One of the myths being disseminated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s PR people – with unparalleled PR – is that he is a cautious leader, who avoids wars. Excuse me, but that’s bullshit. Netanyahu has engaged during all his lengthy terms in small-scale warfare, with a tactic called “mowing the lawn.” It’s not hard to explain. The basic assumption is that there’s no point in talking to the Palestinians. Because of that, there will be violent outbreaks on their part, and that’s why Israel will “mow the lawn” with even greater violence.
In other words, Netanyahu’s “tactic” is perpetual war. And since war doesn’t solve a thing, because the objective of war is a diplomatic breakthrough, and because Netanyahu’s goal is perpetual enslavement of the Palestinians, that means repeated rounds of violence.
Believers in Netanyahu’s myth dismiss Operation Protective Edge, the 2014 Gaza war, as a one-time conflagration – and conveniently forget Israel’s constant firing at the Strip. This shooting made headlines during the bloody days of 2018, when it killed hundreds of unarmed Gazans at the security barrier, but it continues on a daily basis. The misguided disciples want us to forget the days of the metal detectors at the Temple Mount and the harsh conflict in Jerusalem, which repeated itself in the past week.
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Netanyahu has no policy, only a club. And anyone who becomes accustomed to using a club finds himself facing two problems: First, he has to use it more and more, in order to prove that he has no inhibitions. Our tacticians call this “deterrence.” Occasionally the tacticians discover, with cyclical astonishment, that deterrence doesn’t work, which is why we have to “restore it.” Come home, deterrence! All is forgiven.
The second problem with addiction to the club is that you forget the existence of other tools. Everything looks to you like a skull that can be cracked, and you don’t notice that the more heads you open, the more you are seen as the neighborhood bully.
The Gaza Strip is a test case. It has been Netanyahu’s responsibility since 2009, but he has never outlined a policy of his own. He continued the policy of counting calories for the Gazans. Netanyahu has never had reservations about the benefit of the land and sea blockade against two million people. Even after Operation Protective Edge, when he had a diplomatic opportunity to rehabilitate Gaza – there was even international pressure to do so – he refrained from that. Netanyahu sells us the story that he believes in economic peace. Well, you had an opportunity, why didn’t you implement it?
Because Netanyahu believes in only one thing: his personal survival. Rehabilitating the Strip would cause his base to rise up against him, the people we saw this week shouting at the Western Wall, in a paraphrase of Samson “so that with this one act of revenge I may pay back Palestine for my two eyes.” Mowing the lawn exacts no price from him: The Israelis are accustomed to pay in dead, wounded and PTSD sufferers. And as long as there are more dead Palestinians – and that’s a given, in light of the balance of powers – Netanyahu will remain a man’s-man.
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And along the way, he will ignite Israeli society, prevent the United Arab List and the Joint [Arab] List from joining the “change bloc,” and keep his seat – he hopes. In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man will continue to be king. We have to open our eyes, understand what’s happening, and desire a real change. A change that understands that “mowing the lawn” simply perpetuates the conflict, that the conflict is between human beings, and that human beings are also able to talk, not only to carry a club.