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David versus Goliath?
Israel likes to portray itself as a tiny island surrounded by a hostile sea of Arab states.
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2003 21:07 GMT
The Palestinians are bogging down Israel in a war of attrition
Israel likes to portray itself as a tiny island surrounded by a hostile sea of Arab states.

According to Zionist myth, plucky little Israel has survived more than 50 years against the odds.

 

But, in reality, there is a huge difference between Israel's high-tech, multi-billion dollar army and the cash-starved, lightly armed Palestinians.

 

Given this disparity no one could plausibly argue this is an even fight.

 

However, despite the overwhelming odds there are signs one day the Israeli giant may be slain.

 

Death toll

 

At least 2700 Palestinians have been killed by the Israelis since the start of the al-Aqsa Intifada in October 2001.*

 

The vast majority of those killed have been civilians.
Meanwhile, 795 Israelis have been killed in the violence, a large proportion of them soldiers.

 

The clear disparity in the number of deaths can be easily explained by the military and economic gap between Israel and the Palestinians.

 

The Israeli military boasts sophisticated ground, naval, and air components, including tanks and F-16 fighter jets.

 

Military gap

 

It can call on up to three million trained soldiers and has an annual budget of around $8.97 billion.

 

In comparison, the Palestinians have no real military arsenal to speak of, and the world refuses to supply them with defensive arms.

 

The military capability gap becomes more glaring when the financial muscle of the two combatants is compared. 

 

Israel has been getting around $3bn a year in aid from the United States since the 1970s.

 

"Don't forget, in the long-term the outcome of this conflict isn't about how many Palestinians die, it is about how many Israelis die. The Israelis can't fight or match the willingness of the Palestinian people to sacrifice their lives"

 

Azzam Tamimi,

Institute of Islamic Political Thought

It is a vital subsidy, more so than ever now the Israeli government has cut its spending to stop the budget deficit getting out of control.

 

US financial aid

 

On top of this, billions of dollars are raised from a variety of foreign Jewish and non-Jewish institutions to sustain the Israeli war machine.

 

In fact, without external aid Israel's economy would require severe cutbacks in living standards and working conditions.

 

This would lead to the likely flight of many Israeli professionals, businessmen and overseas immigrants.

 

The Israeli military budget would also have to be reduced and Israel would be obliged to scale down its military interventions in the Occupied Territories.

 

On the other hand, the Palestinian economy is barely worth a mention.

 

Palestinian poverty

 

According to the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, as a result of Israel's restrictions during the first few months of the al-Aqsa Intifada the average Palestinian household income fell by almost 50%.

 

During the same period, unemployment rose to 38%, and the percentage of families living below the poverty line rose to 64%.

 

"The sweeping restrictions on freedom of movement that Israel has imposed since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada are the principal cause of deterioration of the Palestinian economy and the unprecedented increase in unemployment and poverty in the Occupied Territories," B'Tselem concluded.

 

But despite these overwhelming odds, Palestinian academic Azzam Tamimi believes the Palestinians are succeeding in bogging down Israel in a war of attrition.

 

He said: "The Israelis have historically always benefitted from foreign support to bolster their military. First of all, the British army armed the Jewish militias, then it was the Russians and the Americans.

 

Jerusalem: The most dangerous
place in the world for Jews to live
 

Human bombs

 

"But despite the military gap we must not forget the disparity of numbers killed used to be much larger. The difference used to be one to 10 but now the Palestinians have got the ratio down to nearly one to three. This is a significant achievement."

 

And Tamimi, director of London's Institute of Islamic Political Thought, said one Palestinian war tactic the Israelis have no answer to is the human bomb. 

 

"Many people criticise these operations but the Palestinians have no other option," he said.

 

"The Israelis have tanks, F-16s, jet fighters and collaborators. The Palestinians can’t match that. Where is the morality when British or American citizens can join the Israeli army but it is considered illegal to send money to take care of a Palestinian orphan?"

 

Jewish immigration

 

He added: "Don't forget, in the long-term the outcome of this conflict isn't about how many Palestinians die, it is about how many Israelis die. The Israelis can't fight or match the willingness of the Palestinian people to sacrifice their lives."

 

And Tamimi believes this war of attrition may even spell the end of the Israeli state.

 

"Immigration to Israel is at a standstill. In fact, Israel has become the most dangerous place in the world for Jews to live. This is one of the greatest accomplishments of the Intifada. 

 

"Israel will probably last another 25 years but its has a real demographic problem and ultimately this will be its downfall."

Source:
Aljazeera + Agencies
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