x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Galilee is a taste of Israeli apartheid

The condition of Arab-Israelis in Negev and Galilee helps us clearly understand why a two-state solution is necessary.

Whatever faint prospect that a one-state solution could be in any way acceptable to the Palestinians can be dismissed simply by looking at Israel’s recent conduct in Galilee and the Negev. In both the far north and far south of the nation, Arab Israelis are finding themselves cast in the role of second-class citizens compared to their Jewish compatriots, who receive generous financial benefits to settle in the two regions.

The World Zionist Organisation’s Settlement Division, an executive branch of the Israeli government, has declared that the proportion of Arabs in Galilee is too high. The Israeli daily Haaretz said this imbalance would be addressed by creating new towns and expanding existing ones beyond the limits set in the development master plans. Meanwhile, Arab Israelis are finding themselves unable to expand their own towns.

In the Negev, the displacement of the Bedouins includes the demolition of supposedly “unofficial” villages which were in place hundreds of years before Zionism was founded as a movement.

This is a taste of what could happen on the West Bank. With every new Jewish settlement on occupied Palestinian land, the prospect of two separate and viable states for the Israelis and the Palestinians becomes inexorably less likely.

The Israeli government knows full well that if the two-state solution eventually collapses and a one-state outcome emerges by default, it will have to choose between being a Jewish state or a democratic one.

The developments in Galilee and the Negev suggest which way events are likely to go if that occurs, and that Israel will become, in effect, an apartheid state with the best land and a disproportionate share of resources, such as water, given to the Jewish population.

By going down this route, the prospects for Israeli Arabs and the Palestinians will be bleak. It certainly seems the direction in which the Netanyahu government is headed.

But Israel needs to be aware that there is a sea-change underway in world attitudes to its actions in the territories and within Israel itself. The UN and the EU are increasingly outspoken in their criticisms and even the US doesn’t seem quite so attentive to the Israeli lobby.

All this ought to add Israeli impetus to the peace negotiations that are still – at least nominally – continuing with the Palestinians.