|Expansion of settlements remains a priority, but the focus since the 1990s has been on strengthening settlements already built [EPA]|
In light of the Netanyahu-Lieberman coalition’s newly proposed (or passed) laws that target the Jewish state’s Arab minority, increasing attention is being paid to the discrimination and hate speech faced by Israel’s Palestinian citizens. Issues like the struggle of ‘unrecognised’ villages, and phenomena like the ‘don’t rent to Arabs’ rabbis’ letter, for example, are being covered by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, international media, and even the UK Foreign Office.
The bigger picture, however, is being missed. Many of the proposed or recently passed bills were initiated before the current coalition sat down in the Knesset; simply blaming figures like Avigdor Lieberman for these developments is not correct. This post-2000 trend has been further accelerated, and represents a manifestation of the kind of ethno-religious discrimination that has shaped the Israeli state’s relationship with its Palestinian minority since 1948.
Furthermore, few are making the connection between what happens on both sides of the Green Line: there is more than just pointing to the parallels between policies like home demolitions and ‘Judaisation’ that take place inside both pre-1967 Israel and the occupied West Bank.
By the end of the 1990s, Israel had, to a large extent, reached the limit of possible significant expansion and colonisation in the Occupied Territories. This is not to deny the acts of expropriation and settlement growth that continue to occur; but when comparing the rate of colonisation that took place in the 1970s-90s, there has clearly been a dramatic slowing down.
Demise of the Green Line
In other words, for the last decade, Israel has focused less on expansion, and more on the consolidation of the existing colonies, cementing (literally) the apartheid regime over Palestinians. This fine-tuning is the mechanism and infrastructure of control; it was also a key part of the context for the Gaza policy of redeployment and siege.
As the expansionist drive exhausts itself in the West Bank, the gaze turns inwards, to the ‘unfinished’ war of 1948, and the project of Judaising the Galilee and Negev. A good example of that linkage is Ariel Sharon’s description, in a letter to President Bush, of the ‘disengagement’ plan in 2005 as “context” for bringing “new opportunities to the Negev and Galilee“.
The Green Line has not been considered a border in any meaningful sense by the Israeli state since 1967. Annexation and colonisation commenced more or less immediately, and methods used to expropriate land in the Occupied Territories were similar to those previously deployed against the state’s Palestinian minority post-1948 and through the 1950s.
This ‘erasure’ of the Green Line – both physical and political – has been continued and accelerated by the Netanyahu-Lieberman government, and well past a point of no return.
The demise of the ‘peace process’ means the final rites are also being read for the ‘two state solution’, even if some are still repeating that it is merely ‘almost’ dead. The different ‘offers’ made by various Israeli leaders share the same substance: the Green Line is irrelevant. The Palestinian “state” will exist as a non-sovereign reservation surrounded by Israeli-controlled territory.
In parallel, there is overt incitement against Israel’s Palestinian minority, who are described as an ‘enemy’ or a ‘threat’: MK Haneen Zoubi is told in the Knesset to ‘go to Gaza’, while Lieberman proposes denationalising Palestinian citizens in a ‘land swap’. Netanyahu says Israel must be recognised as a ‘Jewish state’, and Kadima’s Tzipi Livni says that the creation of a Palestinian “state” means telling the state’s minority, “the national solution for you is elsewhere.”
With the irrelevance of the Green Line, what we are left with is a de facto one state: from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, the Israeli state maintains a regime that grants or denies different privileges to different groups.
Politicians, policy-makers, and campaigners need to catch up with the reality on the ground.
Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer, specialising in Palestine and Israel. His first book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, was published by Pluto Press in 2009, receiving praise from the likes of Desmond Tutu, Nur Masalha and Ghada Karmi.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.