The ongoing events in Israel are unprecedented. General strikes, reservists threatening not to go for army duty and huge demonstrations involving confrontation with the police. Further, settlers (according to the Israeli and foreign media) have been demanding the burning of Palestinian villages, supported by coalition politicians of the extreme and far right have been given major portfolios.

There have been major international and Israeli human rights organisations calling Israeli policy towards the Palestinians in the West Bank, in Gaza and inside Israel, "apartheid". And, major disquiet with Israel from its long term Western backers and with Jewish communities worldwide. The Jewish Chronicle, indeed, published an article this week asking "Is it time to end US aid to Israel?’" and a leading Israeli supporter in The Observer talking of Israel ‘losing its soul’.

The reason given for the protest is the Supreme Court being downgraded – anathema to many Israelis as it is the only check on government control in Israel. Indeed, for many observers Prime Minister Netenyahu’s government policy seems to be part and parcel of an attempt to enable the passing of laws exonerating him from corruption charges and get a new Attorney General without worrying about the checks and balances to derail this.

Yet, I think it would be a mistake to see this as (solely) an attempt by Netenyahu to find a "get out of jail card". It is something more - a paradox at the very heart of the founding philosophy of Israel, Zionism. The far right settler violence and their cabinet ministers are not an aberration, but a product of Zionism. Zionism itself was a response to antisemitism but the Zionist colonial settler project always had the problem of what to do with the Arabs who lived in Palestine, the Palestinians. The approach (what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe calls the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians) in 1948 did not solve the problem; rather it displaced it into endless rounds of violence, oppression and Palestinian uprisings. Until fairly recently, the solution was a "two states solution" - a state of Palestine roughly in the West Bank perhaps with East Jerusalem as its capital and Israel itself, a majority Jewish state. This was, still is, the preferred policy of most governments, the Palestinian Authority (although it is discredited amongst many Palestinians), most western political parties and, indeed most of civil society in the West. However, in recent years it has effectively become a non-starter, primarily because of the 600,000 settlers in, as the UN term it, illegal settlements primarily on the West Bank.

This has made the preferred policy of Israel’s backers and supporters unfeasible. Most Palestinians know it, the Israeli far right know it and really most of Israel's supporters know it. The settler far right in Israel want to solve the issue by intimidating the Palestinians into accepting a Greater Israel comprising of current Israel and the occupied territories, without equal rights for the Palestinians. The problem is that this will entail permanent conflict - as this apartheid-style option cannot be acceptable to the Palestinians. An alternative - to grant equal rights for all in a democratic secular state of Israel, West Bank and Gaza - is becoming more obviously the only way out of the quagmire of violence and internal dissent.

Henry Maitles is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of the West Scotland