Developments in 2017 have once again brought into focus the one-state reality taking hold on the ground in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). The Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) has remained dormant since the collapse of the last round of US-backed talks under President Obama in Spring 2014. In the meantime, Israel (with US acquiescence) has moved further away from Palestinian negotiating positions and the internationally endorsed final status parameters meant to frame a final agreement.
During the 20th century, Israel's military and strategic posture was designed to cope with the existential threats posed by its Arab neighbors, alongside an intermittent series of low-intensity campaigns against irregular guerilla forces perched on its borders. However, the changing geo-strategic realities of the region in the aftermath of the "Arab Spring" have turned preconceived notions within the regional system on its head.
The notion that Israel is the only true parliamentary democracy in the Middle East is supported by several fundamental markers: separate status and autonomy of the three powers: the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary; elections regularly held according to a pre-established calendar; a large number of political parties competing for office; and last but not least, periodic alternation of the main political parties
What’s new in Israeli politics? "Nothing, really", seems to be the most agreed-upon analysis of the current political or ideological trends. Seventy years in the life of a nation is nothing, especially when many seem to agree that the nation-state as we know it today is a failing entity with little to no future.
As the State of Israel enters its 70s, it is in very good shape: economic growth is sound and steady, and the country is a member of the OECD club (since 2010). In addition, it seems to have overcome its 70 years’ of wearing conflict with the Palestinians – the enemy from within – who finally laid down their weapons on the Hamas side. However, on May 14, a new mass return or Nakba march is scheduled, which has already been staged each Friday since last March 30.
It is fair to say that what is going on in Gaza, the Palestinian “Great March of Return”, was for Hamas a kind of calculated propaganda: a way to make sense of its own political life. It is also fair to assert that its permanent, low-intensity war against Israel – meaning a sort of national collective suicide – is the only way the Islamist organisation has to show its power in the Strip. To a great extent, the unnecessary death of dozens of young Palestinians is a cynical power play carried out by Hamas.
In 1890 the Austrian journalist Nathan Birnbaum (1864-1937) was the first one to use the word Zionism, in the pages of the journal Selbst-Emanzipation! [Self-Emancipation!]. But it was another journalist, Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), who was born in Budapest and had lived in Vienna for several years, to make Zionism a more widely known concept.
Since 1948, Israel has been striving to legitimize its presence in the Levant while the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has prevented the normalization of Arab-Israeli relations. One of its existential preoccupations has been to protect its territory from external threats emanating potentially from Arab armies, non-state armed groups spreading throughout the Middle East and more recently from Iran and its allies.
Of the many formidable foreign policy questions facing Israel as it celebrates its 70th anniversary, the most auspicious is how the Jewish State should adapt to a multipolar world. The urgency to answer this question has accelerated in recent days. President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the US from the Iran deal – applauded by Israeli leadership – will, over time, force Israel to develop cooperative relationships with non-traditional partners in order to meet its regional security objectives.