May 14, 2018

Israel's trajectory, as 40-year era comes to end in multiple nations at once

Nothing says "end-of-an-era barrenness" like opening a cosplay embassy in Jerusalem. But it is not only the US that finds itself in the final stage of a long-lasting political period. Just like the Reaganites here, the Likudniks in Israel have reached the end of their cycle, which traces back to the same time as ours. Likewise the Thatcherites in Britain, the Mitterrandistes in France, and other regimes cut from the same neoliberal / neoconservative cloth.

This first post will look at the coming major changes within these four countries to evaluate the trajectory of Israel with respect to its main sponsors. A second post will look at the end-of-an-era sweeping changes that will play out among Israel's regional neighbors like Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.

* * *

Drawing on Stephen Skowronek's theory of political regime cycles, we can identify the last trailblazing administrations as those that kicked off the neoliberal revolution circa 1980, shifting out of the social democracy era that went back to the 1930s. Despite the minor push-back by the opposition during the occasional electoral upsets, the dominant factions have maintained the same paradigm for decades.

However, they are clearly entering their "disjunctive" stage where the dominant faction is trying to make major changes to the status quo that they themselves created, to adapt to new needs and desires. But they are so ossified from decades of easy victories that they only manage a schizophrenic, stop-and-start process of change.

Failing to deliver major change when it is so badly demanded, they will get thrown out and replaced by the old opposition, who will go on to become the new dominant party, delivering on the promises of change that the disjunctive leader tried to implement but could not, and enjoying a reign of many decades as the new agenda-setters.

Of these four nations, Israel was the first to begin the most recent cycle, stemming from the 1977 elections that ended the Labor Party's multi-decade reign and ushered in the Likud era. Britain followed shortly after in 1979 with Thatcher, then America in 1980 with Reagan, and finally France in 1981 with Mitterrand.

We see roughly the same sequence of nations going through their disjunctive stages, where major changes to the party's own status quo are promised but not really delivered upon.

First was Israel's election of 2015, where the Likud barely formed a coalition government by partnering with the Kulanu party. This new populist splinter party from the Likud is focused on reducing inequality, working-class welfare, cost-of-living increases, anti-monopoly, state influence into the economy, and other issues that would normally be verboten under a neoliberal government.

Next was the Brexit referendum of 2016, May barely forming a coalition government, and the corporate globalist Conservatives still dragging their feet on giving the populist-nationalist Brits the Brexit that they voted for.

Then of course Trump's historic upset victory, thanks to the candidate's promises to end globalist free trade deals, de-scale our military footprint, and expand the social safety net regarding healthcare rather than impose austerity measures -- none of which are happening.

Finally, the 2017 French election whereby the compromise candidate Macron had to cater somewhat to both the populist Left and populist Right, given the pressure of the Melenchon and Le Pen campaigns.

When these disjunctive governments fail to radically alter the status quo of the past 40 years, they will be removed from office, and the entire old way of running society will go out the window.

That means we are about to embark upon a period of profound disruption across the world, as these changing of regimes will rock the major countries all more or less at the same time -- just as profound as the changes of circa 1980.

* * *

As a client state, Israel must be worried about the seismic shake-ups under way in the major Western powers who are the guarantors of its prosperous and peaceful existence, such as it is. It must ignore the words and deeds from the late-stage leaders of the moribund neoliberal cycle in those countries -- Trump, May, Macron -- and focus on what the wave of the near-future bodes for Israel.

Here are some hints from the reactions to today's attacks on Palestinian protesters at the same time as the cosplay embassy was opening in Jerusalem, each of these figures representing the trailblazing new cycle that is going to sweep their nations in the next 5-10 years, and which will last for the next 50:




Translation: "France must condemn the massacres at #Gaza. The Israeli ambassador to Paris must be summoned to the Elysee to explain himself. Peace dies under the blows of #Netanyahu."

Bernie's response is important not only because his views will be shaping the next multi-decade cycle of a global nuclear superpower, but because he himself is Jewish. And yet he was the only one of the four major presidential candidates in 2016 to blow off the AIPAC conference, issuing instead a statement that blamed the Likud policies of expanding Israeli settlements into the Occupied Territories, while also blaming Hamas for violence. A totally different response from the genuflections before the Israel lobby delivered by Clinton, Trump, and Cruz.

Somehow I don't see the US, the UK, and France giving Israel such a free hand in the Middle East, propped up by billions of dollars in support every year, when the Reagan-Thatcher-Mitterrand era soon gives way to the Bernie-Corbyn-Melenchon era.

Bernie used to be an enthusiastic supporter of Israel -- back during its pre-Likud era, when he lived on a socialist kibbutz in the 1960s. Like Chomsky, he is most critical of Israel in its Likud-era incarnation, akin to America's Reaganite incarnation. For another multi-decade cycle before the Likud era, Israel -- like the rest of Europe and its off-shoots -- was governed by a paradigm of social democracy. Like the New Deal Democrats who ruled over that period in the US, the Labor Party ruled over Israel, before both were dethroned during the current neoliberal era that we are at the very end of.

* * *

The US and Israel were not allies during that New Deal / Labor Zionist period. During the First Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the US drove the Israelis out of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. During the Second Arab-Israeli War of 1956 (the Suez Crisis), the US sided with the Arab nationalist government of Egypt against Israel, whom the Americans drove out of its occupation of Egypt by financially threatening Israel's British enabler. During the Third Arab-Israeli War of 1967 (the Six-Day War), Israel blew up an American naval intel ship, the USS Liberty, just outside of Egyptian territorial waters. Finally, during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973 (the Yom Kippur War), the US remained largely on the sidelines, and gave limited military supplies to Israel, not wanting continued destabilization.

If we were not allies of Israel during the New Deal era, why would we be when the Bernie revolution moves us back into that kind of climate? It doesn't follow at all, especially given that the major priorities for both nations are going to see large-scale changes very soon, and those may diverge once again.

Certainly the Bernie crowd (not just the man himself) are cold toward giving Israel free rein. And the supporters of Corbyn and Melenchon feel the same way.

Part of this is due to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, which has been Israel's focus since the beginning of the Likud era. Before then, the Labor-era leaders were focused on fighting against and defending themselves from the entire Arab world -- hence the broadly named "Arab-Israeli" conflict. After the relative stalemate in the 1973 war, Israel learned that it could not stay in that paradigm indefinitely -- they needed to radically alter their foreign policy of the past many decades, and make peace with their Arab neighbor states, and focus instead on their immediate vicinity. Palestine, southern Lebanon, the Golan Heights in Syria -- and that's it.

The Western powers don't care if Israel mistreats Palestinians because that's not going to affect the price of gas. Indeed, the Palestinians have no leverage to strike back at all against the West, whether economically or militarily. If Israel fights against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, who cares? Even if Hezbollah wins -- who cares? It doesn't affect the Western nations economically or militarily -- unless Hezbollah expands throughout the region. But at first, nobody cared. Same thing with the Golan Heights -- nothing changes in the West whether Israel or Syria controls that area.

The West's main goal was to prevent Israel from destabilizing the region, when it was antagonizing the entire Arab world militarily. Once Jimmy Carter bribed Egypt and Israel into making peace with each other, followed by Bill Clinton bribing Jordan to make peace with Israel, everything was OK. Israel became our ally by no longer antagonizing the major Arab countries, so we didn't care if it caused trouble in its immediate vicinity where there are no consequences for us.

* * *

Of course, during the Reaganite / Likud era, the US and its allies intervened all over the Middle East -- but obviously they were fine with themselves destabilizing the region. It's only bad for the West if a non-Western country destabilizes a region, because that might turn out bad for us. If we are the destabilizers, won't we do so in a way that benefits us? That was the hope, at any rate.

But the reality is turning out the opposite -- our military interventions have created far more problems than the Reaganites and their allies ever imagined. Trump promised a major change on that front -- no more pointless wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the Iraq War was a catastrophe that I was against, George W. Bush did not keep us safe on 9/11 anyway, and we've wasted over seven trillion dollars there with absolutely nothing to show for it.

And yet, his administration is doubling down on support for jihadist nations like Saudi Arabia, and doing their most to harm the anti-jihadist nations like Syria and Iran. Where he fails to deliver, the Bernie revolution will finally get us out of all these pointless and ruinous wars in the Middle East, and make peace with Syria and Iran.

During the Reaganite era, the Likud party has come to an alliance with the jihadists of Saudi Arabia, not to mention helping the jihadist opposition in Syria, which means the Likud will be on the wrong side of Western foreign policy when we undergo our next major regime shift with Bernie, Corbyn, and Melenchon.

If Israel continues to agitate for war against Iran, they will become even more opposed to the new priorities of the Bernie / Corbyn / Melenchon administrations.

That may be more likely than it seems right now. During the Likud era, Israel has not been much of a player in regional wars -- not like during the Labor era -- and has been harassing only its immediate neighbors. What if their shift out of the Likud era, and into an economically populist era, returns them to a more aggressive foreign policy? The new consensus might be that we Israelis need to make peace with the Palestinians by incorporating them into a one-state nation (albeit as second-class citizens), so that we can devote all of our energy to fighting against Iran.

If that's how their re-alignment turns out, they will really be on the wrong side of the US, UK, and France. The only thing that angers the Democrats more than Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians is their agitation for war against Iran. Since Obama's admin scored the Iran deal, even mainstream Democrats, not just the Bernie crowd, have come to see avoiding war with Iran as one of our most important goals. And when they become the new dominant party in the next few years, all bets are off for Israel continuing to be a top client state of ours -- and by extension, of the UK or France.

Those are the contours of the changes just on the side of Israel and its allies -- the next post will look at the other countries of the Middle East, and how their upcoming "new eras" will affect Israel's trajectory.

10 comments:

  1. Israel actually has more leverage than ever due to being one of the last hot button culture war issues that motivates social conservatives, most importantly one that isn't going to be decided by the supreme court. Republicans aren't a viable political party without solid evangelical support, and they have to support Israel to motivate the base of the party.

    As for the left, it depends on globalism and immigration to have an electorate at all. Bernie was a throwback to a time when leftists weren't allowed to abort themselves out of existence.

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  2. Wrong and wronger -- bad record so far, next time don't comment.

    Social conservatives are a non-factor in elections -- ask McCain and Romney -- and are shrinking every year -- ask the materialist Bernie cross-overs who decided the election in Trump's favor.

    Generationally, it's the Silents and Boomers who have the biggest cuck boner for Israel. Gen X-ers are already less interested on the Right, and way more skeptical of Israel on the Left. Millennials don't care at all, and Gen Z even less.

    Even right-wing Millennials make fun of how anti-nationalistically the Boomers are obsessed with Israel instead of their own country.

    Culture war doesn't matter, and matters less every day. NAFTA, war, immigration, healthcare -- that's the combo of issues that Trump won on. Bernie will win on the same issues, but have wide support in the political world to make them happen.

    The Bernie, Corbyn, Melenchon people are on the rise all over the Western world -- a rebirth rather than a nostalgic throwback with no chance of really making it.

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  3. And social cons don't inherently give a shit about Israel anyway. The fate of the Israeli polity, or even its existence, has nothing to do with whether our morals, culture, and social relations are becoming more wholesome or more degenerate.

    Back in the 1950s, with a Republican in the White House, we had wholesome values, culture, and social relations. And yet no one cared about Israel -- Eisenhower threatened to destroy the British post-war recovery in order to force them to call off their Israeli attack dog in the Sinai Peninsula.

    If anything, most social cons are becoming more wary of Israel's free hand in the Middle East, since Israel supports the jihadists and thus indirectly threatens the survival of Christianity in the lands where it all started.

    Republican partisans among the Silent / Boomer crowd have had such a raging cuck boner for Israel *not* because of a link to social conservatism, but due to their militarism. Boomers are the most militaristic in history, and they saw Israel whoop ass on the Ay-rabs during the late 1960s, when we were getting our asses handed to us by Vietnamese farmers.

    As the conservative side of the spectrum flushes out the Boomer generation, it will care less and less about Muh Israel. Unless, that is, Israel's post-Likud revolution re-aligns it in favor of the anti-jihadist nations like Syria and Iran who actually protect Christianity within their borders, rather than jihadists who want to kill it off.

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  4. The Christian Zionist obsession with Israel is also due to militarism than anything inherently conservative within Christian morals, tradition, etc.

    They envision a spiritual-meets-material form of warfare that is going to play out at the endtimes in the Holy Land. The apocalypse for them is not just some really big event, it's specifically a war between two armies.

    Among the less-and-less militaristic generations of conservatives, that appeal does not resonate. They'd rather see things stay safe rather than forced into an apocalyptic cock fight -- or rather, a holy Super Bowl -- like the Boomers imagine happening between Israelis and Muslims.

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  5. This shows that "Christian" Zionists are really just a Judaizer cult based on LARP-ing as Second Temple Jews, apparently unaware of Jesus Christ or Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.

    The apocalypse for Jesus -- and he was first and foremost an apocalyptic preacher -- was more like a natural disaster than a war between two armies. It was going to come, hit everybody, there was no stopping it, and so we all -- not just Team Jew -- had to prepare for how to weather it as best we can, and more importantly how to make it in whatever plane of existence it was going to carry us to like the tidal wave of a flood.

    In the pre-Jesus Jewish tradition, the apocalypse could have been like that -- but it could also have been like a war between two armies, whether the Jews were on the losing or winning side of that war against another ethnic group.

    In that tradition, the Messiah was more of a warrior-king who would lead Team Jew to victory in a battle against Team Non-Jew. That's why the early Jesus followers had such a hard time convincing their fellow Jews that Jesus was a Messiah -- he got executed, without putting up much of a fight! Some warrior-king leading us into battle against an enemy army.

    "I like Messiahs that don't get captured," as our Viking pagan president might say. "Have to have a counter-puncher for our Messiah, folks, can't keep turning the other cheek. The Egyptians and Romans have been ripping us off for years."

    The Jesus movement had an entirely different conception of the Messiah, as a spiritual guide and savior, someone who would give up his life for yours, and so on. An altruist, rather than a fellow team member. If he's just a team member, he wins when you win, and he loses when you lose -- it's mutualism ("I like reciprocal"). The new idea was that the Messiah was going to lose in order for you all to win, sacrificing himself.

    The book of Revelation that the cosplay Second Temple Jews fixate on was written later than Jesus' own days, in the late 1st century. Crucially, after the First Jewish-Roman War, whereby Rome destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple. Now the mindset was more apocalyptic in the sense of a war of Us vs. Them, and our savior will not only save us in some vague way -- he will help bring about the downfall of our enemy in this war.

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  6. The religious right was always populist on trade. "Free" trade with atheist communist third world dumps is a neocon project. It is also de facto against immigration more than any other faction, due to opposition to abortion and contraception. It is realistic in geopolitics, knowing that Israel is the West's cornerstone to Middle Eastern energy access.

    By the way, we're about to have another great awakening as far as historical cycles goes. The third world is also running out of high fertility populations only fertile due to their ignorance. The left's ability to import fresh voters is diminishing unless they accept African immigration, a suicidal policy anyway.

    The only failure of the religious right, really, is a naive trust in education. They elect politicians who fill up the civil service and court system with sleazy Ivy League graduates who cheated their way through college instead of hard working engineer and trade school types. Conservative values are too humble for their own good at the elite level. There's still too much of a traditional work ethic to catch on to the idea that equality isn't just for lazy losers (the stereotypical left), but also for virtuous fair play conservatives who keep getting beat up in rigged competition.

    Academic prestige, exclusion, and fake meritocracy is the left's cornerstone. The religious right is by nature respectful of authority, but if it knew how unfair the system is it would change on the spot.

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  7. Wrong yet again -- West had M.E. oil access, even ownership, way before any were allied with Israel.

    Aramco in Saudi Arabia for the US -- 1930s and '40s, before Israel was founded.

    BP in Iran for the UK -- early 1900s, before the Balfour Declaration.

    From its founding through the 1970s, i.e. the Labor era, Israel was the *antagonist* of Western oil interests -- needlessly fucking with their Arab neighbors, ultimately to the point that OPEC carried out an oil embargo against anyone who supported Israel after the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

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  8. Intriguing theory. I have my doubts as to some of the specifics of how the transition to a new populist cycle will unfold, but on a broad level this does seem to explain the direction we’re heading. I’ll raise some of my specific objections or critiques on future posts, but for now I just have a couple of interesting questions that came to mind as further extensions of this theory.

    First of all is whether it can carry over to the reign of a single leader rather than a succession of several, provided they’re in power over a sufficiently long period of time.

    If we look at the reign of Gaddafi, for example, do we see these periods of revolution, consolidation, stagnation, and disjunction? My gut feeling is yes, this can be true, particularly in his case, but I’d want to try and see how it fits a few other examples before I say I’m totally sure.

    Second, and very relevant to the future of Israel and the conflict in the Middle East, where would you place Iran on this cycle right now?

    There are many things that can be seen as signs of disjunction. Perhaps Rouhani’s overwhelming electoral victories make him the Trump-like figure of their country - the representative of a popular will for change, being thwarted by the entrenched elites.

    This does raise questions as to who the opposition in Iran really is and what changes they have in mind. The US government and Israel would certainly like to think it’s going to be the color revolutionaries who take over, recognize Israel, withdraw from Syria, withdraw from Iraq, disband Hezbollah, abandon the Shi’a everywhere, and ideally go back to being a base for undermining Russia in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

    Are they really going to get what they’re hoping for? Or perhaps something else is in store...

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  9. The one clear and indisputable desire of the opposition in Iran is for better living standards and economic performance. This was Rouhani’s promise that got him elected, the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions was supposed to be the means of delivering it. Rouhani intended to revive the Iranian economy while maintaining the essentials of Iran’s existing foreign policy (opposition to Israel, US imperialism, and Sunni fundamentalist forces) under a softer, less aggressive rhetoric than his predecessor (comparable to the continuation of US interventionist policy in the Middle East from Bush to Obama).

    So the promised economic revival failed because the continuation of their Resistance Axis policies got in the way of any diplomatic breakthrough with the Zionist-Pentagon alliance dominating US foreign policy under Trump. So maybe the opposition in Iran will finally get fed up and say if it’s a choice between prosperity and resistance, then prosperity it is.

    That’s one way to see it. Of course, there is that predecessor I mentioned: Ahmadinejad. Now here’s the million dollar question - what if it was really Ahmadinejad, rather than Rouhani, who was Iran’s Trump?

    Ahmadinejad, remember, was an economic populist at the same time as he took a very hard line on foreign policy. This did not mean, however, that he got along just fine with Iran’s ‘hardliner’ factions and the mullahs - just the opposite, in fact. The ayatollah and the clerics were far more hostile to him than they have ever been toward Rouhani. The ayatollah has at times signaled his disagreement with Rouhani on policy or overridden him on certain decisions, but Rouhani has always been an approved figure - they have never gone so far as to attack his fundamental legitimacy as a figure for leadership.

    Not so with Ahmadinejad - he’s been blacklisted and cast to the margins, turned into an official enemy of the powers that be.

    So here’s another possibility: what if Iran’s transition to a whole new cycle of political leadership isn’t on the brink of happening, as the neocons are fervently hoping, but instead has already happened?

    Rouhani then is not the dysfunctional figure, but rather the trailblazer. In this case, the mullahs and the Islamic Republic are here to stay, for the next 40 or so years at least, as part of the new ruling regime, a regime that will in many ways closely resemble the one that came before.

    What’s the difference, then? What makes this a whole new regime? Here’s my guess: this is the end of Iran’s 40-year period of trying to stand on its own as a great power and as the leader of a great pan-Islamic alliance or some worldwide anti-imperialist axis of small nations. But instead of transitioning back to US vassalage as expected, the new regime will instead embrace the role of being the junior partner in an alliance with Russia and China, the larger and more powerful challengers to US hegemony? China and its OBOR, rather than US investment, will be seen as their great hope of delivering the Iranian people their promised economic prosperity.

    This alternative view may of course have its own holes, which is why I’d value a second opinion on it from you.

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  10. I'll put up a post sometime about Iran's paradigm cycle, but they're still in the same one that began with the Islamic Revolution. Biggest sign being that Khamenei is still the Supreme Leader.

    The conservative populists have been the dominant coalition, meaning the economically liberalizing reformists are the opposition -- Khatami and now Rouhani, who were like Clinton and Obama, with Ahmadinejad being like W. Bush.

    With the crisis precipitated by the failure of Rouhani's engagement with the West for the Nuclear Deal, control will flip back to the dominant coalition in the 2021 election -- or if things get really bad before then, Rouhani could get removed from office by various means. Only opposition figures are vulnerable to getting ousted.

    That would mean the disjunctive leader would be one of Rouhani's successors from the conservative populists. Not necessarily the first successor, but probably him. Then circa 2025, the old opposition re-aligns itself to out-do the disjunctive leader on his unorthodox policies, and sweeps in a whole new paradigm -- probably with a new Supreme Leader as well, given how old Khamenei is.

    The main foreign policy theme of the Islamic Revolutionary period has been non-intervention, at least directly. As much as the US-Israel-Saudi side is stepping up direct action against them, I wouldn't be surprised if Iran's next paradigm switches to a more aggressive foreign policy. They're too surrounded by increasingly hostile, big actors.

    Presumably that means more support from Russia and China, like you said.

    On domestic policy, the current paradigm has been economic nationalism. They're one of the few countries that did not make a turn toward neoliberalism circa 1980. So now maybe it's their turn to open up to foreign investment and integrate more globally -- again, probably with Russia and China than with the West.

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