This document is to the best of our knowledge published here for the first time.
Transcribed by Daniel Rubinstein.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for REDS – Die Roten.
The landslide victory of Sharon over the “Labor” party candidate Barak represents a new step in the development of the crisis provoked by the outbreak of the new Intifada. No matter what the political analysts say, the Likud leader acts within the constraints imposed by imperialism and by the present crisis of the Zionist parties caused by the estrangement of the Palestinians living in Israel from their traditional leadership.
Those who supported Barak from the left, including the followers of Arafat, tried to justify their position by arguing that it was a support for the “lesser evil”. Of course, they are unable to explain how Barak brought Sharon, and why Sharon tries to resuscitate Barak by making him part of a “national unity” government.
The Barak supporters, both Jews and Arabs, have made Sharon’s personality responsible for the future war in the Middle East. Sharon is certainly a war criminal responsible, among other things, for the massacre at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in 1982 – though it is important to remember that it was the “Labor” party government which invaded Lebanon in 1975. But it is not necessary to go that far to see that it was the “Labor” party policy which produced hundreds of dead and tens of thousands wounded during the last months (including more than a dozen Palestinian “citizens” of Israel), the closure of the Palestinian towns in the West Bank and Gaza, the starvation of the population, massive unemployment, etc. The election of Sharon is the consequence of the present situation and not its cause.
In his electoral campaign Barak has tried to present himself as a continuator of Begin, who signed a peace treaty with Egypt and dismantled the Jewish settlements in the Sinai peninsula. Sharon, on the other hand, tried to show himself as the continuator of Rabin. The truth is that both candidates are right.
Sharon and Barak represent different faces of the Zionist bourgeoisie, and play a Bonapartist role between its interests and the pressures of imperialism to reach a “peace agreement” which would ensure stability to businessmen in the Middle East. That is the reason for the fall of Barak, as it was for the fall of Netanyahu a year and a half ago and for the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
Sharon wants a Palestinian Bantustan in 42% of the Occupied Territories, while Barak offered the Palestinians 90% of that the West Bank and Gaza. But on the major issues (the denial of he right of return to the 3.5 million Palestinian refugees and the maintenance of a racist Zionist state acting as the regional cop of imperialism in the Middle East) both are in complete agreement. In this fundamental sense both are equally responsible for the present massacre and for the future wars which threaten the lives, not only of the Palestinians, but also of the Jewish inhabitants of the region.
Both are fervent supporters of the “free market”, including the privatization of large sectors of the economy and the freezing of wages. Both support the signing of “peace agreements” with the neighboring countries such as Jordan and Egypt with the aim of transferring major industrial branches to those countries, where wage levels are much lower.
Sharon has momentarily swept to power as a result of the failure of the Oslo agreements to achieve to surrender to the Palestinian masses – in spite of all the efforts of their direction. But once in power Sharon will be forced to act in a Bonapartist fashion in order to preserve the economic and military links with imperialism, which are vital for the Israeli bourgeoisie.
The high levels of abstention in the present elections were due, first of all, to the massacre of Palestinians both outside and inside the Green Line by the Israeli army and police, and secondly, to the fact that the election took place between the “third and fourth most popular candidates”. Barak and Sharon were able to block the candidature of Peres and Netanyahu because of the law for the direct election of Prime Minister, which was originally meant to reduce the influence of the political parties and the Parliament on the government by strengthening the executive – i.e. a Bonapartist measure aimed at stabilizing the Zionist regime. This law has left the party and state apparatuses in the hands of a couple of individuals, which has contributed to the alienation of the people from the political process – hence the concern of large sectors of the Zionist bourgeoisie, which now want the abrogation of the law.
All the Zionist politicians know that the recent elections are a first step towards the next ones (whether they are general or not), which will be convoked the moment the “peace process” leads to another crisis; hence the attempts to fortify the government by setting up a “national unity” government of the major Zionist parties.
The “Labor” party is in the midst of a deep internal crisis. Barak presented his resignation immediately after the results of the elections were announced, but two days later he assumed the role of negotiator with the Likud, and according to the latest news has accepted the post of Minister of Defense in the Sharon government. Several leading figures in the “Labor” party have presented themselves as alternatives to Barak, threatening to split the party, while others have retired from political life. The Likud, also threatened with a split by the Netanyahu supporters, is not in a much better condition. For the time being Sharon has received the support of Bush, Barak and ... Arafat, who went out of his way to congratulate him for his victory and express his readiness to renew the “peace process”.
The Zionist left is in a state of total bankruptcy. Meretz and “Peace Now”, which directly or indirectly supported the brutal repression of the Palestinians, called to vote for Barak. The Israeli Communist Party Hadash (the initials for “Democratic Front for Peace and Equality”) refused to present an independent candidate representing the oppressed Palestinian minority in Israel, waiting till the last moment for an opportunity to support Barak or Peres (especially the signature of a new agreement with Arafat, which failed to materialize). Finally it was forced by its rank-and-file to issue a call to put a blank ballot. The same is true of the Arab parties within Israel. Smaller organizations were prevented from presenting candidates by the anti-democratic Israeli electoral law, which requires tens of thousands of signatures and more than ten thousand dollars to present a candidate if he is not already a member of Parliament, and in addition forbids any organization calling to abolish the Jewish character of the state to take part in the elections.
The blank vote and abstention thus became the center of the campaign of the left organizations. Among the Arabs, only 18% of the population voted and of these 20% put a blank vote. The Abnaa El-Balad (“Sons of the Country”) movement formed a popular committee for the abstention which was highly successful, especially the Galilee and the North of the country. The massive abstention of the Palestinian electorate signals a new stage in the rupture of the Arab masses within Israel with the Zionist regime, which was described in the local press as “the declaration of independence of the Arabs in Israel” – though in order to fructify politically this development still has to lead to the construction of a new organization independent from the traditional Zionist and Arab parties.
Very few analysts have remarked that the elections in Israel have taken place in the context of a prolonged strike of public employees. In spite of the policy of the Histadrut and of the blackmail of the Zionist politicians (which called the Jewish workers “to unite against the common enemy”, i.e. the Palestinians), the strike included relatively wide layers of the working class such as the employees of the Interior Ministry, the airports, the university teachers, etc. The strikers demanded a wage rise of 16%, which is equal to the one that the MPs, ministers and high functionaries of the state granted themselves before the election (this rise in wages averages 700 dollars, a sum equal to the minimum wage received by most state employees).
It is clear that large sections of the Jewish working class and unemployed voted for Sharon, but is would be a mistake to conclude from this that they has been completely swept away by chauvinism. An unusually high level of abstention (100% higher than in the previous election) was also registered among the left-wing and working-class Jews. This indicates that there is a political vacuum among the left and the workers, which has not been capitalized because of the absence of an organization with a Marxist program.
A meeting, which took place shortly after the elections between the representative of the employers’ organizations and Sharon in his farm North of the Negev desert, left the former extremely satisfied. Sharon promised to continue with the program of privatizations and state subsidies to industry, reduce taxes in capital, strengthen the economic links with international finance capital, and support the transference of more industries to the neighboring Arab countries, where the labor force is extremely cheap. It is important to remark that these capitalists also financed the campaign of the “Labor” party, which shows that from the point of view of the class interests they serve there is also no difference between it and the Likud.
The crisis opened by the Intifada and the elections in Israel has affected also the Palestinian Authority. Even the Mossad agrees that Arafat finds it extremely difficult to control wide sections of the Fatah and the Tanzim who wish to continue the Intifada. The pressure of the population on the Arafat regime is very great, and the removal of several ministers and functionaries blamed for corruption is under discussion. It is this pressure which for the time being does not enable Arafat to renounce the right of return to the refugees and consolidate the regime of apartheid imposed by Zionism and American imperialism. His futile attempts to find support among the Arab regimes show that these are irrevocably compromised with imperialism and terribly frightened by the possibility of a massive uprising at a regional level.
The revolt of the Palestinian masses thus finds a deformed expression in organizations which carry out guerrilla actions against the army and the settlers and – what is much more counterproductive – against the civilian population in Israel. The Fatah increasingly relies on the UN, the EU and the USA to provide it with money and act as intermediaries in order to reach an agreement with Israel.
The challenge for the anti-Zionist left in Palestine is to combine the national and democratic struggle of the Palestinian masses with the struggle against exploitation of the Jewish and Arab workers both within Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza. The perspective of a secular, democratic and socialist republic in the whole territory of historic Palestine and of a socialist federation in the Middle East offers the only way out of the crisis for the working masses of the region.
Member of the Organization Militants for the IV International
Last updated on 4.8.2001