With the loss of our young people’s lives and the horrific devastation and death in Gaza, it must be said: The hands are the terrorism-soiled hands of Hamas, but the voice is (also) the voice of Israel’s government and prime minister.
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The war has left Benjamin Netanyahu with sweeping support. The opposition has decided, correctly, to applaud his restraint. His caution and sober judgment are to his credit, along with the fact that he is perceived as a responsible leader despite the right wing’s massive pressure.
From the outside, it appears the European Union, like Egypt and other countries, has spotted an opportunity to weaken Hamas and send a strong message to Islamist terrorism. None of them really cares that Israeli soldiers will be killed for that; the blood of Gaza’s children is on their minds. But as the end of the war approaches, the clearer it becomes that Netanyahu must account for his responsibility — or perhaps guilt — for the policies he might resume after the war.
Netanyahu is guilty of stubbornly rejecting peace while showing severe contempt for Israel’s only friend on earth. There are many learned explanations for the turnabout in U.S. Mideast policy, but there is no doubt that Netanyahu has turned Israel into a nuisance to American public opinion and the U.S. administration. Every “proper Zionist response” that expanded settlements as an act of muscular retaliation planted another mine on the way to resolving the conflict, spat in the face of the U.S. mediator and dealt a violent blow to the Palestinians.
While arrogantly disregarding the “gray boycott” of Israeli academics and intellectuals around the world, Netanyahu has imposed an isolationist existential paranoia that turned the vision of coexistence in the Middle East into the province of a very few. Under his leadership, his coalition partners have gone wild with incitement against those very few, making them appear ever less legitimate in the eyes of the public.
Netanyahu’s socioeconomic policy in all his posts over the years has divided Israeli society into sectors and classes hostile to one another, and continues to do so. This policy has created a dangerous atmosphere that declares Arabs and leftists fair game during any crisis.
Over the weekend, the police told the foreign press that the murderers of the three teens in the West Bank were part of an independent terrorist cell that acted alone; Hamas’ leaders knew nothing about the kidnapping. Although Netanyahu was well aware of that, he was quick to push the guilt onto Hamas and take provocative measures, including his aggressive statements against all Palestinians, including President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu’s words lit a fire that went as far as the burning of an innocent teenager. When the rockets started flying, he adopted the tone of a statesman, but the incitement that’s running wild in the streets is hard to stop.
While the American channel has shrunk, a promising one has opened with Cairo that poses a new dilemma to Israel’s peace rejecters: to cooperate with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority at the price of giving up the settlements and the occupation, or finally to be pushed into global isolation. The right wing realizes this and is provoking the escalation in the West Bank.
Netanyahu now has to leverage the new channel for resolving the conflict or return to the policy of settlements, isolationism and contempt for the world, fueled by belligerence and victimhood. This policy sabotages the chance for a political settlement. If he is reelected, the destruction will stem not only from his voice, but from his hands.