. On the one hand, there is its scope and substance.[44] But the real peculiarity is that this asymmetrical partnership between the American world power, a global civilian and military actor, and Israel, whose existence depends on America’s role as protecting power, shows no trace of subjugation or vassalage on the part of the little partner. Israel won’t be told what to do on the basis of the guaranteed protection and with the extensive aid. The settler state, tiny in relation to its senior partner, has obviously managed to gain from America the unconditional support without which it could not pursue its agenda — a feat its supporters can celebrate and its opponents have to concede. In fact, America does not tie its basic support to Israel’s stepping back in any way from what is on its agenda — that being no less than the fundamentalism, which has been elevated to normality, of a ruling power that defines itself as unfinished and is forever concerned with asserting itself against its enemies. How much Israel has achieved in this respect becomes evident particularly when America insists that the little ally should at least not formally snub the big one’s claim to ultimately having the policy-making authority when it comes to shaping their mutual cooperation. It is inseparable from Israel's success principle and success record that it can be sure of America’s permanent backing and material aid without paying the imperialist price that this usually costs, subordinating itself to the strategic concerns America is pursuing with this alliance. And this even though Israel, with its permanent multiple fronts against its enemies, is dependent existentially and without any alternative on the alliance and brotherhood of arms with America.

In the interest of their project, the Zionists always made concessions to their imperialist sponsors and protecting powers only as long as it was absolutely necessary for securing their support. Britain, then Palestine’s mandatory power and making it its concern to settle Jews there on the basis of its own calculations, soon had to deal with the fact that as soon as the Jewish settlers were sufficiently numerous, organized, and equipped they were no longer content with their protecting power’s regulations. They reacted to Britain’s attempt to restrict their activities with armed resistance, thus contributing in no small way to making the whole colonial mandate construction in Palestine untenable for Britain. Things were later similar for France. Alongside Czechoslovakia with its war-deciding arms shipments in 1948 (Operation Balak), and Germany with its reparations payments from the early 1950s on, which were very considerable and strategically important for Israel’s circumstances and economic situation at the time, it was in particular the second long-standing colonial power in the Middle East that saw to the new state. Against America’s will and all relevant formal agreements with the USA and Great Britain, France helped Israel in the course of the 1950s until well into the 1960s to achieve a military strength that secured it superiority over the hostile Arabs. The reason was France's post-colonial calculations. It gave Israel military and other support in order to secure its own influence in the strategically important region in the south and southeast of ‘its’ Mediterranean, especially in view of the anti-French orientation of the new Arab states and liberation movements in North Africa with their leading and exemplary power Egypt. It was out to assert itself as a power to be reckoned with in the region, alongside Great Britain and, above all, against the new power USA dominating the Western alliance. The Zionists, who had meanwhile matured into veritable national leaders through their founding war, did not care about these French calculations. Toward this power as well, they always upheld the principle that every alliance that Israel enters into has to contribute to its autonomy, i.e., has to meet that criterion rather than the other way around. That accordingly shortened the shelf life of this wonderful friendship.

This ability of the smaller partner to tell its superior American protecting power how the alliance is going to be in all aspects crucial to it points to the fundamental interest that the American world power is for its part pursuing with this alliance, the interest that prompts it to back Israel's national ambitions as a matter of principle. For the American world power, Israel was the means by which it could duly advance its global program of constricting and fighting the Soviet Union, in this case in the Middle East. For a long time, the most important item on its agenda in this connection was to undermine the USSR’s efforts, or nullify any results of its efforts, to forge alliances with Arab states and gain strategic access to its southwestern approaches. After a rather short period of time, America stopped considering it productive for this purpose to compete over the Arab states by making offers to their nationalism. This Arab nationalism, not known as pan-Arab for nothing, was quickly exposed as unsuitable for the world power’s higher purposes, its principles, and its proven means, because it was fundamentally far too demanding, far too focused on its own international standing, thus in principle on correcting the conditions just established for making use of these states. It’s no wonder their awakening movement, too, caused a furor as “socialism,” in many cases seeing the Soviet Union as a much more useful partner than the USA. This very soon bestowed on America the ambitious dual task of guaranteeing reliable certitude when it came to the oil supply and drawing a clear strategic front between pro-American and pro-Soviet in this region. For this world-power agenda of turning the region into an oil well functioning as a section of the anti-Soviet front, the USA groomed the right ally in Israel. A state defining itself as Western, with its autochthonous will to assert itself against the Arab states, was unrivaled as the best means for teaching Arab nationalism a couple of lessons. Firstly, turning towards the Soviet Union opened up no prospect of national greatness but rather a continuous, draining, and impossible-to-win struggle to stand up against the hostility executed by Israel and supported by America to the best of its ability. Secondly, protection from Israel, and maybe even the return of territories conquered by Israel, could be had, if at all, only by allies of the Americans. For the USA’s strategic view of the region, its ambition to assert and anchor its concerns in the states located there, its resulting need for reliable allies, Israel had an offer to make that American strategists were not about to refuse: a post-colonially sovereign power with a bourgeois orientation firmly anchoring it in the people and making it stable, and above all stably removed from the influence of the Soviet Union and looking to the West instead, a power that proved superior to its Arab neighbors from its founding on, and had a founding reason of state disposing it to show uncompromising militancy against the common enemies quite of its own accord. Israeli hostility to its Arab neighbors, combined with its war-proven superiority: this is what made the settler state so valuable to the USA; this was what America was actually protecting and supporting for decades.

Conversely, with its standpoint of being a superior power categorizing an entire region as an “oil well” and as an important secondary front for a global war scenario, the United States was exactly the right partner, the only one really worth considering in the long run, for Israel’s ambitious dual agenda. Firstly, America was able to supply the most advanced military equipment in the proper quantities. Secondly, America — unlike Great Britain or France, for example — did not have to adapt and water down its regional alliances according to the interests of its Western partners, but was rather the leading power deciding quite freely for its dear partners who was to receive aid and who was definitely not to. And thirdly, the United States was thus delightfully free in its expectations of how Israel should deal with the military, economic, and political support it was getting. As a global power planning nothing less than a world war against the Soviet Union, America repeatedly let Israel dictate the fine print in terms of who the enemies were, how urgent it was to fight them and the proper way of doing it — because and as long as Israel’s anti-Arabism essentially coincided with America's anti-Sovietism.

Their usefulness for each other was something the two unique allies showed each other by their deeds. Israel managed to win its first, actual state-founding war against the resident Arabs and the British mandatory power with tacit approval from the United States but above all through the active support of governmental and non-governmental actors from Western and Eastern Europe. The ambitions for which France equipped Israel in the 1950s and 60s were not tolerated by the US — at least not where they got in the way of its efforts to turn the region into a reliable anti-Soviet bulwark and oil supplier. The US could use France’s Israeli ally all too well for this purpose itself. No wonder, then, that the breakthrough in Israeli-American relations came with the successful Six-Day War, in the course of which Israel abruptly doubled the territory it occupied. Such a military power, which evidently was completely superior to its regional rivals both individually and collectively, made a pretty strong impression on the USA, putting the decisive pro-Israeli spin on its ambiguous or even contradictory calculations of how best to deal with the Israeli-Arab conflict from its higher vantage point. Israel, on its part, had to learn — most keenly in the wake of the 1956 Suez Crisis — that its need for strategic superiority and unpredictability could not be fully met, i.e., ultimately not at all, by the secondary imperialist powers, because they in turn had to bow to the dictates of a leading American power that was setting the standards for all the others. So, by way of a few massacres and a number of turns in alliance policy — the USA had meanwhile lost its previously most important partner, Iran, it had spent billions of dollars arming — the two powers finally realized with the utmost clarity that each was an offer the other other could not refuse.

b) The basis for Israel’s decision-making power within the alliance: nuclear-backed autonomy

Israel is dependent on its alliance with America to bridge the gap between its ambition to assert itself in permanent armed conflict with the states surrounding it and its capacities that are necessarily lacking by that standard. But from the standpoint of this ambition such dependency is basically intolerable. The Zionists’ imperative, which has been elevated to Israel’s reason of state, is that Jews actually or potentially persecuted and threatened with extermination everywhere can only have their physical existence secured by the autonomous power of a Jewish state. This imperative is contradicted when such power has all the necessary and justified superiority but is only to be had dependently in alliance with another, superior power. The same Israeli ambition that has no use for a protecting power below America’s weight can at the same time not tolerate being dependent on America either. Israel has worked to resolve this contradiction — by strengthening its own military capabilities.

The ultimate means for making the changing imperialist alliances at the beginning of its history, and later on the “unique alliance” with the USA, bearable for Israel’s force-based demand for autonomy is to have the means of destruction par excellence at its disposal: its own nuclear capability. The important thing here has been that it is indeed an autonomous Israeli weapon and not just ‘nuclear sharing’ of the arsenal and calculations of the greater allied power. Accordingly, when it comes to scenarios of how its nuclear weapon may be used Israel imposes no obligations or restrictions on itself even — and especially — vis-à-vis America. It will not be integrated into a larger American scenario. The outstanding advantage is precisely that it thereby makes itself unpredictable vis-à-vis everyone, not only the enemy states, obviously, but also the friends, who are by definition unreliable. In the language of nuclear war strategists this goes by the phrase “deliberate ambiguity.” This explains why Israel has to this day officially refused to formally come out as a nuclear power, much less specify an official nuclear doctrine. The only sure thing for all the other powers, large and small, is intended to be the vague promise that if Israel makes out an acute threat to its existence it will lay waste to all its neighbors by “massive retaliation,” which is known as the “Samson Option” in reference to certain events in ancient Palestine. With regard to its regional opponents, this adds to its conventional superiority the credible threat of dealing annihilating blows on a scale that expressly has no calculable relation to any acts of violence against Israel. With its nuclear weapon, Israel has completed its special role: it has acquired the status of a regional military superpower, not so as to force the other states in the region into an order favorable to Israeli interests, but so as to have the superiority to withstand the danger to its own existence that it sees in all surrounding states. With regard to the United States, the strategic benefit, on this basis, is not so much the prospect of withdrawing from the US alliance as, conversely, being the small partner that gets the big one to commit to it. If Israel declares the ultimate emergency of its existence being threatened, it wants America to reckon with its small partner unleashing a nuclear war unless it intervenes on behalf of Israel to decide the war itself. Thus, Israel calculates with its autonomous nuclear capability as a means of taking advantage of the world power’s monopoly claim on the use of nuclear weapons to force it to be absolutely loyal to the alliance.

In fact, Israel acquired this capacity not only independently of America’s wishes, but against its express will — this, too, with the help of France. Referring by way of justification to the recently ended bloodbath that German fascism had created among European Jews — “I owe them the Bomb!” was the credo of Guy Mollet, the French Prime Minister at the time — France had the strategic plan that “A counterweight against Egypt is needed. … This counterweight is Israel with the Bomb”[45] So Israel actually brought its atomic bomb, together with rockets likewise acquired from France, into the alliance with America as an autonomous power.

This double intent of Israel’s nuclear calculation — aimed at its enemies and at its great protecting power — is the reason why it fights against its enemies in the region procuring this weapon just as adamantly as it insists on needing it itself.[46] The credibility and usefulness of nuclear ‘deterrent force’ depends on its monopoly position. So Israel has always been accordingly resolute in taking action against any such attempts, while taking it for granted from this point of view that in the end it alone is entitled to define when it is being confronted with such an attempt and thus the ultimate casus belli. This it has already demonstrated several times on Iraq and Syria.[47] And with a very different impact — in view of Iran’s really existing and advanced nuclear potential — this point has for many years been the hard core of Israel’s hostility to Iranian power, and of its dispute with its American partner about how to fight it.[48] By demonstrating its determination to combat Iran’s nuclear potential by means of nuclear war if necessary, Israel has tried to force the USA to likewise adopt a policy of doing its utmost to combat any precondition for the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

c) The forms taken by the contradiction between asymmetrical alliance and autonomy

The contradiction between unconditional autonomy, which brooks no dependency on an alliance, and unconditional superiority, which cannot be had without the alliance with America, has still not been eliminated by Israel’s ultimate assurance of freedom of action in the form of its own nuclear force. However, this capability proves valuable as a basis for Israel’s efforts to impose its own offensively defined existential distress on its American partner as the latter’s trouble. As has been demonstrated over the decades, Israel is very largely able to turn its existential dependence on the USA into a commitment by the USA to provide it with the backing, both material and political, it requires for all its confrontations. When Israel opens up and shifts its fronts to the north, east, and south it never does so as a proxy or agent of American interests in regional order, but always only in accordance with its own claims and calculations. In this way, it sets data for the American world power’s calculations involving regional order and the drawing of fronts, confronting it again and again with the fact that — if it is serious about its role as protecting power for its smaller partner — it must adopt the Israeli equation of national existence and superior militance against all opponents that Israel has made its existential principle.[49] The advances in this particular partnership that increase Israel’s civilian and military means of power vis-à-vis the enemy states also automatically increase Israel’s ability to define and orient its alliance with the USA in line with its own purposes. Hence, this is still the principle of Israel's strategy of confrontation and escalation even today, now more than ever.

Israel has thus ensured that there can only be a determined, armed opposition to Israel if it is at the same time a militant anti-Americanism, i.e., a power’s stance on Israel and the enmity Israel so abundantly practices against its surrounding states has become the yardstick for what that power thinks of America. The only concessions Israel has ever made are not toward its enemies, but toward its great ally. And the price it has always demanded for making them turned the ‘concession’ into a mere procedure, namely, into a means for doing the opposite of conceding anything. What it achieved each time was, firstly, American recognition of all the facts on the ground established up to that point; secondly, American help in quashing any demand for correction on the part of the powers concerned or third powers; and thirdly, a further expansion of America’s material support for consolidating Israeli superiority, enabling it at ever new levels to rid itself of any need to put an end to its multiple hostilities.

This was what the magnificent 1979 Camp David peace with Egypt, which Israel was persuaded by the USA to agree to, actually meant to Israel. It was the conclusion of two decades of continually wearing down the largest chunk of the Arab Socialist anti-Israel and anti-America camp once led by Nasser. The price Israel stipulated for officially making peace with a defeated enemy, including withdrawing from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982, was a new quality of American military and other aid, this marking the real start of its career as a “major non-NATO ally.” Israel demonstrated its understanding of this ‘peace agreement,’ and how it obviously expected everyone else to understand it, beforehand and afterwards with supporting measures. In 1981 — to the clearly expressed annoyance of America, which was at that time supporting Iraq against Iran — it bombed a nuclear power plant under construction in Iraq to make clear how broadly it interpreted its monopoly on nuclear capabilities and how hopeless it was to attempt to break it. In the same year, it annexed Syria’s economically and strategically crucial Golan Heights, making it clear that ‘land for peace’ was not the principle it was pursuing in negotiating peace agreements with its Arab neighbors, but rather the slogan for its hostility toward them. And in 1982, at the same time as it was evacuating the last Jewish settlement in Sinai, it reduced the whole of southern Lebanon and half of Beirut to rubble until it received a guarantee — from America, of course — that Lebanon would once and for all stop being a base for the Palestinians’ armed struggle for their own state.

When Israel’s settlers autonomously define their own non-negotiable demands, sometimes wholesale against American objections although America is supposed to stand behind them, this has to this day helped official Israeli policy. Israel can point out they are acting without authority; distance itself vis-à-vis the USA from their actions when appropriate; and at the same time make the USA aware of how difficult it is for an Israeli statesman to drive Jewish compatriots off sacred ground just because their land occupations violate international law. In other words, it is only fair that Israel demand a high price for at least rhetorically not fully endorsing such doings.

Israel has been so successful with this policy that the political imperative the US until recently upheld, that at some point it must be possible to get a reconciliation between Israel and its Arab enemies involving the crucial element of a two-state solution, has dissipated into an empty diplomatic phrase. Israel has destroyed all the material and political conditions for such a path under the eyes of its American ally, sometimes against its explicit protests. And in the process, it has gotten the USA to agree with every Israeli push in substance, despite all the unease and rows at the diplomatic level.

d) Continuation of the war alliance in the post-Soviet era of the ‘Iranian threat’

The last quarter of a century has seen new developments in the relationship between Israel and the USA that are due to the loss of America’s global political adversary. There is no more basis for the great strategic task that Israel was so useful for and that repeatedly made all differences of opinion pale. That was to keep the Soviet Union out of the Middle East and, conversely, make the region into a secondary front it could not sustain, by wearing out all its allies by military and economic means. Since then, certain crises of doubt of the complementary kind have been rampant in both America and Israel regarding their wonderful friendship. With every advance Israel has pushed for to make the alliance instrumental for its program of continually founding the nation and conquering territories, the United States must ask how it actually benefits from Israel ramping up its hostility toward the Arabs and, as a result, their hostility toward Israel and America — especially in view of the constantly increasing expenditures for the smaller partner. This small partner regularly demonstrates primarily to the world power that, despite all America’s concessions to its definitions of threats and its security claims, it has no intention of showing any consideration for the fact that America is also pursuing other interests in the region apart from fighting Israel’s opponents. And this means repeatedly preventing the world power from finally reaping its peace dividend from beating the Soviet Union: a region of states pacified in line with American interests and entirely oriented towards America. That at any rate is the substance of the growing criticism of Israel’s high-handed actions. Conversely, with every advance in Israel’s offensive self-assertion in the region precisely by exploiting its alliance with America, Israel becomes more demanding when it comes to the question of what this alliance is still even worth.

There are basically two reasons why the alliance, despite all the — increasing — quarreling about its orientation and scope, has to this day outlived the demise of the USA’s great strategic adversary and supplier of all state and non-state enemies of Israel. The first reason consists in the results of the USA’s firm resolve to make the region an example of what it expected from the wonderful new world-order with no archenemy. To bolster its claim to sole supremacy over the legitimacy and the aims of other states’ use of force, indeed over the very right of sovereign states to exist, it waged a few wars that left little of the already amply degraded ‘awakening’ program of competing Arab powers. Apart from a few oil sheikdoms that are still functioning but themselves dissatisfied, there are now mainly assorted ‘failed states’ together with Islamist terrorist NGOs operating there and from there. In their midst, Israel is asserting itself more than ever, as an obviously recalcitrant but established state, which claims to be America’s sole viable partner in the region today more than ever before. The second important reason is that Iran is acting as a regional power in a new way; not only as the new backer of all remaining and new, basically non-state anti-Israeli and anti-American activists in the region, but above all with its ambition to grow up to become an autonomous nuclear power and thus a regional power to be reckoned with at least in the foreseeable future itself, alongside and against Israel. In their resolute hostility toward this Iranian agenda, the USA and Israel have come to a new understanding — Israel having no other state adversaries with any capacities to speak of and for its part now actually being able to act in many areas as a power independent of American aid. Quarrels within the alliance basically revolve around the question of how to align the world power’s intolerance of the Tehran regime’s acquiring nuclear weapons with Israel’s hostility toward Iran’s attempt to break Israel’s regional monopoly on nuclear weapons. All other questions — of settlements, of a Palestinian state, of Israel’s intervention in the Syrian civil war — in one way or another boil down to a dispute about how far and in what way they are each to be treated as special cases and secondary fronts in the fight against Iran.

There has always been a firm place even in the Israeli party landscape for a soundly anti-American minority opinion, which sees the alliance with the USA as Israel only submitting to an effete America that is always making outrageous demands. Conversely, there have been doubts in the USA — likewise democratically represented as a minority — for some time, not only recently, about America’s firm alliance with Israel being an unseemly commitment of the incomparable world power to the selfish demands of a small but brazen ally. But it is only since the 1990s that the mutual distrust has started moving toward a rift. The USA’s first major military action in the Middle East in 1990–91, against Iraq, was already an outrage to Israel because it was forbidden by Washington to take part in destroying the most powerful anti-Israeli Arab power at that time. Immediately afterwards, Israel was expected in all seriousness to fit into America’s projected post-war order alongside the Arab states. To be sure, all subsequent administrations in Washington have expressed their thanks not only with ever new security guarantees, but also by programmatically indulging it in its policy of undermining and torpedoing all efforts to reach a final two-state arrangement with the Palestinians. However, Israeli leaders — from then on all of them — have insisted on thinking America has become unreliable. Things could not even be properly patched up by Israel’s new special role in Bush Jr’s ‘War on Terror’ and his intensified fight against Iran as a “sponsor of terror.” Since then, Israel has been working tirelessly and with some success to constantly renew America’s commitment to its security needs and at the same time make itself as independent of that as possible. The no longer quite so wonderful friendship reached its lowest point to date under Obama — quite logically in the dispute over relations with Iran and its nuclear program. Because what mattered to Obama in the case of Iran was America’s overriding world-order interest in reviving global nuclear non-proliferation, he opened up a diplomacy of nuclear disarmament in return for the prospect of Iran being conditionally recognized again and gradually readmitted to international commerce, likewise under strict conditions. For Netanyahu’s Israel, this made Obama a traitor to the Jewish people and their state. He was caricatured with a Palestinian headscarf and Hitler’s mustache at meetings of the ruling Likud, and Benjamin Netanyahu officially snubbed him and rebuffed him in public various times. It was no use to him that under his administration, American aid to Israel in every area eclipsed everything Israel had obtained from America up to then. Among other things, the US formally committed to securing Israel’s strategic military advantage in the region, as mentioned above, and to military aid amounting to $38 billion for the next ten years from 2016 on. Considerably less theatrical but no less indicative of the status of their unique alliance are the lower-level diplomatic initiatives and negotiations, which in 2014 actually almost led to a ready-to-sign agreement on the phasing out of the more than $3 billion in military aid per year. Time and again, second-string Israeli politicians and former army leaders also express the view that Israel can do without American aid — albeit not entirely without difficulties — in view of how far developed its military-industrial complex is.[50]

So far, however, the alliance has survived all its managers’ doubts about its usefulness — through, what else, the violent incidents that regularly occur, and every time still remind the two sides what they mean to each other.

2. Israeli-American friendship under the banner of “America first!”

The most recent progress in mutual relations comes from the incumbent American president doing a thorough revision of the logic of America’s decades-old foreign policy. Trump’s take is to absolve his great American nation of any imperialist responsibility for the world of states and their order. He is pursuing the policy of freeing America from all ties and obligations that he considers to be shackling his undisturbed show of strength, or even to be weakening America in “endless wars” that only benefit other powers.[51] This is the guideline for Trump’s Middle East policy as well.

For Israel, this new general line of American global politics means above all a decisive breakthrough and liberation. For what the United States previously demanded of Israel — however formally — as the guideline under international law for Israel to recognize at least diplomatically vis-à-vis its patron saint, if not vis-à-vis the Arabs and the rest of the world, is now regarded as part of America’s unseemly commitment. This also applies to arrangements and demands relating to Israel and its affairs with its neighbor states and the Palestinians remaining under its occupying authority.

Trump’s new maxim is that it only makes sense to conduct global policy in general and Middle East policy in particular on the basis of “reality” and not UN resolutions, which are more than 50 years old, as his representatives keep emphasizing. And because this famous “reality” consists above all in Israel’s supremacy over its adversaries and rivals, its one-sided recognition by the USA means that the faits accomplis created up to now by Israel’s law of the strongest will become the new binding facts for the rest of the weak through America’s law of the strongest. For example, Israel’s claim to the whole of Jerusalem as its capital is recognized by the US relocating its embassy. The definition of Israel as an (exclusively) Jewish state, raised to constitutional status by the Nation-State Law, is approved. The displaced Arab population’s demand to return which Israel has always stubbornly fought — and which has meanwhile been watered down to the seeming alternative of ‘return or compensation’ — is buried as ‘unrealistic,’ and the Palestinian Arabs’ right to something like their own state — which used to be formally recognized and the linchpin of America’s Middle East policy — is now shelved as a “dogma” that has long since been overtaken by “reality.” Logically enough, the new American realism accordingly gives official recognition to the annexation of the Syrian Golan and the legality of the settlements on the West Bank.

The long-announced “Deal of the Century” by which Trump promises to finally solve the secular conflict between Israel and the Arabs is based on this unilaterally useful principle, the law of the strongest, which Trump brings to bear on every single question. The Kushner Plan, which was duly worked out and presented to the powers assembled in Bahrain to rubber-stamp, has met with, alongside the Arab states’ friendly disinterest and the Palestinians’ horrified rejection, above all uncomprehending head-shaking on the part of Western “Middle East experts,” who thereby prove how little they have understood. Neither the substance of the plan nor the accompanying rhetoric is geared to the ideal of some kind of balance between hostile claims to power. Kushner’s advice to the Palestinians that they didn’t so much need a state of their own as proper economic growth evidently really means that it’s the USA that definitely has no use for a Palestinian state. Instead it coolly surveys the ugliest conditions of occupation, war, Jewish settlement, and Palestinian misery strictly to see how America might somehow profit from them. What Trump’s slick son-in-law offers the Arabs as a good opportunity for them is to get ahead economically with a few billions of mainly Saudi subsidies, which he is quite right about since it’s the only opportunity America is allowing them.

While Trump’s reorientation in the “Palestinian question” only formally confirms for Israel, and in actual fact, what Israel has long since achieved in practice, Trump’s termination of the “worst deal ever” is of far greater significance for Netanyahu’s state. Trump fully endorses its year-long efforts to declare Iran the regional archenemy of all the good guys (these being from Israel’s point of view basically Israel and the USA), a state there can be no diplomacy with since that could only be criminally naive appeasement. He terminates the nuclear deal between the USA, the other Security Council members plus Germany, and Iran — a deal that Israel fought tooth and nail and reviled as paving the way to a second, this time nuclear, Holocaust — and imposes all the earlier and a few new sanctions. Iran is furthermore blamed for all the turmoil in this turmoil-rich region and declared the new mastermind behind all terrorists. What is at the same time (and at last!) full American support for the Israeli line is the US turning wholesale against its European allies as well, matter-of-factly putting an end to their well-meaning efforts — involving all kinds of material support — and at the same time rejecting each of their attempts to make Israel’s anti-Iran line less militant and more manageable for them by getting Iran to consent to give up the nuclear program that Israel has proclaimed, credibly to all powers, to be a reason for it to strike.

However, Israeli-American friendship does not come down to complete agreement even under Trump, which is not due to him having no plan, as he is so often accused of, but rather to him pursuing precisely the same political line that spells so much territorial gain for Israel in terms of strategy and world politics. For it also holds for America’s traditional ‘unique ally’ that Trump really does not accept any dogma for his assessment of the world other than American benefit. Under Trump, the days are over when America treated its steadfast military alliance with Israel as the firm premise of its Middle East policy, so that the Israeli junior partner could safely assume that the USA, despite all frictions, would ultimately tolerate and go along with Israel’s expansive security demands as an essential guideline for its own policy.[52] With regard to Syria, which for Israel has become the main arena of military confrontation with Iran, its Revolutionary Guards and Arab allies, Israeli leaders have had to learn that Trump will without warning confront them — just like any other engaged and interested powers — with the fact that he finds this battlefield comparatively uninteresting for his anti-Iran strategy. For all he cares, Iran can do whatever it wants in Syria, he broadcasts on Twitter, rejecting Israel’s attempt to make its fight against Iran the decisive front within the Syrian conflict — also for the USA! And no matter how encouraged Israel feels by the USA to cooperate with the few, important, anti-Iranian Gulf monarchies in fighting the Shiite power and its regional offshoots and supporters, it does not get a green light for military actions against Iran on Iraqi soil, which America intends to develop as its own outpost, undisturbed by such Israeli interventions. And then Netanyahu finally also has to realize that Trump’s termination of the multilateral nuclear agreement as the ‘worst deal ever’ was evidently not meant to be the end of all diplomacy with Iran and the prelude to using force to settle the matter. Instead, the US President is quite willing to negotiate with the Tehran leadership when he has the impression that the sanctions have sufficiently worn them down for a bilateral ‘good deal.’ Trump’s policy is thus making the US a basically unpredictable and unreliable ally for Israel.

Israel is dealing with this uncertainty in its usual way. Firstly, it is prompted to push ahead all the more with the territorial and strategic gains that Trump’s policy has brought it so far, i.e., to make the very most of the new freedom that America’s policy has allowed it. Secondly, it remains independently active on the fronts that it deems crucial for itself. With regard to the Syrian war, it officially regrets Trump’s decision to withdraw, while at the same time demonstrating that it considers this decision to be strategically wrong by multiplying its own attacks on Iranian or pro-Iranian troops in Syria. It also bombs Iran-linked targets in Iraq against the express wishes of the American military and foreign-policy makers, and when these attacks are criticized as a threat to US troops in Iraq Israel does not even react officially. Thirdly, and altogether, Israel thus sees yet more confirmation that it can ultimately only rely on itself. These days, this means that Israel has to attend to its agenda without showing any consideration for its American ally’s global rivalries and priorities in view of the permanently repeated principle, “We must be able to defend ourselves independently against any threat and against any enemy.” It has meanwhile wrested so much real — economic, strategic, military — autonomy from this alliance that it now has other options with and alongside it — particularly with its ally’s big rivals. With Russia, the USA’s first strategic rival, Israel maintains a cooperation, in armaments and other matters, that other nations don’t dare to have for fear of jeopardizing their good relations with America. And the fact that the USA has proclaimed China the second — and in future probably even more important — rival in dominating the world does not prevent Israel, despite all Washington’s “serious security concerns,”[53] from forging ever closer economic ties with the Far Eastern power on all kinds of levels, including cooperation with Chinese tech companies fought by the USA such as Huawei and ZTE, and extending to Chinese investment in the strategically important port of Haifa.[54]

So the American-Israeli relationship remains absolutely exemplary: nowadays it shows how wonderful friendships between imperialist powers will work in the twenty-first century, if at all.

Editors' Notes

[*] Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politician, prime minister since 2009.

[**] Avigdor Lieberman, Israeli politician, serving most recently as Minister of Defense.

Authors' Notes

[1] With a total economic output of 350 billion US dollars, the EU associated country Israel is located between respectable European states Norway and Ireland. Its regular growth rates of between four and nine percent even surpass those of Europe’s nations with old-established capitalism. But above all, Netanyahu boasts that his country has been successfully meeting the Maastricht criteria for sound budgeting in an exemplary manner for some time now, in marked contrast to many of its EU associates: gross debt currently stands at around 60% of GDP, net new debt at around 3%.

[2] The times are over when a substantial portion of the Israeli people were employed in agriculture and lived on income generated that way, serving the world market and bringing in foreign exchange to the state with products like Jaffa oranges. Today, only one percent of the national labor force works in agriculture, and agriculture contributes about 3 percent to GNP.

[3] Its beginnings were due to the immigration to Israel of some Jewish diamond cutters from the then undisputed centers of this industry in Belgium and the Netherlands. A few colonial and other turns in the history of imperialism later, it became a veritable national industry. In terms of technology and size, this industry is now setting international standards: around 40% of all rough diamonds in the world are processed in Israel, which, together with the world's second largest diamond exchange, alone accounts for 20% of Israel's export volume.

[4] Relevant reports always mention that the USB stick was invented in Israel, as well as the face recognition technology commonly used in smartphones today, and a few other things without which the 21st century would never have existed. Israeli companies compete in the markets for software, computer and network security and espionage, in certain areas of military high-technology — such as rocketry — as well as in pharmaceutical, medical, and genetic engineering and high-tech agriculture.

[5] Every major Silicon Valley company now has a subsidiary in Israel, and most of them established their first R&D branch abroad in Israel.

[6] In terms of the number of companies listed in the Nasdaq Technology Sector Index, Israel today ranks third after the USA and China.

[7] Like Silicon Valley in the USA, the high tech, software, and internet sector in Israel — named ‘Silicon Wadi’ — despite all its successful growth does not even come close to providing employment for the population dependent on earning a living. Today, 200,000 people invent, program, and solder in the high-tech offices — that is about 5% of the potential workforce and just over 8% of those actually working. There is a separate government agency charged with increasing this number to 500,000 over the next ten years.

[8] The state has not left this to the economy, but done its share by lowering the national minimum wage.

[9] Work today has been unshackled from many regulations restricting capital with regard to working hours, protection against dismissal, and industrial safety.

[10] The most important exponents of this wing of Zionism that dominated for decades came from Eastern European, especially Russian, social democratic parties and the labor movement there. The most radical representatives of this line wanted to emancipate the Jewish state from the constraints and hardships of capitalism to the extent that this was at all possible in a world of capitalist nation-states, and even had the idea of making this the starting point for a general socialist emancipation of the peoples of the world from capitalism and bourgeois-state rule.

[11] In 1985, for example, Israel had a hyperinflation of 415% and a total debt of 270% of GNP.

[12] Subsequently, the Israeli state launched periodic reforms to free itself more and more from the costs of the old-style, social-democratic/Zionist trade-union state. It has beaten down social spending in relation to GNP, to the budget, and often even in absolute terms, doing so primarily during economic downturns as other states do. Particularly since the so-called “Oslo crisis” in the years after 2000, the famous gap between the ordinary incomes of the masses and the yields of capitalist enterprises and resulting incomes of the economic elite has been widening ever faster in Israel, too. Nowadays more than 30% of the population is officially considered poor.

[13] This union, too, was an integral part of worker-and-farmer Zionism before the state was founded, and key to the organization of the Israeli polity afterwards, functioning as the central organization of the nation’s work and taking care of the needs of those who carry it out.

[14] The national self-image of modern Israel today includes the stupidity of attributing the national economic successes in the New Economy to the unconventional “spirit” of Israelis as people. These people are accordingly not meant for socialism, as the old Zionists believed, who intended to turn the “Frankfurt money-changers, Russian usurers, Polish tavern keepers and Galician pawnbrokers” (Bernard Lazare, “Jews and Israelites,” 1890) rooted in unproductive commerce into workers and farmers who were to conquer their homeland for themselves through work. (Bernard Lazare was a staunch, left-anarchist Zionist from France — there were people like that in those days — who achieved some notoriety in the second half of the 19th century.) Today’s fashionable self-image is more like a carbon copy of what is commonly ascribed to the American breed of people: an innate inclination for inventive money-making and individual business initiative to go with it. How wonderfully fitting that the view has now become popular, and likewise has its political advocates especially within Likud itself and its coalition partners on the non-religious far right, that all economic ‘problems’ — from the peculiarities of the Israeli real-estate market to the condition of the national school or health system — are due to the private money economy not yet having completely conquered all areas of life. Which is, in turn, readily attributed to the laziness that people had got used to and that was state-institutionalized in the pre-Likud decades, making it all the more necessary to liberalize and cut social services further.

[15] “But we must not leave the country’s security in the hands of someone distracted and whose every security decision, even if it’s wise, will seem like another convoluted exercise to serve his personal interests.” (Haaretz, “Opinion,” May 21, 2019)


[16] Around 2011 when many Israelis were no longer willing to put up with their housing and rent situation, they actually dominated public life in Israel with their protests and demonstrations for a few days. Political leaders sat this out with essentially the same aplomb as one sees in analogous cases in other mature democracies.

Apart from that, there is only one special feature in the way the social contradictions and hardships of capitalist progress are politically assessed in Israel: how do they impact the ratio of immigration and emigration of Jews to and from Israel?

[17] The old coalition consisting of Likud, United Torah Judaism, Shas, Kulanu ("We all"), and Jewish Home essentially included the parties that Netanyahu would also like to form the new government with.

[18] The most important passages from the “Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People”:

1. Basic principles: a) The land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people, in which the State of Israel was established. b) The State of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, in which it fulfills its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination. c) The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.

2. The symbols of the state …

3. … Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel.

4. Language: a) The state’s language is Hebrew. b) The Arabic language has a special status in the state; Regulating the use of Arabic in state institutions or by them will be set in law. c) This clause does not harm the status given to the Arabic language before this law came into effect.

5. Ingathering of the exiles: The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles.

6 . Connection to the Jewish people: a) The state will strive to ensure the safety of the members of the Jewish people in trouble or in captivity due to the fact of their Jewishness or their citizenship. b) The state shall act within the Diaspora to strengthen the affinity between the state and members of the Jewish people. c) The state shall act to preserve the cultural, historical and religious heritage of the Jewish people among Jews in the Diaspora.

7. Jewish settlement: The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.

8. Official calendar … 9. Independence Day and memorial days … 10. Days of rest and Sabbath … 11. Immutability …

[19] The law was passed in the Knesset in 2018 by 62 votes to 55. The advocates of a democratic/inclusive understanding of the nation of Israel that they want to belong to are now only a minority — but a significant one for the time being. In varying degrees of radicalism, they insist that all citizens are legally and morally equal, denounce the manifold violations or expose them in the first place, and even bring off being ashamed of them.

[20] As far as discrimination goes, the most important role today is played by the centrally regulated allocation of tax money to municipalities. Localities with an Arab majority are systematically treated worse, with many Arab settlements, especially in the Negev, being altogether denied recognition of their status as municipalities entitled to state funding on the grounds that their inhabitants are Bedouins. In accordance with the poorer educational opportunities that entails, there are also fewer opportunities to find better or just normally paid jobs within the national money economy. In addition, the exemption of Arab Israelis from compulsory military service does its bit to put such beneficiaries in a worse position with regard to everything formally or informally requiring that military service has been done.

It is only the right-wing, national-religious extremists who say — and act accordingly whenever they dare — that the mere presence of Arabs on Jewish or Israeli soil is on principle violence. But this is exactly the logic also followed by all those who worry about 'demographic balance' across (almost) the entire political spectrum, a worry recognized as justified in other countries like Germany, too. No one now finds it militant, much less racist, to characterize the comparatively high birth rate among the Arab population in the Israeli heartland and occupied territories as a “demographic time bomb,” and the only way this worry is dismissed — again following this logic — is by the reassurance that the birth rates of the Arab and Jewish parts of the population are now increasingly converging.

[21] Theodor Herzl necessarily already had to deal with somehow relating to each other the two definitions of the Jewish body politic that are equated in the Nation-State Law. This he did by explaining that they are most definitely not the same thing, leading to quite fierce arguments with his Zionist contemporaries. He deliberately entitled his main work “Der Judenstaat” (which in the Hebrew version in circulation today is correctly translated as “Medinat ha-Yahudim,” while the popular English version “The Jewish State” is decidedly wrong). What he wanted was expressly “not a Hebrew state” but “a state of the Jews,” this being a place where “there is no shame in being a Jew.” In his opinion, there was no place for religious Judaism in the life of a society that was to be based on its individuals’ willful agreement and to have a state administration complying with their needs. It must be expressly separate from state life, playing the role of a tradition affirming “our historic affinity” through the “faith of our fathers.” He was out to realize the ideal form of a bourgeois state that was the state of the Jews because it liberated them from “the misery of Jews throughout the world,” finally granting them equal rights to exist in a national polity that knew only equals, as well as fulfilling all the economic and political ideals of the nation-states where not only Jews had a lot to put up with. The emblem he proposed for the new state was therefore seven stars — to symbolize that the seven-hour working day was constitutional. Religious Jews were to be welcome on the soil of the new state, but without having any state privileges with regard to their religion. Conversely, "should it come to pass that persons of other faiths or nationalities live among us, then we will accord them honorable protection and equality before the law. Tolerance we have learned in Europe …” (The Jews’ State, Overberg translation, 1997). The good man would have a hard time of it in the Israel of 2019!

[22] “Instead of turning Israel into a Jewish state they’re trying to turn it into a halakhic state” (Haaretz, October 31, 2017). Halakha is the religious body of laws of Judaism, which lays down pious living for all areas of life including the well-known dietary rules, as well as containing basic regulations for rabbis to find justice.

[23] Orthodox rabbis are only responsible for the observant Jews among Israeli citizens, however. Israel manages the contradiction between the modern, pluralistic character of a bourgeois state and its claim to be the state of the Jews also with regard to its citizens’ different religious confessions. The only democratic state in the region and outpost of modern Western Enlightenment has lifted a few key points of civil law from the millet system, which was installed in the Ottoman Empire a few centuries ago to give the Islamic Sultan a way to deal with recognized non-Islamic ethnic groups. Israel officially recognizes not only the Jewish community but also a dozen other religious communities which have to decide all questions of civil status — except ones regarding citizenship law, it goes without saying — among themselves, i.e., through their respective religious authorities. It is basically still not possible for any Israeli not to be an official member of such a community today; there are no civil or interdenominational marriages, at least none with equal status to religious ones — which obviously has consequences for the everyday lives of the persons concerned.

One of these consequences is that the people are classified by the state and themselves into various, religiously and ethnically determined parallel societies. Another is the wondrous circumstance that even within the Jewish majority population, the sorting within the civil hierarchy correlates with affiliation to certain religious communities or sub-communities. This is because the Jews’ idea of being a chosen people does not replace either the necessity or the will to get along materially. And since that used to be primarily full of privation and is now a matter of private competition, the one thing, the common bond, becomes a means and a justification for the other thing, handling the struggle to survive or compete. The first Zionist immigrants from Europe, for example — the Ashkenazim — wanted and had to set about taking agricultural possession of the land, which they could not manage on their own because they were too few and unfamiliar with agriculture. So they made use of the cheap Arabs who were living there anyway. However, this violated the principle of ‘Jewish labor,’ which was supposed to ensure that the economic utilization of the land was a means of national appropriation. This could be remedied with a little terror on the part of radical-nationalist settler troops, mainly from the “revisionist” — openly nationalist-exclusive, anti-socialist — camp, but then there was the problem of the unreasonably high price of labor that the Jewish brothers demanded, unlike the native Arabs. The solution to this nasty dilemma was augured by the next wave of immigration by completely impoverished Jews from the Arab orient, the Mizrahim. They were prepared to work as cheaply as the Arabs while fulfilling the principle of ‘Jewish labor.’ Morally, it was easy to justify how meanly the newly arrived Jewish brothers from Arab lands were treated by the then already ‘long-established’ European activists: the newcomers were destitute farmers anyway, who knew, could do, and wanted nothing else. By contrast, the Ashkenazim underwent a moral catharsis through the privations of acquiring and cultivating land out of national idealism, transitioning from cerebral, feckless European Jews – “nervous” or “Talmud Jews” – into healthy “muscular Jews” (terms coined at the time by Max Nordau, co-founder of the Zionist Organization). However, this starting point is not the reason why the practical, material differences as well as their moral justifications have not been ‘lost’ but instead continue to be reproduced to the present day — the economic and political establishment in Israel is still essentially Ashkenazi. The reason is the kind of homeland the Jews of different origins have given themselves. After all, the hierarchies of state power and of money-making first have to exist before people can take their places in them, according to whatever criteria; usually the places get worse the later one arrives. This automatically provides everyone involved with a guaranteed anti-critical point of view for complaining.

[24] No wonder he opposes this, since his particular clientele and voter base — the Jews who immigrated from the ex-Soviet Union after 1990 — would practically all fail every religious and genetic test, which is clearly the fault of the Soviet Union. Its communist administrators were stupid enough to officially divide up their people into a hundred recognized nations and even bindingly record every Soviet citizen’s affiliation with one of them on his identity card. At the same time they were — typical! — too sloppy to make sure that the recognized national minority of Jews kept to their halakhic rules for everything, including mating and reproductive behavior, and maintained their honest faith in the covenant with Jehovah in their minds and hearts. These ‘Soviet Jews’ emigrated to Israel in the millions from the bleak conditions of post-Soviet decline to seek their material happiness there, thinking themselves magnificently equipped with their good Soviet, often academic, education. Unfortunately, they came at a time when the work of building the Israeli nation had long since acquired its capitalistic purpose, so that very few of them could profit from their qualifications as doctors, engineers, and the like. A large number of them now populate the lower levels of the income hierarchy. This welds them together all the more into a community that the old-established crowd partly despise as non-Jewish, partly treat with hostility as material competition for private income and state benefits. They themselves are numerous enough to put up some resistance. They develop their own moral life, including Russian newspapers and electronic media, support each other materially when it is possible and worth it, and have their own democratic representation in the party led by Lieberman, Yisrael Beitenu (Israel Our Home). They despise the rabbis’ religiousness and the representatives and followers of the democratic elite. Vis-à-vis the latter, they aggressively insist on their privilege of belonging to this fine national collective, which they won’t be robbed of by the democratically decreed duty to come to terms with elements alien to the people.

[25] The orthodox Chief Rabbinate in Israel regularly refuses to recognize the Jewish identity of Americans who have had just this confirmed by their non-orthodox communities for the purpose of obtaining Israeli citizenship.

[26] Ayelet Shaked caused a sensation only a few years ago by being the first openly non-religious — and female to boot — Knesset member for the far-right party Ha-Bayit ha-Yehudi. Meanwhile, she says that when orthodox rabbis demand that women sit separately in the back seats of buses, the secular portion of Israeli society should not reject this out of sheer secular arrogance, this now being the same as ‘leftist’ to her. In this as in other cases, she subscribes to the method of utilizing religion strictly to benefit the national cause.

[27] Progress can be noted in this area as well. Because the men are busy with the religious studies reserved for them, a few of the ultra-orthodox are now allowing their wives to pursue gainful employment — needless to say in separate companies founded especially for them.

[28] It is by no means a disadvantage that the source materials themselves are a little ambiguous here. If we are to believe the minute takers, one time the Lord in a generous gesture let himself be carried away into handing over the land “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates” (Genesis 15:18, NJPS translation), only to later — as the prophet present that time took down — have a fit of stinginess and allot land that involved not only much less territory but also the outrageous demand “[to treat] the strangers who reside among you, who have begotten children among you, as Israelite citizens; they shall receive allotments along with you among the tribes of Israel. You shall give the stranger an allotment within the tribe where he resides” (Ezekiel 47:22–23). But of course such ambiguities only confirm that it is a purely Jewish affair to interpret them validly. The annexation of the Golan Heights is in any case fully covered by Ezekiel 47:15 ff.

[29] Herzl was initially just as open to the British government’s plan to create a ‘homeland’ for the Jews in Uganda as he was to the Argentinean variant launched and privately financed by rich Jewish philanthropists. However, because of the resistance among the Jewish delegates he presented these schemes to, they were soon off the table.

[30] Herzl wantonly neglected the question of using force that is so essential to any state-founding program. It was clear to him that the new homeland for the Jews would need an “order,” and also that this would have to be secured both domestically and externally by a “professional army.” But the most important thing he had to say about this army in the exactly four sentences he devoted to it in his book declaring his principles was that “we will know how to keep our professional army in the barracks," just as his imagined national polity will “know how to keep [our spiritual leaders] in their temples,” since both “have no say in the state.” The reason he ignored this matter was not so much the one often given, that he was unaware that there were already non-Jewish peoples living in Palestine in those days under the rule of state powers and no one was waiting for a Jewish bourgeois nation-state to be established there. It was the other way around. For him, the matter of using force was taken care of, on the one hand, by a philosophical idea legitimating state action on the model of the legal institution of “negotiorum gestio,” which he called on and interpreted for this purpose. To wit: a state-founding body (“society”), however constituted, may claim the loyalty of the Jews and recognition by other powers as their legitimate order-maintaining authority and representative because, in the absence of a ‘proper’ state, it represents the Jews living in the Diaspora who are thus unable to act as a collective people; it does so without their explicit mandate, but most definitely in their interest. On the other hand, the champion of a Jewish state found it unnecessary to deal with the question of using force above all because he considered the future “model state” of Israel to be simply an all-round blessing. It would benefit the Jews of course, who would be politically emancipated and found an ideal bourgeois community where everyone would prosper, so that enforcing order at home would be more like an educational measure for those Jews still corrupted by the conditions they were coming from. It would likewise benefit the societies they were emigrating from, because — as he often expressly affirmed — they would be rid of the economic competition of the Jews, especially on the proletarian levels of the hierarchy, and could furthermore learn how to avoid economic crises and social evils from the new, ideal “experimental country and model country.” It would benefit the local people and powers because they would be getting a boost of civilization and culture. And it would actually benefit everyone since Israel, with its location on Asia’s fringe, would serve the whole civilized world as an “outpost of culture against barbarism.” So Israel is indeed a “model country” — for the real relation between lovely ideas of the state’s order-maintaining power and its not too idyllic reality.

[31] The term “anti-Semite” came about as a self-characterization of anti-Jewish Europeans, who insisted they weren’t taking exception to the religion, which only some of the hated minority practiced anyway, and which could be eliminated by their conversion to the majority Christian religion. They were objecting to the outlandish ‘Semitic race’ they claimed to detect in Jews.

[32] For a long time, Theodor Herzl himself upheld the view that the Jews of Europe should assimilate. As a fanatical advocate of all the ideals of enlightenment and tolerance propagated by the new, bourgeois societies constituted as nation-states, he in all seriousness blamed the Jews themselves for the state they were in of being hated and ostracized by the national majority societies. But in view of his own case and prominent other ones — e.g., the notorious Dreyfus affair — he came to think it was likely not the Jews’ unwillingness to assimilate to the point of disappearing that earned them their compatriots’ hostility or even deadly hatred after all; and he drew the exact opposite conclusion.

[33] Destroying the Arabs’ fields and olive groves or orchards is still today one of the weapons used by settlers in the occupied territories. Apart from these archaic practices — so popular among settler activists — there are much more effective methods for the same purpose, however, which derive from the exemplary modern way the Israeli state has opened up and administers the territory. What is particularly relevant here is the partly technical, partly legal restriction of access to water and irrigation systems, which is fatal for agriculture on arid soil.

[34] Israel Zangwill, another Zionist pioneer and contemporary of Herzl, Jabotinsky, and Weizmann, wrote with commendable clarity in 1921: “And if Lord Shaftesbury [a 19th century English protagonist of the ‘Restoration of Israel’] was literally inexact in describing Palestine as a country without a people, he was essentially correct, for there is no Arab people living in intimate fusion with the country, utilizing its resources and stamping it with a characteristic impress: there is at best an Arab encampment, the break-up of which would throw upon the Jews the actual manual labor of regeneration, and prevent them from exploiting the fellahin, whose numbers and lower wages are moreover a considerable obstacle to the proposed immigration from Poland and other suffering Jewish centers” (Zangwill, The Voice of Jerusalem). This programmatic statement incidentally also makes it clear that anti-Zionists are wrong to characterize Zionism or Israeli state policy towards the resident Arabs as ‘apartheid,’ this being a form of genuine racism commonly recognized to be evil. While it is true that Israeli Arabs in the heartland and Arabs living in the West Bank have been used as cheap labor in the settlements wherever expedient, the agenda has never been to base the economy on the availability and utilization of an ethnically defined crew of laborers of the lowest value, as in white South Africa. As already mentioned, the corresponding distinctions within the Jewish people of Israel have always done the trick.

[35] One of the big-time Zionist leaders of the early days — Chaim Weizmann — once put it this way: “The British told us that there are some hundred thousand kushim and for those there is no value” (comment to Arthur Ruppin, head of the colonization department of the Jewish Agency). The Hebrew ‘kushi’ is situated semantically somewhere between ‘Negro’ and ‘nigger.’

[36] So similar in fact that for some time the U.S. foreign-policy establishment feared that Israel might turn out to be just another of the socialist aberrations that were already happening far too often for American taste while the globe was being decolonized, especially since the Soviet Union was most firmly supporting Israel’s independence.

[37] “You are not part of the community of Israel … You are not partners in the Zionist enterprise. You are a foreign implant. You are an errant weed. Sensible Judaism spits you out. … You are a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism” (Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, quoted in the New York Times, March 1, 1994).

[38] With its need for weapons, the state finances a national industry that not only equips it with the desired highest grade use-values but is also capitalistically profitable. This unproductive expenditure of wealth results not only in private enrichment but also actually contributes to increasing national wealth. This is ensured firstly by the nice effect that diligence and ingenuity when it comes to technically sophisticated military equipment is also useful for civilian production at a competitive level; secondly, by the export of armaments, which has a direct positive effect on the nation’s trade balance; and thirdly, by the fact that the USA finances a considerable part of Israel’s arms production. By selling its products all over the world, the Israeli arms industry not only supplies the country with foreign currency, it also makes a significant contribution to Israel’s ability to draw other states into cooperative relations with it. Because the immediate radius of its imperialist reach and associated intentions to appropriate and subordinate other states has so far covered essentially the Middle East, Israel’s arms export policy can address the needs of more remote nations quite freely from the point of view of what is to be gained by way of money and good relations. That is why, in sub-Saharan Africa, ex-Soviet Central Asia, through India as far as East Asia, Israel enjoys a reputation as an agreeably uncomplicated supplier that sells the goods without any claim to dictating how they may be used.

[39] “We also want to ... maintain the deterrent capability, image, and capabilities of the Israeli defense forces as an unpredictable adversary, capable of reacting in the most dangerous way at any time” (Gadi Eisenkot, Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces from 2015 to 2019). Since the first major successes of the Israeli army it has been a matter of course in the calculations of politicians and the military that the strategy of deterrence may be effective against states but not against “substate enemies,” who are not intimidated by being inferior to Israel. Which can be expressed like this: “We cannot prevent the murder of workers in orange groves or of families in their beds. But we can put a very high price on their blood, a price so high that it will no longer be worthwhile for the Arabs, the Arab army, for the Arab states to pay it” (Moshe Dayan). Or like this: “Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us” (a bon mot attributed to Golda Meir, e.g., in A Land of Our Own : An Oral Autobiography (1973) edited by Marie Syrkin).

[40] In Judea and Samaria, the settlers and their activism have made a big contribution to this learning process for Israeli imperialism. Despite their fundamentalism, which often put them in opposition to civil and military state institutions, they were sure — as it turned out, quite rightly — that it was ultimately imperative from the standpoint of state calculation as well to permanently and totally take over the territories once they were conquered:

“This was our strategy: not to bang our heads against the wall but rather the opposite, to drag out the action so that in the end it would be accepted when the moment was propitious. We always knew how to use the time factor in the democratic game. Timing is always important to us, because the amplitude of time worked to our benefit. They simply got used to the facts on the ground” (Rabbi Levinger, one of the spiritual leaders of Gush Emunim, quoted in Lords of the Land: The War for Israel's Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007, by Idith Zertal & Akiva Eldar, Nation Books, 2007). The truth of this “getting used to” was of course much less passive than the good rabbi would like to acknowledge. In actual fact, the Israeli state did not reluctantly get used to the conditions created by the settlers and bow to the might of the status quo or to God’s will, but consistently found these conditions useful for a policy of dominance as a recognized regional power, secured them with its force, and sanctioned them with its law, i.e., actually made them what they have been ever since: ‘facts’ sanctioned by the highest earthly power.

The number of settlers on the West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem) now exceeds 300,000. They have long since ceased to be soldier-farmers engaged in tilling the soil and shooting, but also work in the now numerous industrial parks, are linked by infrastructure to the heartland, and contribute to the GDP.

[41] The official military doctrine today defines periods without proper war as phases “between wars.” The yardstick for their successful handling matches: “The rationale behind the use of force in CBW [Campaign between Wars] is to maintain and enhance the achievements of the previous campaign in a series of secondary goals and objectives designed to prevent war: A. To weaken the components of the negative forces. B. Minimize the enemies’ abilities to strengthen themselves. C. Create optimal conditions for victory in a future war. D. Create legitimacy for Israeli action and deny a legitimate basis for the enemy’s action" (Official Strategy of the Israeli Defense Forces. Translated from the Hebrew by the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, August 2016).

[42] Netanyahu on the strategy for the 2014 Gaza war: “I have not ruled out the idea of bringing down Hamas, but in light of the accumulation of challenges that exist in the Middle East, it was decided to [only] inflict a harsh blow on Hamas … Why should I [send troops] inside, when I can crush them from the air … ? True, Hamas remains there, but they are crushed, they are isolated and they can’t smuggle weapons … and we have created an opportunity – nothing certain, but an opportunity – for long-term quiet … If they renew their fire, we’ll hit them with all our might” (cited in Yagil Henkin, “A High Price for our Blood: Israel’s Security Doctrines,” The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, 2018).

His subaltern strategic thinkers second that with considerations such as this: “There are four reasons for such a decision [not to ‘pulverize’ Hamas]. The most obvious one is the blood-price that Israel would have to pay for conquering the Strip, and the problems involved in ruling over it with a military government. These considerations and worries have accompanied Israel ever since the Disengagement [in 2005]; even those who opposed the Disengagement are very wary about re-assuming the reins over Gaza today. The second reason for concern is the possibility that an even more extremist group (than Hamas) would rise to power; this option often comes up in the Israeli discourse. The third reason, less talked about, is the fact that Israeli conquest of the Strip would trigger pressure on Israel to transfer the Strip to the Palestinian Authority. And in fact, this proposal was brought up and then duly rejected. The fourth reason is that by leaving a weakened Hamas in power, Israel could try to impose its dictates on the ruling power in Gaza. If Israel would transfer the Strip to the Palestinian Authority, this would create one Palestinian entity in Gaza and in Judea-Samaria instead of the two rival groups. And this would probably cause the PA to intensify its pressure on Israel” (Henkin, op. cit.).

[43] It is telling in this respect the way intellectuals make progress assimilating their nation’s acts of violence: they spiritedly debate this subject, adding their own fine angles. One of these has for some time been a special ‘dispute among historians’ revolving around the truth or falsehood of a few founding myths and ‘narratives,’ especially from the time when the state was actually being founded, and reveals quite a bit about both the field of history in general and its place in the intellectual life of a nation permanently engaged in war. A particularly prominent role has been played here by the historian Benny Morris. He entered the debate as a ‘left-wing’ scholar, becoming known when his research proved that in the course of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 there were expulsions of Arabs in actual fact and on a larger scale, along with a few massacres, rapes and the like on the part of the more or less official Israeli formations, and father figure Ben-Gurion knew about it. This was a disgrace for a modern, bourgeois Israel in his eyes at the time of his first publications on the subject. When Israel increasingly became the object of Palestinian terrorist attacks after the failure of the ‘Oslo process,’ Morris kept to his factual findings but reversed his assessment of them in a way that was exemplary for the logic of his profession and national morality in general: “The bombing of the buses and restaurants really shook me. They made me understand the depth of the hatred for us. They made me understand that the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim hostility toward Jewish existence here is taking us to the brink of destruction. I don’t see the suicide bombings as isolated acts. They express the deep will of the Palestinian people. That is what the majority of the Palestinians want. They want what happened to the bus to happen to all of us” (Haaretz, 2004). And if one takes the incompatible and therefore violent relation between nationally sorted peoples for granted only as culture-bound hate that the other side just happens to have, then all current Arab use of force against Israel appears to be quite clearly the result of Israel’s deficient use of force against the Arabs at that time. This definitely condones the force that Israel used against the Palestinians at that time: “Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here. … There is no justification for acts of rape. There is no justification for acts of massacre. Those are war crimes. But in certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don’t think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands. ... A society that aims to kill you forces you to destroy it. If you have to choose between destroying and being destroyed, it’s better to destroy” (ibid.). The assumption of basically groundless hate on the other side also justifies the unfortunately belated advice that Ben-Gurion should have pushed ahead with total expulsion of all Arabs from the whole of present-day Israel from the start. This too is a way of clarifying the trinity of the necessity, usefulness and higher justification of the nation’s use of force as a historian looking back and forward again. It is the academic version of the prevalent thinking taught to be totally unforgiving and of its rather simple wisdom that the successful use of force proves it is right.

[44] Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid, which these days amounts to between three and five billion US dollars per year (apparently there are different ways of counting). As a “major non-NATO ally” it has privileged access to American high technology in the military and civilian sectors. Unlike all other recipients of American military aid in the form of money, Israel is allowed to use a considerable part of the handed-out dollars for purchases from its own armaments factories, which is tantamount to the US subsidizing the Israeli armaments industry. In the civilian sector, Israel and the USA have numerous cooperation agreements in the area of “key” and “future technologies.” The first free trade agreement — a model for all the later ones — was concluded between the USA and Israel in the 1980s. One special feature is the generous exemptions it provides — even today — for Israeli agriculture, which stays protected by high tariffs from American competition. A number of pro-Israeli lobbying associations are actively involved in forming opinion within the political establishment. In particular the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) boasts of being one of the lobbying groups in Washington that is most effective on the Republican and Democratic sides, listing on its website all the American policy that it attributes to its own influence.

[45] Mollet said this immediately after admitting defeat in the Suez War in November, 1956: “Je leur dois la bombe… Il faut faire contrepoids à l'Égypte. La masse qui fait contrepoids, c'est Israël avec la bombe…” (cited in the book Les Deux Bombes [The Two Bombs] by journalist Pierre Péan, 1983)

[46] “The message from the 2007 attack on the [Syrian] reactor is that Israel will not tolerate construction that can pose an existential threat. This was the message in 1981, this is the message in 2007 and this is the future message to our enemies.” (Military chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Israeli military statement, March 18, 2018)

[47] In the early 1980s, Israel bombed a nuclear reactor under construction in Iraq, which at the time led to unease with the USA. In 2007 a similar action took place in Syria.

[48] Below the threshold of such military incursions, which it reserves the right to carry out, Israel pursues a strategy of sabotage against the Iranian nuclear program. This includes targeted killings of Iranian nuclear scientists; it is at least considered likely that Israel co-authored the cyber attack on an Iranian nuclear enrichment plant.

[49] In 2008, the Obama administration even codified Israel’s superiority in the region as a legally binding instruction. In the Naval Vessel Transfer Act it commits itself to make sure any arms cooperation with another power in the region does not impair Israel’s “qualitative military edge” (QME). The law defines QME as “the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors.” (PUBLIC LAW 110–429—OCT. 15, 2008)

[50] “Israel and the United States have been quietly discussing the prospect of ending military assistance to the Jewish state. Diplomatic sources said Israel and the United States have broached options of reducing defense aid to the Jewish state. At bilateral meetings, they said, participants from both countries agreed that Israel no longer needed formal U.S. military assistance. ‘We love to get it, and our finance minister would probably kill me if he heard me say this, but we could get along without it,’ former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens said. Arens, who was defense minister three times in the 1980s and 1990s, has long advocated Israel’s military independence. He told a parliament caucus on U.S.-Israel relations that Jerusalem could no longer rely on the current $3.2 billion in annual aid as the United States underwent the worst financial crisis since 1929. ‘The United States is going through a financial crisis with debts in the trillions of dollars,’ Arens said. ‘We would be unhappy to find that aid is being cut, but we could survive without it.’ Members of the American delegation to the Knesset Caucus on Israel-U.S. Relations agreed. They said U.S. aid, despite the pledges of President Barack Obama, might no longer serve Israel’s interests. ‘We may be reaching a point that after discussion of how to assure the security and intelligence cooperation, we can actually phase out the security assistance,’ former U.S. ambassador Dan Kurtzer said. Kurtzer said U.S. military aid represents only a tiny fraction of Israel’s gross development product and 1.5 percent of the overall state budget. He said a more feasible alternative was guaranteeing Israeli access to U.S. technology. Israeli parliamentarians on the caucus have been uneasy with the discussions. They said U.S. military aid prevented Israel from slipping in the current Middle East arms race, which included Iran and Syria. ‘At least in the next 10 years I can see Israel totally dependent on America for this,’ parliamentarian Nachman Shai, a member of the opposition Labor Party, said.” (“Arens argues U.S. military aid no longer serves Israel’s interests,”, June, 2013.)

[51] Cf. “Donald Trump and the world” in issue 2-17 and “Anmerkungen zur Kündigung des Atomabkommens mit Iran durch D. Trump” (“Remarks on D. Trump’s termination of the nuclear agreement with Iran,”) in issue 2-18 of this journal, untranslated.

[52] For more, see the article “Trumps ‘America first!’ im Fall Syrien,” (“Trump’s ‘America first!’ in the case of Syria”) in issue 1-19 of this journal, untranslated.

[53] This is the official wording used by relevant US government authorities.

[54] This is criticized most strongly by the US because the US military lays claim to Haifa as port of call for its Sixth Fleet: “In discussions with Israeli ministers and other officials, the Americans have raised the specter of China exploiting its ties with Israel to boost its strategic position, and to acquire sensitive intelligence and classified technology. The conversations have included Chinese activity at Israeli sites like the Haifa and Ashdod ports, the Tel Aviv light rail and the Carmel tunnels. Some of the conversations became unusually heated. One senior Israeli official told Haaretz last year that U.S. officials “blew up at us” over the Chinese issue. During his visit to Israel in January, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton mentioned Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE and their establishing of a presence in Israel. In a separate exchange last year, American officials told their Israeli counterparts that the United States could not be friends with a country for which China was building ports. They mentioned another country, not Israel, but Jerusalem got the hint.” (Haaretz, June 14, 2019)

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