Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with soldiers October 15, 2013 in the Israeli-occupied territory of Golan Heights. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with soldiers October 15, 2013 in the Israeli-occupied territory of Golan Heights. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Mao said that “All reactionaries are paper tigers. In appearance, the reactionaries are terrifying, but in reality they are not so powerful.” We’re seeing this now in the case of Israel, whose fascistic president Benjamin Netanyahu has tried to annex the West Bank as a show of the supposed strength of the Zionist project; behind Netanyahu’s confident appearance, his actions have been driven by fears of a decline for the global empire that props up Israel.
The desperate aspect of Netanyahu’s motivations is partly shown in the fact that his annexation plan has come with a lot of international blowback. Egypt, France, Germany, and Jordan have warned Israel to abandon the annexation, making the Trump White House an isolated presence in its backing of Israel’s actions. And it’s clear that the move will end up harming Israel; columnist Trudy Rubin wrote last month that “Trump’s support for Israeli annexation in West Bank will endanger the Jewish state,” and that…
This is a move that will end any pretense of peace negotiations, endanger Israel’s peace with Jordan, and undercut promising advances in normalization with the Gulf States…Many Israeli security experts fear that if Netanyahu moves ahead…Israel will pay dearly at multiple levels: on the West Bank and Gaza, with its Arab neighbors, and with the rest of the world. Without any security gains.
Additionally, an annexation would make it harder for Israel’s defenders to argue that the country seeks peace with Palestine. Given all these costs, why has the ruling faction of the Zionists decided upon this course of action? Because this faction is afraid of a U.S. retreat from the Middle East.
Israeli defense strategists, including one deputy national security adviser to Netanyahu who recently stated that “American hegemony is crumbling before our eyes,” have become anxious about the prospect of the U.S. withdrawing from the region. The events of the last couple of years in particular have caused these kinds of concerns among Israel’s policy-making elites.
As indicated by Israel’s massacres of peaceful border protesters in recent years, Israeli settler-colonialism has been experiencing increasing challenges. With the rise of BDS and the international outcry against Israel’s genocidal actions, the Palestinian resistance movement has been gaining more and more leverage over the colonial regime. In December of 2018, Miko Peled wrote in Mintpress News that…
Every Israeli prime minister, from this moment on, must know that he or she is likely, like De Klerk in Apartheid South Africa, to announce the end of the apartheid regime in Palestine, unconditionally release the Palestinian prisoners, and call for one-person-one-vote elections. This will lead to the creation of a legislature and a government that represents all people who live between the River to the Sea.
With the collapse of the two-state solution as a viable option, the one-state solution of a decolonized Palestine has become more widely supported. The pressure on the settler state has only mounted as Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians have continued.
Add this growing sense of pressure with the weakening of American power, and you get an Israel that feels more isolated than ever. In 2017, the Pentagon admitted that U.S. global influence is rapidly declining. And for Israel, this imperial decline has created many unfavorable developments: the victory of its enemy Bashar al Assad in the Syrian war, an expansion of influence for Israel’s archenemy Iran, the increased potential for Israel’s adversaries to establish military control near the country. These developments, writes the Times of Israel’s Haviv Rettig Gur, lend
…a new importance to the West Bank. A withdrawal from the Jordan Valley, say most Israeli defense planners, now becomes impossible to justify. A vacuum of Israeli security control in the West Bank would be used by rising enemies from Ankara to Tehran — and their proxies and ideological compatriots in Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad — to directly threaten the Israeli heartland of the coastal plain. In other words, an Israeli withdrawal from the Jordan Valley grows more distant as US power recedes.
Annexing the West Bank, these defense planners argue, will be crucial for providing a buffer for Israel as U.S. military commitments to the Middle East continue to wind down.
What must be troubling Netanyahu’s circle is that despite their best efforts to annex the West Bank, the many obstacles to the project have so far been too great for them to overcome. Netanyahu promised that he would push through the full annexation of the West Bank on July 1st, yet nothing happened when this date passed. The fears of blowback have complicated the mechanics of the annexation plan, which continues to be delayed. Once again, the bluster and belligerence from Israel’s ruling right wing has been revealed as a reaction to the growing material limitations on what they can do.
It’s for this reason that Trump recently grew intimidated and stopped Netanyahu’s initial annexation attempt. The White House has been hesitant to allow Israel to do something so drastic, despite the Trump administration’s otherwise consistently pro-Zionist stances. As much as the imperialists and the Zionists aggressively posture towards their enemies and plan new conquests, they keep getting themselves into more trouble and then ultimately having to draw back. If they manage to carry out an annexation, it will gain them a momentary advantage, but in the long term it will end up accelerating the collapse of Israeli settler-colonialism. The entire situation is a dilemma for them, despite Netanyahu’s narrative about how what he’s doing only helps Israel’s interests.
So is the case for colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism at large. The Washington imperialists keep pushing forth with their cold war against Russia and China, yet this is only making the U.S. more globally isolated. With Israeli help, the U.S. keeps brutally cracking down on anti-racist protesters, yet this only sheds more light on the illegitimate nature of the American settler state. Neoliberal countries are increasing austerity and allowing billionaires to become richer during the economic crisis, yet this increases the potential for class struggle. History is fulfilling Mao’s prediction about the fate of U.S. imperialism:
I said all allegedly powerful reactionaries are merely paper tigers. The reason is that they are divorced from the people. Look! Wasn’t Hitler a paper tiger? Wasn’t he overthrown? I also said that the tsar of Russia was a paper tiger, as were the emperor of China and Japanese imperialism, and see, they were all overthrown. U.S. imperialism has not yet been overthrown and it has the atom bomb, but I believe it too is a paper tiger and will be overthrown.
The more U.S. imperialism declines, the more Israel will lash out, and the more the Zionist settler state will endanger itself in turn. The more Zionism is endangered, the closer the Palestinians will come to installing a new anti-imperialist government on the land that was stolen from them. And therefore the closer Washington will come to losing its crucial Middle Eastern military ally and asset in internal repression. It’s turning into a cycle where the paper tigers end up sabotaging themselves.