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Middle East - Edging closer to all-out war
FOR THE first time since the start of eight-month-long second Intifada, Israeli air-force F16 jets were used to bomb targets in the Palestinian Authority killing ten Palestinians in the process.
This has enraged the Arab masses across the Middle East and pushes the region closer to an all-out war.
The F-16 operation followed a bombing attack by a Hamas suicide bomber in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya that killed five Israeli Jews. Hamas, on claiming responsibility for this attack, said that the bombing was in response to the killing of five Palestinian policemen by the Israeli Defence Force a few days before described by Israeli officials as a "security mistake".
Recent indications by representatives of US imperialism that behind the scenes negotiations - based on a cessation of violence and the recommendations of the US-sponsored Mitchell Commission leading to a new "peace" agreement - have been literally pounded into rubble.
The last eight months has graphically shown that capitalism can provide no solution to the national conflict in the Middle East.
The increasingly brutal repression meted out by the Israeli ruling class against an out-gunned Palestinian population has merely fanned the flames of resistance amongst the Palestinians.
The corruption and betrayal of the PLO leadership means that in the absence of any other alternative, many Palestinian youth have turned to the extreme Islamic group Hamas. However, their tactics of bombing Israeli civilians has been completely counter-productive, driving large sections of the Israeli working class into the arms of the most reactionary groups in Israel.
Socialist activists cannot support these individual bombing attacks. These tactics will not force US imperialism or the Israeli ruling class to concede a genuine Palestinian state but will increase the social foundations of support for Israeli capitalism.
However, the continued military repression by the Israeli ruling class will not succeed in crushing the resistance of the Palestinian masses to struggle for their social and national liberation.
In the Gaza strip, Israeli bulldozers have flattened 11,000 square metres of farmland and destroyed 94 houses as part of a process of creating a security buffer zone on Palestinian land around the settlements which divide up the Palestinian Authority area into cantonments. Once the area has been cleared it is occupied by more Israeli settlers in mobile homes.
Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, criticised the use of F-16 fighter jets against Palestinian targets. Yet this military hardware was provided by the US in the first place! When Cheney was asked if the US government would take any action against Israel he replied: "It's a very delicate situation".
Such criticism of the Israeli ruling class has nothing to do with the democratic rights of the Palestinian masses but a fear of the huge instability that a drift into regional war would lead to. As an editorial in the Financial Times (18 April 2001) stated: "...A continuing Israeli presence in Palestinian territory would only breed more anger among Palestinians. This could destabilise moderate Arab regimes and heighten feelings in the region... The new US administration's disengagement from Middle Eastern diplomacy and the European Union's inability to fill that vacuum may even have given Israel extra confidence".
In order to gain the initiative once again, US imperialism believed that the Mitchell Commission findings would provide a basis for further negotiations. This report calls for an end to violence on both sides and a freeze on the building of new Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
These recommendations will be derided by the mass of Palestinians. In the last seven years thousands of new Israeli houses have been built on Palestinian land through the expansion of already existing ones.
Even if negotiations started, any agreement would not hold because of the hardening attitudes on both sides of the national divide.
Only a struggle to overthrow capitalism in the region and create a socialist federation, where the working class on both sides of the national divide could discuss a solution to bitter conflicts that have distorted the development of the region, offers a way out.
There is a race against time to build a mass alternative like this. The only other alternative is a drift into more internecine conflict.
In The Socialist 25 May 2001: