Whenbecame prime minister for the second time in March 2009, it was not long after had conducted three weeks of sustained air attacks on the enclave of . More than 1,100 died in that campaign. About a dozen also perished, four from friendly fire, the rest from rockets coming from .
Operation Cast Lead, as it was called, was supposed to eliminate the offensive capabilities of were estimated to be civilians. The UN-sponsored Goldstone report identified “actions amounting to war crimes” committed by both sides., a faction with political and military wings that had taken over the year before. The operation also featured a ground offensive with thousands of troops and tanks. There was nothing surgical about the strikes or the intervention. At least half of the casualties
The US Is Complicit in the Atrocities Israel Commits
From the start, the conflict pitted David against Goliath, with their Biblical roles reversed.deployed overwhelming force on top of the economic blockade it had imposed on after took over. It was the Goliath that declared a unilateral ceasefire in January 2009 from what it considered a position of strength. Although the David didn’t come close to knocking out the giant, did manage to survive the onslaught. It has remained in control of ever since.
Acting With Impunity
Operation Cast Lead took place during the lame-duck period before Barack Obama took over from George W. Bush. The Bush administration followed several decades of US foreign policy by supportingduring the conflict, as did Congress. The Obama administration did not substantially deviate from this consensus, but it did attempt modestly to level the playing field by criticizing Israel’s aggressive settlement policy and providing a bit more assistance to the .
, when he took over in 2009, understood that could act largely with impunity in . Because of its militant and fundamentalist orientation, didn’t generate a lot of warm fuzzy feelings in the West, or even in some quarters of the community for that matter. So, felt confident enough to ignore the UN inquiry and shrug off the Obama’s administration’s mild criticisms. Meanwhile, it continued to outsource its policing of the West Bank to the (portrayed in graphic detail in the TV show “Fauda”).
In November 2012, ceasefire brokered largely by Egypt. This time, however, was attuned to the political advantages of attacking his nemesis. The prime minister had already called for early elections, which would take place in January 2013. The week-long bombardment of — on top of the exchange that freed soldier Gilad Shalit in 2011 — made it relatively easy for to win the election and form a new government.launched another attack against and , Operation Pillar of Defense, that ended with a
The 2012 ceasefire didn’t last. Both sides continued sporadic attacks, andmaintained its economic blockade of . A reconciliation between and Fatah led to a unity government for the in June 2014, which saw as a threat to his divide-and-conquer tactics.
All of this served as a backdrop to a more sustained third round between dead. Another UN report detailed potential war crimes on both sides. And Netanyahu’s Likud scored another political victory in national elections the following March, after the prime minister vowed that he would prevent a state if he won.and that took place over the summer of 2014. It was another lopsided conflict that left more than 2,200 Gazans and 73
Bibi is a political survivor. He is now Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. He has weathered social protests, a raft of corruption charges and the persistent condemnation of international authorities for policies that trample the rights ofand military actions that have killed scores of civilians.
One major reason for his political longevity is the collapse of the Religious Zionist Party and Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu.left. The Labor Party has seen a catastrophic drop in its vote totals, and it now has only one more seat in the Knesset than the other left-wing party, Meretz (together the two parties have 13 seats, less than half of what Likud alone controls). To stave off the centrist parties, has at one point or another counted on the political support of actors further to his right, like the
Netanyahu and Hamas Are Playing a Deadly Game
But it’s really been killed Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari, which precipitated the rocket attacks from that in turn served as the pretext for Operation Pillar of Defense. This year, could count on again to launch rocket attacks in response to Israel’s eviction of from East Jerusalem, itself part of a much wider effort to displace in favor of Jewish settlers, as well as a police raid on al-Aqsa mosque during Ramadan prayers.that has saved Bibi’s skin time and again. In 2009, served as a justification for steering the country into an even more hard-right direction. In 2012, the government
The helped create the organization to divide and weaken the movement.protested both actions. So did the Arab world, the international community and demonstrators throughout the United States. But it was and its perennial quest to become the face of resistance that once again has served as the anvil for Bibi’s hammer. In the 1980s, hard-liners
has been a gift to hard-liners ever since. And, once again, have suffered the most from this confrontation. In the current conflict, the death toll in has risen above 200, half of them women and children. Around a dozen have died in the rocket fire from . The only winner: .
What’s Next for Netanyahu?
has managed to sell himself as indispensable to the right, which has been ascendant ever since he appeared on the political scene in the 1990s. His alliance with Trump produced nearly everything Israel’s right wing has wanted from the United States. The Trump administration gave the okay to Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights and the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. It supported without reservation the Jewish settlement of the Occupied . It removed funding and recognition from entities.
As he promised in 2015,has moved the goalposts in Israel’s struggle with to such a degree that the two-state solution has practically disappeared from the political agenda. With blockading and whittling away at in the West Bank, have less and less of a state to stand in. The , led by for as long as has been prime minister, has been incapable of stopping Bibi.
Abbas and his Fatah party have lost so much support amongthat they had to postpone elections this year to avoid outright repudiation at the polls. Only , with a fanaticism equal to Netanyahu’s, has put up any significant resistance.
annexing as much of the West Bank as he can, defeating militarily and politically, and reducing the community to nothing more than a source of cheap labor for farms and factories. Nearly everything he has done geopolitically has been toward that end, like negotiating diplomatic recognition deals with Arab states (UAE, Morocco) and humoring Jared Kushner’s “deal of the century” of buying sovereign aspirations with the Gulf’s largesse.is seven years younger than Joe Biden and three years younger than Donald Trump. He has no intention of retiring to an olive farm any time soon. He is staying in power not simply because he likes the perquisites of the office like Trump or because he has some vision of “building back better” like Biden. Bibi dreams of
Of course,would also like to see regime change in Iran and the neutering of Hezbollah in Lebanon, but those longer-term goals depend a great deal on factors beyond his immediate control. Trump was an ideal partner for realizing these dreams. No doubt Bibi imagined that he could continue to change enough facts on the ground during Trump’s second term to reduce Palestine to the level of Abkhazia or, better yet, the former state of Biafra. But for the voters in a few key swing states, nearly got what he wanted.
Meanwhile, in the last two years alone, asserting that the charges are an “attempted coup.” In the most recent election, and his allies didn’t win enough votes to form a new coalition government. Opposition leader Yair Lapid was given a chance to form an anti- coalition spanning the political spectrum. He was in the middle of fashioning this unwieldy coalition when the current crisis conveniently (for ) broke out.has had four national elections, and the only constant has been Bibi. The corruption charges against him alone should have doomed his career. He faces three cases of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. In Trumpian fashion, Bibi has tried to turn the tables by
Biden vs. Bibi
Joe Biden is cut from the same cloth as Obama when it comes to US policy toward run up against provisions enacted by the Trump administration.. Once elected, Biden quickly restored aid to organizations and resumed diplomatic relations with the , though both efforts now
But in other respects, Biden has made it clear that he does not want to put additional pressure on. He’s not going to reverse Trump’s moves on the Golan Heights and Jerusalem. He lacks even the lukewarm determination of Obama to push back on settlements. In the current conflagration, the most he’s willing to do is support a ceasefire but so far, he’s leaving it up to the combatants to find their own way to a settlement.
might have worried that he would be dealing with “Obama part two” with Biden. Instead, he faces an American president who has no real interest in investing any political capital to achieve an deal. The Middle East is knocking on America’s door, and Biden is pretending to be focussing on home repairs.
The problem for Biden is that others want to change the foreign policy consensus on now willing to call the socio-ethnic division in the country by its true name: apartheid. Opposition to an over $700 million arms package to was gaining ground within the Democratic Party before the Biden administration managed to persuade the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to reverse his plea to postpone the deal.. Criticism of policy is becoming more commonplace in Congress, with several US politicians
Meanwhile, protests in solidarity with astonishing 4,000 people mobilizing in Patterson, New Jersey. Even within the American Jewish community, the disgust with and the direction he has taken has become palpable. Peter Beinart, who has been forced by Israel’s occupation and settlement policies to reevaluate his liberal Zionism, recently wrote in The New York Times in support of a right of return as a first step in rewinding the historic injustices that has only aggravated.are spreading around the United States, with an
But, of course, Beinart is not theprime minister. Nor is he the US president or even the head of the American Public Affairs Committee. His views, however commendable, lack any traction among the powerful in Washington and Jerusalem — for now, at least.
Cycle of Violence
Just before the current violence broke out, will manage to woo a couple more politicians to join his camp or there will soon be yet another election. Either way, as in 2013, will likely solidify his hold on power thanks to his hard-line approach to .was facing the prospect of a broad coalition forming a new government and ousting him from his position. That coalition fell apart shortly after the conflict commenced. So, either
It’s hard not to conclude that theprime minister deliberately stoked tensions and escalated the conflict for his own political benefit. Bibi has been wagging the dog practically since he took office. After each cycle of divisive politics within and fratricidal violence between and Palestine, has emerged victorious. To break the cycle of violence that has engulfed the region in 2009, 2012, 2014 and now today, the opposition has to break politically once and for all.
Given how right wing the political climate has become in, defeating won’t immediately end settlements, lift the blockade on or usher in the right of return for . Indeed, many are willing to support political forces even more right-wing and militant than . But the dozen years of Netanyahu’s reign have been a terrible era for Palestine, a second nakba, a death by a thousand cuts. Sending Bibi into retirement would create at least a chance of something new — perhaps something better.
*[This article was originally published by Foreign Policy in Focus.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
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