Jonathan Cook: the Blog from Nazareth -

Israel’s unholy trinity of Jewish self-interest

Our views of the Israel-Palestine conflict may not coincide much but I can’t help enjoying the refreshingly no-nonsense opinions of Aluf Benn, the editor-in-chief of Haaretz. He makes a very intriguing analysis of the priorities of all Israeli governments, including Netanyahu’s.

In short, he argues that Israeli leaders have understood the need to glue Israeli Jewish society together on the issue of oppressing the Palestinians and have achieved this by awarding each major section of the society privileges for their cooperation in the occupation. He terms this the “security-settlements-yeshiva triangle”.

The secular middle classes get access to the old boys’ network of the army, which wins them places in israel’s hi-tech economy etc; the settlers get cheap housing and political influence; and the ultra-Orthodox (Haredim) get state benefits for their many children and for Torah study in yeshivas, and increasingly cheap housing too. In other words, everyone wins.

The social protests, he adds, are a sign that the secular middle classes now feel that too much of the riches of the occupation are being directed to the settlers and the ultra-Orthodox. They feel their share of the pie has shrunk too much. Yair Lapid rode this dissatisfaction to electoral success.

Balancing the tensions of this “unholy trinity” is the post-election task now facing Netanyahu.

On the assumption that the [coalition] partners will support a large defense budget, and that settlement growth is more dependent on U.S. President Barack Obama than on Netanyahu, the coalition debate is now focusing on the Haredim. Netanyahu must decide whether to maintain his alliance with [the ultra-Orthodox party] Shas and continue to milk the middle class to benefit the yeshivas, or to give Lapid the foreign affairs portfolio and leave the Haredim outside the coalition.

Either way, Palestinians will pay the price.

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