Successive Israeli Governments and the international community share in the responsibility for the circumstances that led to the Hamas attacks on Israel, but nothing equals the hubris of Netanyahu’s wretched “fully, fully right-wing government.” It must be ousted now.
When I first took pen to paper two days ago, I intended to write about what was then an almost wall-to-wall expression of the sentiment that accountability will come later but “this is not the time.” In other words, the Israeli public was being indoctrinated with the idea that when the cannons road, the muses are silent, when what they really needed to hear is that this is the time for the muses to roar.
As the scope of the barbaric attacks on southern Israel became clearer, however; as the unfathomable details of the slaughter and mutilation of innocent men, women, and children, including infants, emerged; as the airwaves filled with the tormented cries of bereaved families, of those whose loved ones were dragged across the border, and of those who have not yet learned the fate of family and friends unaccounted for – as all of this unfolded, the consensus around postponing the day of judgment slowly began to crack.
Waiting for the Palestinians to Turn Into Finns
The anger and shock building up within the public is not only over the size of the intelligence failure and the lack of preparedness on the part of the military. We are also suffering the consequences of the fact that Netanyahu and his cohorts were so intent on trying to save his ass (sorry, no apologies for the vulgarity) that they refused to be sidetracked by warnings about the toll the so-called judicial “reform” was taking in relation to Israeli deterrence. Adding to that anger is the fact that Netanyahu, who knows very well how to exploit the media and make prime time TV appearances to boast about his accomplishments, has been too preoccupied to deliver more than a few cursory remarks to the traumatized nation. Preoccupied with what? With figuring out how to keep his miserable coalition together the day after.
To be fair, Netanyahu is not solely responsible for the circumstances that led Hamas to perpetrate this unthinkable butchery, which sadly is turning the organization into the hero of much of the Palestinian public. The annexation of East Jerusalem, the settlement enterprise in the West Bank, the ease with which “transfer” entered the political discourse, the passage of the Nation-State Law, the separation barrier and the checkpoints and the harassment and the administrative detentions and the long, long list of violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinian people began long before October 2022. Successive Israeli Governments have felt that they can call the shots, and in recent years the premise that the time is not ripe for negotiations took root internationally as well, bolstering the belief that Israel can do as it wishes while waiting for the Palestinians to “turn into Finns,” as proposed by Sharon advisor Dov Weissglas back in 2004.
Where Was the International Community?
The international community has a share in the responsibility as well. Since 1967, countless UN Resolutions condemning Israeli settlement as illegal have been issued, with no consequences attached. In recent years, flaccid European statements about harming chances of a two-state solution have been added to the tap on the wrists delivered to Israel as it entrenched the occupation. The degree of the world’s disapproval could be measured by the number of times the word “very” appeared before the word “concerned.” The United States’ and the major European countries’ objection to the appeal to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on the occupation contributed to the Palestinians’ sense that no legitimate avenues of resistance are left to them. And let’s not forget the Abraham Accords, which voided the Arab Peace Initiative by normalizing relations with Israel in exchange for the suspension of annexation plans that have since been dusted off and put back on the table.
The Biden administration’s hands-off attitude did its share of harm as well. Since taking office, President Biden did little to reverse the policies of his predecessor, leaving the US Embassy in place without opening an East Jerusalem Consulate with independent authorities, failing to revert to the position that settlement in the occupied territories is illegal, and announcing only two weeks ago that the United States will not be reversing Trump’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Had Biden demonstrated with regard to ending the occupation half the resolve he demonstrated with regard to Israel-Saudi normalization, we might be in a different place today.
Not to be forgotten is the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which turned the world’s fatigue with the Israel-Palestine conflict into total disinterest while increasing Israel’s value as a weapons supplier. For example, not even two months have passed since Israel clinched a $3.5 billion defense deal with Germany, despite years of German protests against the expansion of Israeli settlements.
Fully, Fully Right-Wing Coalition Driven by Hubris
But nothing in the history of modern-day Israel, including Golda Meir’s observation that there is no Palestinian people, comes close to the hubris of the “fully, fully right-wing coalition” pulled together by Netanyahu after the last election. Before the government was sworn in, the coalition partners drafted guidelines that asserted the Jewish people’s “exclusive and indisputable” right to all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. National security was placed in the hands of a radical settler convicted of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization. Authorities over the occupied territories were transferred from the Defense Ministry to a fundamentalist minister who called Palestinian national aspirations “the mother of all sin.” The Knesset became home to the likes of Limor Son Har-Melech, who hailed the Jewish terrorist who burned the Dawabshe family alive as a “righteous” man.
And then there is the sheer audacity of a prime minister who stood before the countries of the United Nations on September 22 and presented his vision of a “new Middle East” while holding up a map of Greater Israel! From the podium, he ridiculed those he called “so-called experts” who had said that his “approach to peace” — which amounts to courting the Arab world while ignoring the Palestinians — is wrong. Indeed, Mr. Prime Minister, we are getting a horrific lesson in who was right and who was wrong.
Gaza Is Not Hamas and Hamas Is Not Gaza
Let me be clear. There is absolutely and unequivocally no justification for the carnage perpetrated by Hamas. This is not popular resistance; it is terrorism. There is no question that its invasion of southern Israel must be met with a military response, but that response must be of appropriate proportions and have a clear, attainable, and legitimate objective. We must remember that Gaza is not Hamas and Hamas is not Gaza. The Strip is populated by more than 2 million men, women, and children, most of them innocent and defenseless.
Hundreds already lie dead under the rubble of buildings leveled by Israeli carpet-bombing. Leaving the people of Gaza — yes, they are people, not monsters — without water, food, and electricity is sentencing them to sickness, starvation, and possibly death. Even if we were to set morality aside (which we shouldn’t), someone needs to say that raining terror on Gaza may satisfy Israel’s desire for revenge but at the same time will sow an even stronger desire for revenge among those Palestinians who will survive the war.
The experts are correct in saying that a “conceptual change” is needed, but this change must not be limited to our assessment of regional threats; rather, it must be based on the understanding that there will be no peace for Israel as long as the Palestinians live under occupation or under siege in an open-air prison. To realize this change, the last thing we need now is an emergency government bent on flattening Gaza under the command of Benny Gantz, who launched his political career by boasting about how many Palestinians he had killed during his military service. Once again, as in the case of the pandemic, Gantz is coming to the aid of a prime minister who needs to go home!
It took Neville Chamberlain eight months to resign following the German invasion of Poland. Israel cannot afford to wait that long to oust the extremist, racist, delusional, immoral, and fatally incompetent government at its helm. It must be replaced immediately with independent experts drawn from all relevant sectors of society who will manage this crisis far better than the power-hungry group of fascists who are currently in charge. Such a government must apply fresh, strategic thinking to the future of the peoples of the region. This is what the muses are saying, and the louder the cannon fire, the louder their voices must be.
This article was originally published in The Times of Israel on Oct 12, 2023.