After the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI, The League of Nations mandated that Britain administer Palestine. The London administration was quite ineffective, in part, due to the contradictory promises which were made to the Arabs, to the Zionists and to France, the other colonial power which divided the territory with Britain.
But the conflict is much more ancient. It has now been thirty centuries since the first confrontations between the Philistines and the Hebrews, and the peace agreement promoted by US President Donald Trump between Israel and two ancient small Gulf monarchical dictatorships will certainly not resolve this millennial rivalry.
The Philistines settled in the region around 1200 BC. Toward the end of the 11th century BC, the Israelites succeeded in driving them out of much of their territory, but they remained independent along the coastal region. And although they never completely dominated the whole area, the demonym of this people comes precisely from the word peleset (Philistine) and hence the territory Filasṭin, Falasṭn or Filisṭin (Palestine).
Three thousand years later, the conflict seems to lack resolution. The Israelis have never accepted the existence of a Palestinian State.
For their part Palestinian leaders continue to employ inviable rhetoric, which has led to their losing many opportunities. The corruption of which they are accused, is based in reality, but Israel has a relatively dark history.
Arab Sultans and Sheikhs are people with a medieval mindset, those for whom religious fanaticism and money is uniquely important. Trump likes them, because in some ways they resemble him. The Israelis have worked out how to take advantage of all this so as to eliminate the possibility of a Palestinian state.
Result: Palestinians will have to live under Israeli control. They will be second-class citizens, and the internal arrangement of Israel will change as the ultra-orthodox Haredin have a higher population growth rate than Arabs or other Jewish factions.
Arabs are 20% of the population, while Haredin jewish sect already constitutes twelve percent of the population. At the time of the creation of the State of Israel, the Haredin were only 0.2%. These are medieval clans living in a special world. For example, they have won the right to not attend school, as they only study holy scriptures. They do not do military service and by law they do not work; they're basically maintained by the State.
Benjamin Netanyahu survives thanks to the ultra-orthodox parties. The future of Israel is not a peaceful future. It is a country that is going to turn more and more toward the right, which will have to continue to use force against the Palestinians, who will become an exclusively internal problem, as they will be abandoned by other Arabs. They are going to live under appalling social and economic conditions, and we are going to see how Israel increasingly takes the apartheid path.
Netanyahu's recent victories portend a dark future. One has visited the region too often now to offer a positive prognosis. Through all this, Trump motivates alliances with the Sunni religious fundamentalists led by Saudi Arabia, united against the Shiites, led by Iran.
Iran, the ancient Persian civilisation, is much more tolerant than the Sunnis. The problem is that it has been captured by a group of fanatics who took advantage of the unpopularity of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, leading to them seizing power from the Shah in 1979. They are unpopular, but they are holding their ground.
It should be remembered that the theocratic regime was installed with decisive help from the West.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned from exile in France to Iran on a plane provided by the conservative government of French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Iran is another mistake made by the United States, a country whose foreign policy is always short-term, again failing to understand the reality on the ground.
Triggering an escalation to remove the Shah, employing the clergy, created a regime that eventually turned against the US, something Reza Pahlaví would have never done. It is the same mistake committed in Afghanistan, when they financed a movement against the Russian occupation, creating phenomena such as Bin Laden, which ended up turning in another direction.
By the way, this is the same mistake made by Israel when it supported Al Fatah at first, so as to weaken Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).
The Mullahs are not at all popular, but they are maintained by the support of the peasants and by a powerful repressive apparatus. No doubt at some point they will be taken out in a bloody internal crisis, and Iran will return to normality.
In this respect I wish to stress three points:
- Iran has top-level universities, great films, excellent architecture and a high level of scientific prowess: none of which can be found in the Sunni world.
- In Teheran there are synagogues and Christian churches, something that is lacking in the Sunni world.
- Of all the terrorist attacks that have taken place to date in Europe and in the United States, there has not been a single Shiite terrorist.
And we should bear in mind that Iran has been under sanctions for 40 years.
Moral: the political disaster which is the Middle East is one of governance, in which the 'West' and Trump carry many responsibilities. So too the Europeans who installed Kings, Princes, Emirs and Sheiks when they divided up the Ottoman Empire.
And Trump, with his son-in-law, who, despite being Jewish, is capable of reasoning in Arab terms, by reinforcing this World of petrodollars and of medieval thought.
Throughout this panorama the Palestinians remain a people without a homeland who lack nationality, and the Israelis have their answer prepared: they don't accept the peace plan, and then do not have leaders who seek peace.
However, persisting in maintaining millions of people resentful and poor is not an intelligent play. It is also clear that in both intellectual and artistic circles there is little Israel support for such a formula.
Falling into this trap is best explained by Netanyahu's efforts to maintain power at any cost, and so selling his soul to the far-right, also accompanied by a left which has become a merely symbolic force...