1 Israelis and Zionists consider themselves to be returned natives, descendants of the ancient Israelites that have returned to their native land after millennia of wandering in foreign lands. The Arabs and their supporters consider the Zionist Jews who settled in Palestine to be settlers and Zionism to be a form of settler colonialism comparable to apartheid in South Africa or the racism that prevailed in settler colonies throughout South Africa. This author considers both sides to have many valid points: Zionism has many features in common with settler colonialist movements and it developed in unique circumstances that were different from the settlement of the Americas, Africa, and Indonesia by Europeans in the seventeenth to twentieth centuries.1
2 But by comparing the main practical features of Israeli politics with those of many independent settler colonies, i.e., settler colonies controlled by the local settlers rather than by a colonial metropole, it can be demonstrated that Israeli politics are settler politics. This article examines what the author considers to be the six main distinguishing features of the Israeli political system and argues that four of them are features of colonial settler regimes. It then uses these four features plus one of the two non-settler features to determine which settler colonies are/were closest to Israel in terms of politics.
THE SIX DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF ISRAELI POLITICS1. Israeli politics is characterized by numerous political parties in the Knesset, which in turn results in weak coalition governments.
3 The first two features are not features of most settler colonies and are the ones most extensively dealt with in texts examining Israeli politics. The final four are dealt with in most texts on an ad hoc basis, with more emphasis on the final two than on numbers three and four. No one to this author's knowledge writes about Herut/Likud and Ahdut Ha'Avoda as paramilitary parties. This article will now consider in detail the importance of these six features.
4 Israeli politics is comparable to Italian politics from 1945 to the early 1990s or to the politics of the Third and Fourth French Republics. All of these systems were characterized by a form of proportional representation as the franchise, which in turn produced numerous parties represented in the Israeli Knesset. Every single Israeli government has been a coalition government as no single party has every won a majority in the Knesset.2 While Israel has tinkered with the franchise in recent years by instituting a system of double voting for both prime minister and party, the problem has only gotten worse rather than better.3 And the small parties created by the system have a vested interest in its perpetuation, making serious reform almost impossible.
5 Most British settler colonies had a two-party or three-party system resulting from the use of the first-past-the-post franchise system and single member constituencies.4 Algeria under French rule had a multiparty system similar to the Israeli system but it was integrated into the French political system and was not independent — as in Northern Ireland. So one cannot speak of an Algerian colonial party political system. Only two settler colonies have had functioning multiparty systems: Northern Ireland and the United States in the 1850s. Northern Ireland has since the early 1970s had a political system with four main parties and a number of smaller parties. Since the early 1980s Northern Ireland has had two main unionist (i.e., Protestant) parties, two main nationalist (i.e., Catholic) parties, one medium sized nonsectarian party, and several splinter unionist parties.5 The United States went from a three-party system in 1848 to a four-party system in 1852, to a three-party system in 1856 to a four-party system in 1860 during the process of evolution from the Second Party System to the Third Party System.6
6 No Western party is equivalent to the Israeli religious parties. The closest comparison in the West is with the Christian Democratic parties of Western Europe (Germany, Italy) and Latin America (El Salvador, Venezuela). But these parties are more interested in furthering what they perceive as religious values as opposed to religious practices. But because Judaism is much closer to Islam as regards religious-civil relations, the closest equivalents are found in peaceful Islamic parties that do not challenge the notion of a democratic system, but merely the degree of religion permitted in public.
Native-Fighter Politicians and Paramilitary Parties (top)
7 Several Israeli and Jewish commentators and historians have declared the degree of military penetration into Israeli politics to be unprecedented. This is true only as regards the degree: two other countries have had a similar but lesser penetration in their own histories. I have dubbed these military politicians native fighters — politicians who initially became famous by fighting the native population of their country. In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America these politicians were known as Indian fighters; an Israeli maverick journalist once dubbed Moshe Dayan as an Arab fighter and this author has used that term for all former generals in the Knesset.7
8 America had four prominent Indian fighter politicians followed by a pair of Mexican-fighters and finally a string of four Civil War generals in the post-Civil War period. As presidents they included those whom historians usually name as the best (George Washington, Andrew Jackson) and the worst (Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, Ruthorford B. Hayes) presidents. The Indian fighters held sway over American politics from 1824 to 1850.8 The next decade was dominated by veterans of the Mexican War and the period 1868 to 1893 was dominated by Civil War veterans. With the sole exceptions of Zachary Taylor and Ulysses S. Grant, these American politicians were all professional politicians who had careers in the militia or as the head of volunteer units during the Civil War. Only Taylor fits the Israeli pattern of having finished a long military career before going into civilian politics as a presidential candidate in 1848.9
9 In addition to war heroes from the main wars at the national level, Indian fighters dominated the politics of two states: Tennessee and Texas. Indian fighters controlled the politics of Tennessee from statehood in 1789 until the mid-1830s. Several of the most important Indian-fighter politicians such as John Sevier, Andrew Jackson, William Carroll, Sam Houston, and David Crockett, came from Tennessee. All the governors of the state in the 1820s were veterans of the Creek War of 1813-14. Texas featured a number of Indian fighters from the time of the Texas Revolution in 1836 until 1893. Most of these Indian-fighter politicians in both Tennessee and Texas had important civilian careers as land speculators, lawyers, doctors, and entrepreneurs. Both states had conflicts with the native population that lasted for decades: Tennessee with the Cherokee, Creek, and Chickasaw Indians from the 1770s until 1814, and Texas with the Lipan, Karakawa, and Cherokee in the 1830s and with the Comanche from 1836 to 1875.10
10 The South African Republic (SAR-Zuid Afrikansee Republik) located between the Vaal and Limpopo Rivers and between Bechuanaland and Mozambique and Swaziland, existed from 1859 to 1900 when it was brought to an end by a British invasion in the Second Anglo-Boer War. Its history can be neatly divided into two periods: from 1859 to British annexation in 1877 and from 1880 to 1900. Both periods were dominated by three important African fighter politicians: Paul Kruger, Marius W. Pretorius, and Pieter Joubert. Kruger and Pretorius dominated the politics of the first period with Pretorius serving as president and Kruger as commandant general or a cross between defense minister and chief of staff. Following three years of British rule the triumvirate lead a successful short war of independence with Joubert, the commanding general during the war, serving as commandant general during the next 20 years and Kruger as president. Joubert was also the leader of the opposition Progressive Party, the Transvaal branch of the Cape Colony's Afrikaner Bund. The ruling council of the SAR also probably contained many more African fighter politicians as the Boers were involved in a series of wars with the various African tribes living in the Transvaal right up until 1898.11
11 The neighboring Orange Free State (Vrystaat), located between the Orange and Vaal Rivers from 1852 to 1900, may also have contained a class of African fighter politicians. But it, like Texas, quickly developed a professional class from which its politicians came. Its wars with the natives ended in the 1870s, giving less scope for a long-term native fighter class to develop.12
12 Like the United States after its civil war, South Africa developed a class of civil war general politicians among the Afrikaners. Three generals — Louis Botha, Jan Christian Smuts, James Barry Hertzog — dominated the politics of the Union of South Africa from 1910 until 1948. Botha and Smuts were leaders of the biethnic South Africa Party and Hertzog was leader of the Afrikaner National Party. Following a period of coalition government the two parties merged in 1934 to form the United Party, but a number of Hertzog's followers left in 1939 to form the Afrikaner Party following South Africa's declaration of war on Germany. Botha died in office in 1919; Hertzog retired from politics in September 1939, and Smuts was defeated by Daniel Malan and the National Party in 1948.13
13 South Africa had a third "class" of military politicians in the 1980-94 period. Former chief of staff Magnus Malan was appointed defense minister in 1980 and remained in that position until 1991 when he became a minor cabinet member during the transition De Klerk government following the Inkathagate political scandal. Malan had been in charge of operations in Namibia during the early part of that war and had commanded the incursion into Angola in 1975. Another chief of staff, Constand Viljoen, became leader of the Afrikaner opposition in the 1994 majority rule elections. Viljoen had been chief of staff during the early 1980s and helped plan many of South Africa's biggest cross-border raids. Malan owed his appointment to his relationship with Premier P. W. Botha and was more a representative of the military — the "securocrats" — than a popular politician in his own right. But Malan was considered a serious presidential candidate within the National Party to succeed P.W. Botha during the late 1980s. Viljoen was popular but the Afrikaner right did very poorly in the elections.14
14 No other settler colonies or colonial powers or Western democracies developed a class of military politicians. Spain was the only country with a class of military politicians, veterans of fighting in Spanish Morocco from 1911 to 1925, but they came to power through the Spanish Civil War rather than through election.15
15 Israel has had major Arab fighter politicians in electoral politics since 1955 when Ahdut Ha'Avoda elected Moshe Carmel and Yigal Allon to parliament. Initially, Israel followed the American model of only electing popular war heroes, but this changed over time. Today, it is almost automatic for a retiring chief of staff to go into politics and many major generals go into politics as well in either the two main parties, Labor and Likud, or in the smaller right-wing parties, such as Moledet and Tzomet, or in centrist lists, like the Democratic Movement for Change and the Center Party. Neither the United States nor South Africa ever had as large a military class in electoral politics at any one time as in Israel today.16 Israel has had three Arab fighter prime ministers: Yitzhak Rabin (1974-77, 1992-95), Ehud Barak (1999-2001), and Ariel Sharon (2001-present). Arguably, Benyamin Netanyahu was also an Arab fighter as he served in an elite commando unit beside Barak and ran as an anti-terrorist expert in 1996.17
16 These three countries all have three things in common. First, they are all independent countries with a mainly immigrant (or descended from immigrants) population. Second, they had a prolonged conflict with the native population of their countries. Third, they developed a militia system from which their native-fighter politicians sprang rather than a professional army. America's Indian wars of the West between 1866 and 1890 produced no Indian-fighter politicians, partly because the connection with the militia had been broken and partly because no great populations were affected by the Indians. Politics was also full of Civil War veterans at this time.18
17 Israel's two main political parties are both partially descended from paramilitary parties. I define paramilitary party as a party that is either the political wing of a paramilitary (guerrilla/terrorist) group or the continuation of such a group in political form. In the 1940s there were three Zionist paramilitary organizations in mandatory Palestine: Hagana/Palmach, the Irgun Zvai Leumi (National Military Organization or Etzel) and the Lohemei Herut Israel (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel or Lehi). The Hagana was the official militia of the Jewish Agency with Palmach being the standing army of 2,000 to 3,000 from 1941 to 1948 recruited from the Hagana. The Etzel was the underground militia of the Revisionist movement founded in the 1930s from the Revisionist youth movement, Betar. Lehi was a 1940 radical right splinter from Etzel.
18 In 1948-49, two paramilitary parties emerged to contest the elections to the First Knesset. In June 1948, Etzel leader Menahem Begin announced the creation of Herut as the extension of the Etzel and began forming local branches. Begin then made a hostile takeover of the existing Revisionist Party so that his party had the support of both Revisionists and underground veterans. In late 1948, Lehi formed the Fighter's List after being banned following the assassination of United Nations mediator Count Folke Bernadotte in September. Herut emerged as the third largest party and the Fighter's List won only a single seat, but it did spring its leader from prison — which was its intended purpose. The Fighter's List disappeared as a party before the elections to the Second Knesset in 1951. Yitzhak Shamir devoted only half a page to the party in his memoirs and wrote dismissively, "It was obvious to me from the start that now Lehi, its goals met, had no platform, nothing to say, its members, for the most part, not having much in common."19
19 For the next 20 years the Central Committee of Herut was almost identical to the Etzel's Executive Committee and the party was known as "the fighting family." This only began to change in the 1970s as Ezer Weizman challenged Begin for the leadership and Yitzhak Shamir, one of the three leaders of Lehi was brought into the party along with the Lehi's radio announcer, Geula Cohen. In 1973, Herut merged with the Liberal Party, the State List, and the Free Center to form the Likud (union). The latter two parties merged into a single faction, La'am, which was eventually absorbed by the two larger factions. Eventually, in the mid-1980s the Likud changed from an electoral alliance to a proper party. By the time the Likud won power in 1977 it was largely a paramilitary party only at the leadership level and in underground veterans' families forming an important part of its core constituency. Until 1992, the Likud was led by a former underground leader: first by Begin until September 1983 and then by Shamir. After 1992, it completely ceased to be a paramilitary party.20
20 Israel's other paramilitary party was Ahdut Ha'Avoda (the unity of labor) formed in 1954 as a splinter from Mapam, the leading opposition party. Mapam had been formed from a merger of two different kibbutz (collective settlements), the Mishmar HaTzair and Kibbutz HaMeuhad movements, and had also included the leadership of the Palmach. The Palmach, consisting of three brigades, was dismantled by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion in October 1948. Ben-Gurion then helped to force the former leader of the Palmach, Yigal Allon, out of the Israeli army in 1951. The new party was headed by ideologist Yitzhak Tabenkin and three military leaders: Allon, Moshe Carmel, and Israel Galili. Galili had been an important administrator within the Hagana and had been its chief of staff before the Israeli army was formed in May 1948. Galili continued as deputy defense minister until September 1948 when he resigned due to differences with Ben-Gurion who was defense minister as well as prime minister. Allon had been the leading battlefield commander in the 1948 War of Independence having been in command of offensives in the north (April-May 1948), and then front commander of first the Central Front and then the Southern Front. Carmel was commander of the Northern Front from July 1948 to the end of the war. So de facto Ahdut Ha'Avoda was Israel's second major paramilitary party and its first Arab fighter party. Ahdut Ha'Avoda merged with rival Mapai and Mapai splinter-party, Rafi to form the Israel Labor Party in 1968. The three component factions dissolved into two personal factions supporting Moshe Dayan and Yigal Allon following the death of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in February 1969. At this point the Labor Party as a whole became an Arab fighter party.21
21 Only two other Western democracies have had paramilitary parties: the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom — the latter only within Northern Ireland.22 In Ireland the two factions of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that fought the Irish civil war in 1922-23, eventually formed separate parties that eventually became the two main parties in Ireland, Fianna Fail (warriors of destiny) and Fine Gael (band of Gaels). Later, smaller groups would emerge from the IRA to form smaller parties. Until the emergence of the Workers' Party in both Ireland and Northern Ireland in the early 1980s, all of these parties followed the Israeli pattern of being extensions of a former paramilitary group rather than being the political arm of that group. Although the IRA continued to exist, Liam de Valera split from it when he formed Fianna Fail in 1927.
22 The Workers' Party was a unique case because the Official IRA from which it emerged had agreed to a ceasefire in May 1972, but had never disbanded nor decommissioned its weapons, and had continued to engage in criminal activities. Some of its revenues probably financed the political activities of the Workers' Party. The Workers' Party managed to elect a few councilors to local councils but was never successful in electing members to the provincial assemblies or to parliament in London. In Ireland most of its membership split in 1992 to form a new party, the Democratic Left, in protest over continued links to the Official IRA. This party then became another paramilitary party of the traditional Irish sort.
23 In Northern Ireland three paramilitary parties emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s: what eventually became the Ulster Democratic Party (UDP) and the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) in 1978, and Sinn Fein in 1981-82. Sinn Fein had always existed as the public relations arm of the Provisional IRA. In 1981, it ran two candidates from prison for a vacant parliamentary seat in Fermanagh-Tyrone in a by-election. Hunger striker Bobby Sands won the seat, but died of self-inflicted starvation shortly afterwards. His election agent then won the seat. This gave Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams the confidence to contest assembly and parliamentary elections in 1982 and 1983. Until the Provisional IRA's ceasefire in August 1994, Sinn Fein averaged about one-third of the nationalist vote in Northern Ireland elections to two-thirds for the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP). In the local elections in 2001, Sinn Fein emerged as the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland for the first time. The assembly election in November 2003 seems to have confirmed that Sinn Fein is now permanently the leading nationalist party in Northern Ireland.23
24 The UDP and the PUP were the parties respectively of the two main loyalist (Protestant) paramilitary organizations: the Ulster Defence Association and the Ulster Volunteer Force. Both remained marginal until they helped to arrange the loyalist ceasefire in October 1994. Both parties managed to elect members to the 1996 Forum, due to the special "topping up" feature that gave the 10 largest parties two extra seats each (it was designed expressly to give the loyalists representation). Between them they won nearly ten (9.7) percent of the vote in 1996. The UDP failed to win any seats in the 1998 assembly election, but the PUP won two seats in Belfast and emerged as a key ally of Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble. The PUP was led by former UVF prisoners whereas the UDP was led by the son of the founder of the UDA's armed wing — the Ulster Freedom Fighters — Gary McMichael (son of John McMichael who was assassinated in 1987). Gary McMichael lacked personal paramilitary experience and was not taken seriously by the paramilitary leadership — the "brigadiers" — of the UDA. In late 2001, the UDA ordered the party closed down and McMichael retired from politics. A senior party figure, John White — a convicted double murderer — followed renegade UDA leader Johnny Adair in the latter's feud with the UDA's leadership in 2003.24 In November 2003, Billy Hutchinson lost his assembly seat in North Belfast leaving David Ervine as the party's only assembly member. The PUP was reduced to less than two percent of the total assembly vote.
25 Although Herut has more in common with the Irish parties (including its famous princes who were also a feature of Irish politics), it has in common with the loyalist parties a support base in the urban slums of the large cities.25 The PUP is strongest in the housing estates of North and East Belfast and the UDP was strongest in the housing estates of Lisburn and Newtonabbey, whereas Herut was strongest in south Tel Aviv and the development towns of Israel. First Herut and then Likud became the party of the urban underclass in Israel.26
The Native Question and Discrimination (top)
26 The next two features provide further evidence that Israeli politics are settler politics. Since the emergence of the Revisionist Party led by Vladimir "Ze'ev" Jabotinsky in 1925 and the creation of a separate Revisionist Zionist movement in 1934, the native question has been the dominant question in Israeli politics. In Israel the native question and the territorial question are nearly the same as the latter involves bringing along the population of the territories incorporated within Israel or ruled over by it. The Revisionists and their Herut successors opposed both of the partition plans proposed for settlement of the Palestine question. The hymn of the Betar youth movement was "Both Banks of the Jordan," which asserted Zionist claims to Transjordan as well as Cisjordan. By the mid-1960s when Herut formed Gahal with the Liberal Party, it had given up its claims to Transjordan but continued to insist that if Israel ever gained control of the West Bank it should keep it. Only under Ariel Sharon has the Likud spoken publicly in support of the creation of a Palestinian state, and Sharon is offering terms that he knows the Palestine Liberation Organization would never accept.
27 Likewise, in South Africa and Northern Ireland it was the native question that divided the main parties. The 1948 election in South Africa was fought on the basis of the native question: the National Party's apartheid or the United Party's traditional segregation policy. The Herstigte National Party (Purified National Party) split from the National Party in 1969 over relaxation of petty apartheid restrictions and the Conservative Party split in 1982 over parliamentary representation for "coloreds" (mixed-race) and Indians. From 1959 the Progressive Party and its successors challenged the National Party over its homeland policy and the question of first a qualified franchise for blacks and then majority rule. Only after majority rule in 1994 was the Democratic Party rewarded by the white electorate for having a more realistic policy and being a better opposition by becoming the main white party.27
28 In Northern Ireland the native question among unionists has been fought along the grounds of simple majority rule versus power-sharing with nationalists. Power-sharing was attempted in 1974 by Prime Minister (and former Ulster Unionist Party [UUP] leader) Brian Faulkner, but it was defeated by overwhelming unionist opposition and a loyalist general strike backed by the loyalist paramilitaries. For the next 20 years Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) pulled the UUP to the right.28 Now unionist politics is fought over the issue of support for the April 1998 Good Friday Agreement that initiated power-sharing with nationalists in exchange for paramilitary ceasefires, decommissioning, and an end to the Republic of Ireland's legal claim over Northern Ireland. The UUP is presently deeply divided internally over the Agreement and a majority of unionists reject the Agreement because of the failure of paramilitaries — especially the Republicans — to decommission and cease their activities. In November 2003, three leading anti-agreement members of the UUP defected to the DUP after being confronted by leader David Trimble over their continued refusal to support party policy.29
29 Not only does Israel parallel settler colonies in the existence of a native question, but also in its solution to the native question. In the independent settler colonies of Southern Africa — Rhodesia, Namibia, and South Africa — and Northern Ireland internal settlements were attempted as a solution to end the armed struggle conducted by the liberation movements.30 An internal settlement is any political settlement with internal native leaders that by-passes the external leaders connected with the armed struggle on terms more favorable to the settlers than what the liberation movements are demanding at the time. Its main purposes are to win both foreign and internal support by demonstrating moderation and coopting native leaders. All internal settlements have failed to win long-term popular support for the settlers or colonial power and the foreign support won has proved insufficient to win the war.31 The internal leaders can be either traditional leaders that have already been coopted (Namibia, South Africa) or nationalist leaders formerly connected with the armed struggle or with trade unionism (Namibia, Rhodesia). In the latter case the internal leaders might attempt to convince the settlers that they will cause massive defections from the armed struggle.32 In South Africa the regime attempted two internal settlements: the first in 1983-84 with coloreds and Indians was unsuccessful, and the second with township councilors failed to get off the ground. The opposition negotiated an internal settlement in Natal in 1986, but it was never implemented due to opposition from the government.
30 In Israel the Likud attempted an internal settlement by creating the Village Leagues as an alternate Palestinian leadership in the territories in 1981. The Leagues never managed to win the support of more than about one to two percent of the population and were quickly destroyed when the Intifada began in December 1987. Village League leaders became targets of Palestinian mobs and gunmen as Israeli collaborators.33
31 From 1967 to 1988 the Labor Party had as its official native policy two different variations of the "Jordanian option": the Allon Plan or territorial compromise, and the Dayan Plan or functional compromise. The former involved a partition with Jordan getting the populated portions of the West Bank and Israel getting the unpopulated Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea's northwestern shoreline. Jordan would have also received control of the Gaza Strip and a corridor connecting the two territories. The Israeli portion of the Allon Plan partition involved between a third and 40 percent of the West Bank. The Dayan Plan involved Israel remaining in military control of all the West Bank and Gaza, but Jordan taking administrative and political control and electing representatives to the parliament in Amman. King Hussein of Jordan rejected both versions of the Jordanian compromise and told Israeli leaders so repeatedly in secret meetings from 1967 to 1977.34 But in practice Jordan cooperated with Israeli control of the West Bank and a modified form of functional compromise existed informally. The Jordanian option never became Labor Party policy before Dayan left the party in 1977, but it did influence the location of Israeli settlements in the West Bank with Israel Galili working with Dayan to form settlement policy.35 The Jordanian option was finally dropped as Labor Party policy after King Hussein publicly renounced any interest in the West Bank in July 1988. The Jordanian option was not an internal settlement per se as it did not involve Palestinians, but it was in the spirit of the internal settlement in that it was meant to avoid negotiations with the external nationalists of the PLO.36
32 Before independence in 1948, the Jewish Agency purchased land in the name of the Jewish People. Subsequently, this land and land taken over by Israel in 1948-49 became available for use only by Jews. This remains in effect today. Arabs lived under martial law and military control from 1948 to 1966 and had few civil rights other than the right to vote. The Law of Return allows any Jew to immigrate to Israel and quickly become an Israeli citizen while Palestinian refugees are barred from returning. These various laws created a formal legal differentiation between native and settler, Arab and Jew, that has lessened since 1966 but still remains today. Spending on Arabs per capita is also much lower than spending on Jews in Israel. This has resulted in lower educational and housing standards for Arabs.37
33 Israel is clearly not a liberal democracy in the usual sense that Western European and North American countries are. It can be compared to the American South before the civil rights era when blacks were excluded from politics and few blacks had the right to vote or to Northern Ireland under home rule from 1922 to 1972 when Catholics suffered from discrimination in housing and employment, and were outvoted in local councils, even in areas where Catholics were the majority through gerrymandered electoral districts.38 In both the United States and Northern Ireland discrimination is illegal, but persists and the effects of past discrimination will remain for a long time.
34 Individually, these four characteristics of Israeli politics are not evidence of settler politics. Many, if not most countries, have some sort of discrimination against certain ethnic or religious groups. But characteristic three — native-fighter politicians — is found exclusively among settler colonies and characteristic four — paramilitary parties — is found in only two cases besides Israel with one being a settler colony. Characteristic five — native question — is the defining feature of settler politics and the fact that Israel used a similar approach is telling. If we examine other settler colonies we see that not all of them have all of these characteristics. Most settler colonies, including Northern Ireland, lack native- fighter politicians (see below for further discussion of this). Most settler colonies, including South Africa, lack paramilitary parties. But they all have characteristics five and six — the native question and legal discrimination.
Which Settler Colony is the Best Model for Comparison With Israel (top)
35 Having determined that Israel has settler politics and has a prolonged conflict with an organized native opponent we can narrow the field down considerably. We will begin by eliminating the settler colonies that were either dependent settler colonies controlled by a colonial metropole rather than the local settlers (with the important exception of Northern Ireland) or were nondemocratic. The native-settler conflict was over militarily in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand by the time they gained independence. This leaves Rhodesia, Namibia, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and the United States. Rhodesia, Namibia, and South Africa were all minority settler colonies where the settlers were a minority of the country's population. This leaves us with Northern Ireland and the United States, which like Israel are majority settler colonies where the settlers are a majority.
36 The United States, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when the conflict with the native population was still in its military phase, is useful for comparing with Israel when looking at civil-military interactions. The United States faced a native population that was divided along ethnic lines, with many Indians siding with the settlers against different ethnic groups. This allowed the United States to defeat the natives in stages, by implementing a policy of divide and conquer. Such was also the case in Southern Africa during the conquest phase. However, Israel cannot expect to negotiate a peace treaty with the Palestinians in the same fashion that the United States negotiated treaties with the Indians. By the 1850s, when America had its only multiparty phase, the native question was not a major issue except in Florida and the Pacific Northwest. The native problem had been resolved east of the Mississippi River through "transfer" a decade previously. This left slavery as the major issue. This had a territorial dimension with the debate over the admission of new territories as the dividing issue between the main parties, similar to the territorial issue in Israel. Like the Labor Party before 1992, the Whig Party was divided on the issue of the territories.39
37 If we look at the international context we see the contemporaneous South African, Middle East, and Northern Ireland conflicts taking place under similar circumstances. The South African conflict has been resolved and the Northern Ireland conflict is in the process of being resolved with a peace agreement negotiated but only partially implemented. The South African conflict is like the Middle Eastern conflict in two important aspects: the PLO, like the African National Congress (ANC), is an official liberation movement enjoying widespread international and regional legitimacy; and both conflicts involved a set of confrontation states supporting the liberation movement. Israel and South Africa (and Rhodesia) employed similar strategies of raiding their neighbors in order to discourage support for the liberation movements and to prevent the countries from being used as support zones for training guerrillas/terrorists and launching incursions into their states. South Africa enjoyed greater success resulting from the its economic leverage over its neighbors due to colonial era transportation infrastructure. Israel had close military ties with South Africa in the 1970s and 1980s and may have advised South Africa directly on raiding tactics. Certainly Israeli raids in the 1950s and 1970s served as inspiration to military planners in Rhodesia and South Africa.40
38 In Northern Ireland the IRA had no safe zone. It had no sanctuary in the Republic of Ireland where it was illegal and its rival SDLP received the support of the Irish government. Only pariah Libya supplied arms to the IRA. Consequently, the IRA was an outlaw liberation movement. This only changed with the IRA's ceasefire in August 1994 when both the IRA and the loyalist paramilitaries were brought in from the cold by Dublin. But otherwise the IRA and the PLO are very similar. Both have maximalist territorial ambitions against the settler states and both have been willing to use terrorism to further their cause. As well, both the republicans in Northern Ireland and the Palestinians have been deeply divided over the question of making a negotiated peace with their settler opponents. The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and Continuity IRA opposed any negotiated settlement and the IRA split on the issue with the organization's former quartermaster leading a group of hardliners out of the IRA to form the Real IRA. These three dissident republican organizations then conducted their own terrorist campaign until the August 1998 Omagh bombing demonstrated that there was no popular support for this.41
39 In Palestine the PLO split over the Oslo accords with most of the front organizations (PFLP, DFLP, PFLP-GC, PFLP-SC) opposing the peace agreement and remaining in Damascus. But more serious for Israel was the opposition of Hamas and Islamic Jihad to the peace. Both conducted terror campaigns throughout the period of the Oslo process.42
40 In both Israel and Northern Ireland the settler population was deeply divided over the peace agreements and opposition to the agreements grew as the terrorist groups increased their attacks on the population. In Northern Ireland approximately 55 percent of the unionist population voted in favor of the Good Friday Agreement in a referendum the following month. By the time the Agreement was suspended by the British government in response to protests by the UUP in October 2002 this had been reduced to about a third of the unionist population.43
41 In South Africa there were also demographic and economic pressures on the white minority that were much greater than those faced by Israel or Northern Ireland. Neither Israel nor the United Kingdom confronted organized economic sanctions by their main trading partners. South Africa faced sanctions by both the European Community and the United States starting in 1986. The whites also knew that they would be an ever smaller portion of the population as time went by due to the higher African birthrate. By the end of the century whites were less than ten percent of the population of the country.
42 If one adds the multiparty system to the mix then Northern Ireland is clearly the best model for Israel. And the other nonsettler characteristic — religious parties — also favors Northern Ireland. The DUP is the closest thing in the West to a religious party similar to those in Israel. The DUP is based on Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian Church, which he founded as a young man in 1951, with the leader being both a religious and political leader.44 This is similar to the role of leaders in Shas and other Israeli religious parties. When Ian Paisley retires as party leader and is replaced by Peter Robinson or Nigel Dodds, this similarity will end. The DUP is in Israeli terms a hybrid cross between the Likud and Shas — a party designed to implement both the religious rulings of its leader and to struggle for supremacy within the unionist community. Paisley is a fundamentalist, anti-Catholic minister stuck in the battles of the sixteenth-century reformation and the seventeenth-century struggle for Ireland. His party is based throughout Northern Ireland, particularly in rural areas where it draws largely on the membership of his church. The party is an alliance of evangelical Protestants — mostly Free Presbyterians — and urban secular activists.45
43 Northern Ireland is also a borderline case of a native-fighter politician class. John W. Nixon, a police detective, widely suspected of involvement in sectarian murders of Catholics in reprisal killings in 1920-22 served on the Belfast City Council from 1925-49 and in the Stormont provincial parliament from 1929 until his death in 1949. Sir Basil Brooke, Viscount Brookeborough after 1952, was a British army captain during the First World War and played an instrumental role in the creation of the Ulster Special Constabulary (which later became the Royal Ulster Constabulary) as a paramilitary police force in 1920. He also played a role in defending against an IRA invasion of Fermanagh in 1922. He served in Stormont from 1929 until 1968 and was a cabinet member for years before being elected prime minister in 1943, a position that he held for the next 20 years. A new class of Irish fighters emerged in the Ulster Unionist Party in the 1980s as several majors in the Ulster Defense Regiment were elected to the parliament or the assembly. These include John Taylor, deputy leader of the UUP; Ken Maginnis, who was a candidate for party leadership in 1995; and Sam Foster, who served as an assembly member in the 1998-2002 assembly. Maginnis was the only one of the three whose public career was identified with the security forces. He was elected to parliament in 1983 and retired in 2001 retaining only his council seat. He, like many of the Arab fighters in the Labor Party, was a champion of peace with the native population while a dedicated opponent of the liberation movement. He backed the Good Friday Agreement and Trimble with all his heart but refused to speak directly to leading members of Sinn Fein.46
44 The only major drawback in this comparison is the fact that Northern Ireland is a dependent settler colony — London has a veto over all decisions and Northern Ireland has experienced direct rule from March 1972 to January 1974 and from May 1974 to June 1998 and intermittently since then. But unlike most dependent settler colonies, Northern Ireland has its own party political system and was de facto an independent settler colony from 1922 to 1972.47 As Israel is a client state of America, Washington exercises a similar influence over Jerusalem to that of London over Belfast. Because of Israel's influence within Congress, the executive takes Israeli interests into account when formulating its proposals for resolving the conflict.48
45 As has been demonstrated, Zionist politics within Israel are similar to settler politics within settler colonies experiencing a native-settler conflict. Arabs and their supporters have most often compared Israel to Algeria and South Africa. This is understandable in terms of their purposes. Algeria is the one settler colonial conflict where Arabs have won and it was an inspiration to many liberation movements in the 1960s including the PLO. But it was a dependent settler colony and fantasizing that Israel was another Algeria allowed the PLO to ignore the Israeli public while concentrating on relations with first Moscow and then Washington. The consequences have been decades of continued exile, occupation, and terrorism. South Africa is used because it lacks all legitimacy with even the white population of South Africa making anti-apartheid comments.49
46 However, both Algeria and South Africa are minority settler colonies. The only suitable model for Israel is Northern Ireland. And Northern Ireland is the only settler colony with its own multiparty system. Both are also similar in that neither is a typical settler colony in terms of its history. Both unionists and Zionists resent being labeled settlers.50
47 Potential mediators and policymakers for the Middle East should study why the parties were successful in negotiating a peace agreement in Northern Ireland and why they failed to implement it in four years of trying. As long as there is no peace in Northern Ireland it is unrealistic to expect one in the Middle East. Northern Ireland lacks major foreign opposition to peace in the form of the supply of arms and funding to terrorist groups from external powers. Yet it has been unable to implement peace. In November 2003, the DUP became the leading unionist party and Sinn Fein the leading nationalist party. The emergence of either to leadership status in its community would probably have been enough to kill the peace process; the emergence of both certainly ended the prospects for peace as their visions of peace are mutually incompatible. David Trimble's leadership within the UUP is also endangered, threatening to leave the peace process without a unionist champion.51
48 Peace was negotiated in Northern Ireland because it was ripe for peace and because the dual mediation of the British and Irish governments was effective.52 Until the Bush administration, Washington was the only effective mediator in the Middle East conflict. President Clinton failed to mediate successfully in the summer of 2000, partially because the Palestinians considered him to be biased.53 President Bush failed to take mediation seriously until the summer of 2003 with the roadmap plan. By then the situation was no longer ripe for peace. The European Union is interested in mediating in the Middle East. This will involve learning how to work effectively with Washington as Dublin did with London.
49 Inside Israel the various political parties can learn from the experience of native-fighter politicians in the United States. Israel presently faces none of the factors that put an end to the era of the Indian-fighter politicians in America.54 One Indian-fighter politician, Andrew Jackson, implemented "transfer" of the native population as his country's leader. He thought it was in the best long-term interest of the Indians.55 A man of very similar personality is the prime minister in Israel.56 He may face even greater pressures to deal with the leadership of the PLO.
50 It was the Indian fighters like Jackson and William H. Harrison that negotiated with the Indians after the War of 1812. It has been Arab fighters who have negotiated with the Arabs since 1949. A look at their record would suggest that they are more imaginative and pragmatic than their civilian counterparts.57 When peace is finally negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians, it will probably be an Arab fighter doing the negotiating from the Israeli side.Thomas G. Mitchell served in Rhodesia, Bosnia and Kosovo, and conducted post-doctoral research in South Africa and Northern Ireland. He authored three articles on internal settlements in Conflict Quarterly between 1992 and 1994.